Redington’s 9-weight VICE rod arrived on my porch in all its dapper glory about three weeks before my trip to the Louisiana marshes. Not really sure about which weight to choose, I settled on the middle option given by most experts. With the probability of high winds, the extra oomph of a nine would help in tossing a chunky offering to the red drum I’d been obsessing over for nearly two months. All that pent up giddiness came pouring out as I removed the rod from its included kelly green rod case, assembled the four pieces, spooled up with RIO Winter Redfish line, and tied on the fattest, heaviest bass popper I owned, sans hook, of course, to practice casting.
The rod was eye catching with its shamrock green base, gold letters and striping, and all nicely balanced by black anodized snake guides. Redington builds the VICE with saltwater-grade hardware so heavy-duty quality should be baked in. The VICE was beautiful while also looking deadly serious. Green and gold are the colors of my alma mater, Arkansas Tech University (go Wonder Boys and Golden Suns), so Redington’s new VICE series of rods was already a winner in my book.
According to Redington, the VICE's multi-modulous carbon fiber blank has a fast but manageable action. I’d agree. Refined power is the best description. The RIO line threw acutely tight loops when I really pushed the rod, loading it quickly both backward and forward. That’ll happen when you combine a substantial butt and midsection with a conservative yet still lively tip. The performance gave complete confidence that I could fling a country mile, slicing through any gale I might face in the Gulf. Softer, more open loops were easily thrown for short range work, which is what one of my guides said would be the norm and what I should be mostly practicing.
But what does a guide know, right? Screw the short-range practice. Where’s the fun in that? And I just knew that sometime during the trip I’d spot a cruising bull at 70 feet and angling away, requiring an epic hero cast culminating with my designation as legend in the annals of southern Louisiana angling. So over the next several afternoons, I lugged an old ice chest to the backyard — simulating a casting platform — coiled off 100 feet of line, and tried to toss the whole damn thing.
I very nearly did.
Well, I got within 20-something feet, anyway, and with accuracy. The VICE simply did what I wanted it to do and with little cajoling. Hitting a hula hoop at 30 feet and in was a gimme. With one false cast, 50 feet was doable. Two false casts could hit 60 plus and I regularly flirted with four-score territory. With the VICE rod and RIO line in hand, I felt empowered. I pitied the redfish.
Fast forward three weeks. It’s just past daybreak on a coastal Louisiana lake and that imagined gale-force wind was a reality as whitecaps bucked the skiff. Nary a redfish could be found all morning long. We just couldn’t see through the chop. But blind cast after blind cast, the VICE and RIO line combo performed. It shot spoon flies and heavy shrimp patterns into the gusts with little problem. Then, tragedy struck. Let’s just say that trolling motors and fly lines aren’t a good combination in windy conditions. With no spare line on deck, the day was done.
I had another redfish guide lined up for the next day and only a couple of hours to spare before prior obligations and then a long drive to said outfitter’s lodge. The good news is that I was able to locate two spools of 9-weight line at a local outdoor store. The bad news is that both lines were general purpose floating lines, lacking much of a weight-forward taper—not the best option for casting big, water-moving redfish flies—and neither was of particularly impressive quality. I was not optimistic.
The reality about fly lines is that while the right line can make a decent rod seem better than it is, a crappy fly line can make even the best rod seem like a piece of junk. Asking the VICE to stand up to what was clearly the wrong line for the conditions seemed like, well, asking too much.
But the 8-pound red that flared on a perfectly executed 40 foot cast proved the worries were for naught. And it wasn’t just that one fish. Cast after cast, the VICE's performance eclipsed any line shortcomings and performed to nearly the level I’d experienced on the previous day.
The VICE isn't as light as more expensive fast-action rods, but the feel and weight of the rod were comfortable enough for all-day blind casting and there was never a doubt that I had enough stick for battling big reds or whatever other critter might suck in a fly on the brackish flats.
The VICE comes with a $199 price tag. If you've read this far and find yourself surprised by that number, you likely won't be alone.
I’m hard-pressed to find fault with a piece of equipment that does exactly what I want it to do even when handicapped. I reckon I could quibble a bit about the VICE's weight. It has a beefy feel that some anglers might not appreciate it, though, it was never a hindrance or even a thought during two days of hard casting.
Fast yet manageable, and affordable to boot. Also, green is my favorite color. Win, win, win, win.
I’ve named my VICE 'Wonder Boy', and can’t wait to get him back in the salt or maybe tangle with a freshwater striper on some local lakes. He’s a pretty boy, but there’s no doubt that he can hold his own with a brutish wind, the nastiest finned brawlers, or even a smallish fishing budget.