Hardy Marksman Z Review - New Saltwater Fly Rods
Hardy recently released the new Marksman Z saltwater fly rods which we thought looked pretty interesting so we bought one in 8wt to test. It's already getting a little crowded in the saltwater fly rod arena, with the Scott Sector and Sage Salt R8 being so good, and just recently the newest Winston Air 2 MAX being phenomenally good. We are looking at how these new Hardy rods compare to the top saltwater fly rods we have tested extensively for years.
Allow me to save you some time: Yes, for Bonefish. Everything else, not so much. Simple as that. No need to read more if you are sensitive and love your Hardy rods. I also own a few cool ones like the Ultralite SR plus now this new one. The new Marksman Z is not a "bad" rod, it just isn't the best and I don't see the point of using a fourth or fifth place rod (in challenging tropical conditions and wind), especially at the same price point. This Marksman hits the mark with Bonefish lines, but for some reason it misses everything else.
This Marksman hits the mark for Bonefish, but misses everything else.
Note that we do not carry Hardy rods here (we continue to consider it and we keep an open mind as new models are released). Nobody sponsors us or pays us to review anything one way or another, and we pay for everything we review ourselves. We only carry the best gear here at Salt Fly Pro and to back that up, we test everything else too. You may feel differently but we give an unvarnished assessment of fly rods, reels, and lines. We own every saltwater fly rod worth having and some that probably aren't, just for review purposes. We have nothing against Hardy, and we don't care who wins best fly rod. If we sound harsh, it's because it's just the reality nobody else wants to tell you. This rod is nice for Bonefish lines but honestly struggles with more general-purpose flats lines. Try it. That's just the truth, cast it yourself with Rio Flats Pro for example, it just can't do it, it feels mushy. It is very good with SA Bonefish line, I am not saying there's no upside. If you mainly fish for Bonefish, this rod works great with that specific line. It just can't handle much more than that. Hardy really should temper the marketing with these rods because they simply can't back it up. "Winning tournaments" sure if you are a pro you could use a fiberglass rod and win a tournament. But why would you want to? I encourage everyone upset by this to go cast these back to back with a Scott Sector or Sage Salt R8, or better yet the newest Winston Air 2 MAX, and honestly reflect on what you feel when you cast them all.
This rod is nice for Bonefish lines but honestly struggles with more general-purpose flats lines.
Another major fly shop did a review recently and rated this new rod a little below the Scott Sector. We think that's certainly a bit generous relative to our assessment overall. So this is a pretty rod but it's tough to compete with the Sector on performance.
Considering that beginners usually seem to opt for heavier lines, and beginners are also more likely to be sold on the marketing from big companies like Hardy and Orvis, I'm not sure they are being set up for success with a rod like this that will struggle in wind and under heavier lines than those used for Bonefish. Compare it to the Orvis (which we also don't carry) but which is stiffer and more powerful, and makes a lot more sense when you think of who is going to buy and use it (beginners who have "heard how great the warranty is" haha). I'd say between two brands I don't sell, get the Orvis rod. But if you want something nicer there are other options out there with less marketing and more actual performance.
We will continue testing until we have enough different lines evaluated with these rods to get a more complete sense of what they can do but having tried this rod with the most popular fly lines we typically sell, we would suggest there are better options for a similar price. Maybe this upsets you, but feel free to go cast it against other rods like we have mentioned and make your own decisions. We are here to help customers understand all these different rods and guide, not push you, to the right gear. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.
Hardy loves to talk up their rods (I don't think they cast as well as they sound described here but that's fine, it's mostly about marketing anyway). Here's more direct from Hardy about their new rods:
"There are few environments that can offer the challenge of the salt. Smooth early morning runs through thick air across nervous liquid silver flats can quickly yield to cast killing winds and seemingly impossible shots from an unstable casting platform. However when the wind drops, the stars align and you slide that fly into the bulls eye there is no match for the feeling of expectation turning instantly into adrenaline as a hundred pounds of chrome goes airborne or six pounds of silver leaves the flat like its been fired from a gun.
The Hardy Marksman Z with its unrivalled blend of feel, power, recovery and down right durability has been designed in conjunction with some of the finest guides, anglers and legends in the saltwater world. From Gold Cups to grand slams and a thousand different challenges in between, the Hardy Marksman Z is the right rod for that right moment in the Salt."