The Sage Igniter requires plenty of speed and a lot of line to fully load, but once loaded, the Igniter casts a like a cannon. It throws heavy flies great distances with good speed and accuracy. The Igniter proved especially adept at delivering big dry flies like hoppers and salmon flies across broad rivers, even in windy conditions. Indeed, the Igniter seemed designed specifically to beat gusty winds. At short distances, the Igniter is awkward and struggles place flies cleanly — the rod just won’t load properly with less than 25 feet of line in play. But beyond that range, the Igniter is hard to beat for power and performance.
The Sage bills their new Igniter as an ultra-fast weapon designed to “handle the most technical conditions” an angler could face: Strong winds, heavy rigs, and big waters. During extensive use in a wide range of conditions, we found the Igniter more than lived up to that billing. The rod is capable of powering line through the worst winds, and reaching remarkable distances while providing solid accuracy in the cast. The Igniter requires a fast, aggressive casting action but when properly loaded, the rod is a sharp-shooting cannon.
Weight, balance, and general feel
For all its power and line control, the Igniter sports a modest weight and, thanks in part to a superb balance, a very low swing-weight. As a result, a long day of casting this ultra-fast action rod is not nearly as tiring as it should be – though the Igniter does demand a fast casting action that can be taxing, the low swing-weight presents a good counter-balance to those power demands. The result is a powerful rod that doesn’t leave anglers with excessive arm fatigue at the end of the day.
The Igniter sports a double-wells cork grip with shallow wells and a wide thumb ridge. Most of the testers praised the comfort of the grip, though a few of the casters deemed the grip a bit too beefy. These are the same anglers who personally favor the traditional ‘cigar’ half-wells grip, though, so the gripes about the grip can be credited to personal preferences rather than design flaws.
The Sage Igniter reached distances better than just about any rod this team has tested. Indeed, the Igniter proved to be able to cast farther than our previous distance record-setter (the Orvis Helios 3-D). The Igniter was designed specifically to handle tough conditions, big flies, and long distances, and the rod exceeds through design standards. We were able to power big hopper through 20-miles-per-hour winds on a regular basis, easily reaching fish-holding waters that other anglers with less powerful rods weren’t able to access.
When considering casting accuracy, the Igniter has two tales to tell. When properly loaded (i.e., when casting more than 25 feet), the Igniter earns sharp-shooter marks. This Sage rod seems to present better as conditions get tough. Long casts, casts across the wind, and casts of heavy multi-fly rigs focus the Igniter. Or perhaps it’s just that the Igniter overpowers those impossible conditions so much better than other rods could, making its accuracy seem that much better since other rods lose so much accuracy in the same conditions. Regardless, when power and accuracy are both vital, the Igniter showed it can perform where few other rods could.
On the other hand, when fish were found closer in, the Igniter refused to cooperate. The rod wants to through long lines, and casts of less than 25 feet were a struggle. The Igniter just won’t load properly with less than 20-25 feet of line extended.
Once tied into a fish, the Sage Igniter proved a deft hand in controlling the fish. The fast-action rod clearly has the backbone needed to overpower a hard-fighting fish. But we were pleasantly surprised to find the Igniter also has the gentle touch needed to finesse in a fish when casting light leaders and small flies. The Igniter ensured we could get fish safely into the net regardless of our terminal gear, and the water conditions in which we hooked it.
When looking only at versatility in terms of casting distance, the Igniter struggles. It is a powerful weapon at distance but struggles to hand accurate, soft casts at close range. But the Igniter earned high marks in versatility when we consider the range of flies and fishing conditions it can handle. During testing on the wild, remote waters of Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon, we cast tiny dry flies 50 feet across the width of the river to rising fish. The same day, we threw heavy, fat foam hoppers into stiff afternoon winds. When we later hit the slower, deeper waters of the main stem of the Salmon, the Igniter tossed big stonefly nymph rigs fitted with heavy tin split shot and big bubble indicators with equal ease. That’s often the type of versatility a trout-hunting angler will need from their go-to rod.
It does a lot, not enough to be a true jack-of-all-trade rod. The lack of short casting accuracy and ease makes limits its suitability as a quiver-of-one trout rod.