Apia Foojin'RS Springer 88

If you’ve already read this review once, I’d politely suggest maybe giving it another go. I’ve just been out with the Springer again today and unlocked a whole host of new findings. Just jump to the bottom for my update. Ben.

In a world with so many high quality fishing rods, it takes a lot to stand out. I’ve discussed it already this week in my post about the Apia Foojin’RS Lynx 93M, but Apia have always found a way to do just that. So many rods today seem built from the same, simple wish-list of features and some very definite trends have appeared over the past few years. While the Lynx would be the only rod in the ‘RS range even flirting with a resemblance to normality, the Springer 88ML bucks the trend for doing its own thing.

There are some excellent light, bass lure rods out there in the sub-nine range. At 8’8″ long and rated to cast a maximum of 32g, the Springer competes with the likes of the new Major Craft Tidrift 862ML and Seabass Custom 88, the cheaper Tailwalk Hi-Tide SSD 86ML and the now discontinued Tailwalk Eginn 88. And it’s no exaggeration to tell you that it’s a completely different rod to all of them – and the many more that would be easy to list in this crowded field of excellence.

I’ve always had a love for shorter rods. I don’t know why but these “middle” lengths have always floated my boat a bit, and 8’8″ has long been a length I’d have quoted in the past as my personal ideal. To be honest, with rod development and longer rods feeling more manageable now than ever, today I’m probably a 9’1″ kind of guy (not that any exist!). But as a huge fan of the “88” and past owner of both Yamaga and Nories rods in this exact length, I would always have high hopes for the Springer.

Before its arrival, I guessed at a certain level of power and robustness, and a fast but not typically steely action. That’s APIA. Understanding that the carbon Apia have used in these new ‘RS rods is exactly that in their very high-end Foojin’Z range, my assumptions for the Springer were based loosely around their Foojin’Z Urban Dino 90ML – a (£650) nine foot rod with the same ratings. If they could somehow create an Urban Dino while saving the customer £200+ by replacing Torzite guides for SiC, I knew the Springer would be a rather massive hit!

As it turns out, totally different rod again!

It’s like Apia just enjoy playing with us?!? By creating rods so independently different, they get every single conceivable base covered, but it also means we have no idea what to expect from any rod until we’ve actually spent some serious time fishing with it. These rods being what they are, I’ve fished multiple short sessions with the Springer and weeks later still feel like I don’t have the words to describe it.

But here goes.

This rod is FUN! Slim, light and almost glassy. It’s elastic. Forgiving, but with that Apia cleverness that ensures that – even though you have a rod that bends when you want it to – it’s also got the brains and brawn to work a lure as you’d want it. It’ll land any bass and you can cast it as hard as you like with a lure in its weight class.

Not perhaps as fast, light and “trend-setting” crisp as the similar rods mentioned previously, but the Springer is as capable as each of them with any lure up to it’s maximum casting weight. In fact, the one similarity the Springer does have with a lot of Japanese designed lure rods is that the maximum rating is only going to be relevant with a slim, dense metal jig on the end of your line. For example, if a typical Apia rod says “45g max”, you’ll be able to put a genuine, big, bulky 45g shad on it and smash one out as hard as you like! It actually makes them difficult to compare with so many Japanese rods, as you’d probably find yourself having to look at “60g” models from other brands to find a rod as capable as the Apia. Where the Apia rod excels though is when you drop to a 10g lure next cast, and you’re still fishing! You don’t get that elsewhere. The Springer however, will fish a 32g metal but will start to struggle – like so many circa-30g lure rods – with any slightly more bulky lure like the Xorus Patchinko II (25g). This isn’t a fault, but rather completely normal in lure rod terms. And like all Apia, the lower end rating is genuine too…

Foojin'RS Springer 88 Casting

Where the Springer does beat its competitors is in its lower weight casting capability. Not that many of us are regularly fishing sub-10g lures (I’d guess?), but the flexibility and precision of the Springer actually opens up doorways, I’m sure.

I’ve not done it much, but who out there is fishing weedless, weightless 3″ and 4″ soft plastic lures for bass in calm conditions? Love to hear if you are. I’m off on a random tangent now, but given that I’m sure most of us fish larger lures (5″ and 6″) just so we have the inherent weight to cast them, I wonder if we’d have been experimenting with a wider range of lure sizes if we had more rods like the Springer to effectively fish them (without having to buy another rod just to try it)? I’m talking 5g and 6g types stuff – total. Unweighted skinny lures. I’ll stop myself from rambling too much in the wrong direction and save it for another day, but the point I guess I’m discovering myself making is that the Springer is almost like two rods in one. Accidentally I realise I’m using a similar analogy to something I said about the ‘RS Vivogue 96ML+ the other day (a 40g rod with a 30g tip), but as a lighter action rod, with the Springer you’re combining your typical 30g bass rod with a 20g light game rod. It’s different to the Vivogue though. Not just a tip and butt comparison. It’s not that the rod has a 20g tip or is anything like an LRF rod, but the whole rod works as one to just do whatever it is that it does to make itself so blimmin’ versatile. It feels like a bass rod, but will throw a perch lure.

Reel Seat

The Springer is one of the slimmest bass rods I’ve ever measured, which can go part way to explaining it’s (sometimes) more progressive action. This level of lightness and subtlety in a rod demands the same in a reel. I’d look to match one with a Shimano C3000, Daiwa LT3000, or something like that. I’ve a Tailwalk Speaky 3000 on mine at the moment and it’s perfect. You could chuck a Slammer 2500 on it if you wanted to, but I feel like a rod like this isn’t going to be used in crazy rough conditions, so the robust features of a Slammer would be wasted. Go light and silky for this one.

It gets spoken about a lot as it’s always been a real strength of Apia rods, but I do love the reel seat and grips on the ‘RS range. Often, when sat in my little dream world thinking up plans for world domination (all on target for the year 2055!), I imagine our own range of custom rods and the components I’d use to create those rods. For inspiration, it’s always Apia… Super comfortable, look great, just right for me. The handle is relatively short on the Springer, but no more short than any of the current top batch of Japanese lure rods in the same length range. But it actually gets away with it far better than most because the less steely blank has the forgiveness to load itself with minimal effort. It’s comfortable and easy. The designers haven’t pictured you out on the coast in a raging gale using this rod (rather a comfortable estuary, up to your waist in water, slowly-retrieving a shallower diver in the pitch blackness..) so the length is perfect for comfortable, precise casting on calmer days on the open coast and weedy estuary marks.

Estuary fishing

In a lot of ways the only rod I can compare it to is the incredible – and more expensive – Tailwalk Hi-Tide TZ 90ML. A 24g rated, super slim, similarly “elastic” bass rod. The TZ is more precise and refined as a dedicated light bass rod though. It feels even more luxury. But the Springer does everything the TZ does, and then chucks 30g next cast – something not possible with the Tailwalk.

To dedicate a little more time to the basic stuff that the Springer does well, lets talk topwaters, plugs and plastics. The stuff we all use. I’ll reiterate from above, but the Springer is not the steeliest, fastest, lightest bass rod in the world (it’s plenty fast and steely enough, just not THE fastest). But the Apia genius’ have made it exactly as it is supposed to be and created what I think is a rod that helps the angler fish better, cast further, fish lighter, fish heavier, lose less fish AND have more fun. This is some rod!

It’s real strength? I’d say that’s your weedless plastics. Though I’m sure the guys in Japan won’t have specifically designed it with soft plastic lures in mind, we know that we fish differently and we know what we like. If – like me – you’re a fan of a weedless hook, belly weight and 5″ plastic, the Springer is absolutely the rod for you! If you’re fishing smaller plugs and surface lures to 20g or so, it’s for you too! It’ll easily fish above 20g, but I think – since I want for our customers to be choosing the rod that’s best for them – there are other rods I could recommend for heavier lures. Just step up to the Vivogue 96ML+ or Lynx 93M depending on your fishing. On the metal lure front, you can whack a 30g lure as hard as the handle length will allow you, and a weighted plastic like the Savage Gear Sandeel V2 12cm (22g) lures are happy on it.

As a range of rods, the Foojin’RS range are ridiculously complimentary. And if we’re talking light, versatile circa-30g rated bass rods, the Springer could be the best I’ve ever seen. It started as a joke when they first came in, but I need to own (and likely will) every rod in this range.

UPDATE: Apia have done it again. IGNORE THE ABOVE!! Or… actually believe every word, but also hear me when I add, the Springer is a FREAK!!! It’s so much more rod than I thought. And I’m embarrassed it’s taken me this long to realise, especially having literally just published my review.

Cornish/South African legend Nick Topps (Lure Rage), may remember a time when he too was initially convinced that one of the Apia Grandage rods wouldn’t cast or fish a lure above a certain weight (under it’s maximum). He came to see me with a touch of disappointment in his eye. Completely confused (Me. Knowing Apia rods), we took it out for a fish just so I could try and understand what he was feeling…

What he was experiencing was that point with a rod blank where it feels like it’s reached its limit. You know, when your lure is dangling there, line taught to your finger with your brain thinking that you can’t possibly try to put any proper effort in to this next cast… So you don’t. You part try/part lob. It gets out there but doesn’t feel like you’ve had much control over it. Traditional fishing rods and personal experience warn you and your casting arm of the limits before you get the lure airborne.

Proportionately I’d say that what Nick had felt was exactly the same kind of level where most Japanese rods reach their genuine limit – at around 10-15% less than their stated maximum. Me too following initial sessions on the Springer in the case of our review here. But this is where Apia rods clearly hide their most stunning secret. It’s not that they’re struggling, it’s that they’re only just getting warmed up and are about to absolutely smash your brain to pieces with what they go and do next!

For some reason the lightness of the Springer had me doubting its potential and actually forgetting my time with Nick. With every other Apia rod we have fished lately (quite a few), I’d know immediately that I can just hammer it – cast as hard as I like. The reason it got me all messed up is that the Springer just doesn’t FEEL like you can do that. It’s not a rod like any other Apia I’ve fished. But it turns out you can and I’m an absolute idiot for missing it.

By powering through the initial self-doubt that “normal” rods and experience have taught us, the lure that feels too heavy suddenly gets launched at full pelt with no fear of consequence. Break through the barrier of normality and the Apia rod (any) opens up to you. As the Grandage did for Nick and I on that day.

By the end of our test session I think we were probably both laughing. Not only was the 50g Grandage rod that “struggled” with a 42g lure earlier in the day now absolutely blasting it, but we’d stepped up to 50g and even 60g too! That’s Apia. Basically, we just weren’t really engaging the clever, hidden power in the butt until we’d reached the weight where other rods (and the angler) give up.

I’d planned a little casting session with Josh Fletcher today for absolute clarity on what I’d considered during the writing of this review (and just the fact that I love the Springer). Like I’ve said here already, it’s a rod that I find constantly confusing. And perhaps for good reason considering how mad this review is probably shaping up to be now that I’m adding contradictions to it. It was a nice chance to compare again against the Major Craft Tidrift 86 too.

I can only laugh at myself, but time and time again we’ve learnt from Apia rods that you can’t always trust your first impressions. Or even first six weeks of impressions in the case of the Springer! It’s a ridiculous post-publication discovery which – although insanely embarrassing – could only happen with an Apia and I won’t be too hard on myself.

So what have I done today that I daren’t have before?

Some of what I said holds true. We’ve fished a wide range of lures in breezy but calm conditions. While I’d felt 30g a comfortable top-end metal lure weight previously, today I’ve been blasting a 35g Surf Seeker. Probably shouldn’t say that in a review of a rod only rated to 32g?! I’ve also been slinging – with not too much holding back – a Sakura Sodium Shad on a 25g head. These weigh-in at 35g total! The Springer just doesn’t run out of steam. I’ve not gone heavier or harder than those, but for a rod so incredible with a lighter lure, the fact that I’ve just been catapulting a 35g shad on one of these is absolutely mental. And it’s happy with it…..just. I’ve been leaning harder in to the larger plugs too and not just listening to my hands. A 150mm, 20g plug becomes easy rather than strained once you just believe in the rod. So we can add a few grams there too. Perhaps not in rough conditions, but there are so many insane rods in the ‘RS range for those kinds of days, that not being perfect with a big plug isn’t a loss on the Springer’s front.

It isn’t a rod that fishes a surface lure as well as the Lynx 93M or Tidrift 862ML either, but for everything else it’s a rod that opens itself to such a wide potential fanbase of anglers who prefer a sub-9′ rod. I won’t be blasting 35g in to a gale, but if we look at the actual maximum rating of 32g, this too makes absolute sense. I think the early comparison to the Foojin’Z Urban Dino 90ML (32g) through me off too. The Springer is much softer – or at least they present themselves differently – and it drew me away from discovering the full potential.

All of this though does take my appreciation of the Springer to another, even higher level of respect and love. This rod is something else!

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