Imagine a lighter, faster, stronger, and more sensitive spinning rod that casts so smoothly it achieves casting distance with less effort, while also reducing line tangles. Who would not want one of those, right? That’s what I thought 4 years ago when I first read about results achieved with the KR guide system, and today I own more than 50 KR Concept spinning rods that guests may use on my guided fishing trips. Don’t own a guide service? For all the benefits these rods have to offer, anglers who use spinning gear should consider one for their personal use.
KR Concept refers to a guide system designed by Fuji with higher framed forward leaning reduction guides followed by micro-sized running guides. The forward lean of the guides helps reduce line tangles. Typically spinning rods with the KR Concept guide system also use guides a full size or even two sizes smaller than you would normally expect to find on a quality spinning rod. Smaller guides throughout the guide train reduce the weight of the rod, decrease rod recovery time, and increase sensitivity. In addition Fuji’s KR Concept also calls for an additional small running guide in the system that spreads rod load over a larger area, and thereby, increases both rod strength and sensitivity.
Guide height and placement are critical for the system to work correctly, so Fuji developed appropriately taller reduction guides. Fuji also invested considerably time and effort identifying guide combinations (sizes and heights) that work well together with appropriate spacing, so rod manufacturers and custom builders who follow Fuji’s few simple suggestions can now easily build KR Concept spinning rods with all the improved features mentioned above.
Limitations of the KR Concept System and Real World Results
Fuji mentions in it’s literature that the KR Concept guide system works better with lighter monofilament lines up to about 15 lb. test and super braided lines up to about 30 lb. test. I’ve been using KR Concept spinning rods exclusively with braided line up to 40 lb. test with excellent results. While researching this article I also did some test casting with 17 lb. monofilament, and came to the conclusion that my KR spinning rods will cast this weight monofilament similarly to 30 lb. braid — I simply prefer smoother and quieter casting braided line. During guided fishing trips I’ve received many compliments on KR spinning rods from my guests, with the most frequent comments including: “These rods really cast well,” “These rods are so light, ” and “I can really feel what is happening with these rods.”
Although I’d heard that KR Concept rods cast further than rods with other guide systems, in my own comparison tests, identical rods (except for the guides) seem to cast fairly close to the same distance. Casting wise, where I have found a KR Concept rod advantage is in ease of casting — you don’t need to cast as hard to attain the same distance. Casting accuracy also improves using the smaller guide, KR Concept system. Improved accuracy is achieved as a result of the smaller guides better controling the line, and less effort exerted during a cast. In my opinion, maximum effort casts are typically less accurate, and don’t seem to attain much (if any) additional distance compared to controlled casts with KR Concept rods.
Depending upon the guide sizes used on a KR Concept rod, the weight and balance difference compared to a traditionally built rod can be easily felt. Over a long day of fishing and casting, heavier traditional rods tend to tire you more, so fishing with a KR Concept rod you might fish longer between breaks or achieve more casts and presentations during the trip. Assuming a standard hookup or catch rate per presentation, additional presentations should, therefore, translate into more hookups / fish caught per the same amount of time.
The lightness of these rods (and especially their tips) also delivers improved sensitivity.
Sensitivity allows you to feel what the lure is doing during each presentation, and adjust your retrieve speed and rod angle accordingly. Improved sensitivity also allows you to detect and hook more subtle bites. When focusing on making your best presentations, wouldn’ t you want to experience the lighter more sensitive feel and easier casting characteristics of a KR Concept Spinning Rod?
Finding a KR Concept Spinning Rod
In early 2012 finding a factory build KR Concept spinning rod was quite difficult, and my first foray resulted in the purchase of a Quantum rod with micro-sized running guides, but without the sloped tangle -shedding Fuji KR guides. This rod was also rated for lighter lures than I normally fish with for salmon, so I kept searching. Later in 2012 St Croix introduced their Legend Xtreme series of KR equipped fishing rods which won the best freshwater rod award at he 2012 ICAST fishing gear show, and I found Kistller Custom Fishing Rods was building a medium-heavy spinning rod equipped with the KR guide system.
In preparation for the 2013 fishing season I purchased some Kistler spinning rods and a St. Croix Legend Xtreme rod, and I applaud the industry-leading efforts of these two companies in providing cutting edge technology in medium-heavy spinning rods at a time when I could find it nowhere else. The risk with being an industry technology leader is that further refinements may occur after production has started. I discovered my Kistler rods were extremely light and sensitive partly as a result of their very small reduction guides. These smaller reduction guides worked well with reel sizes up to about 3000 and braided lines up to about 30 lb., but not so well with 4000 size reels, stiffer lines, or when I was attempting to free drift bobbers and bait. My St. Croix Legend Xtreme rod had larger reduction guides that better accommodated size 4000 spinning reels and stiffer lines, however, odd guide sizes / spacing compared to Fuji’s recommendations seemed like they could be limiting casting efficiency. Remember the Legend Xtreme was awarded best freshwater rod at the 2012 ICAST Show, so it is a sweet fishing rod. It is also a high end $400 rod, and at that price, should be fine-tuned for utmost performance.
I appreciated what I was seeing from factory built KR spinning rods, but I like fishing bobbers and bait with longer 8 – 8 1/2 foot drift rods and could not find any of this particular type rod readily available with the KR guide system. In addition, I was wondering if the rods I purchased could be fine-tuned to work even better. Although it had been several years since I had last built my own custom rods, I attempted to build some 8 1/2 foot salmon rods with the KR guides, and also a few shorter 7 foot spinning rods. My first KR build attempts did not perform as well as I had hoped, so I spent more time studying the KR guide system over the internet, asking questions of custom rod builders, and talking with Angler’s Resource employee and KR guide guru, Jim Ising. After fine-tuning, I am now building KR Concept rods that meet my performance expectations and specifically match what I want in Alaska salmon rods. Being a tackle enthusiast, however, I keep looking and experimenting.
In spring of 2015, I purchased a Johnny Morris Signature Series 7 foot medium-heavy spinning rod from the Anchorage Bass Pro Shops store. I go into specifics on this rod, because although it was made in China and cost $150 (catalog price match), it fishes nearly as well as any custom rod I have built. When casting lures for all Little Susitna River and Deshka Rivers salmon species with a 4000 sized spinning reel and either 30 or 40 lb. braided line it flat out performs. Of course there are a few qualifications — you need to gradually tire large kings with a rod of this rating, and I would not use it for back trolling large plugs. In addition, it only comes as a one-piece rod, so you should plan on how it will be transported before purchase (I transport mine inside the cab of my double cab pickup). With each passing year, more KR Concept system spinning rods are becoming available. From my searches you should currently expect to pay at least $150 or more for a quality KR Concept spinning rod. Remember the Kistler and St Croix rods I wrote about earlier? In researching this article I found that both Kistler Custom Rods and St Croix are now building rods using the same KR guide sizes I’ve been using on my most recent custom builds. Both of these companies continue refining their rod offerings on an annual basis and continue to lead the field in the development of KR Concept spinning rods. My favorite Kistler KR rod is from their Z-Bone series, and St Croix’s 2016 Legend Elite series features improved KR guides, sizes / spacing, and now includes longer salmon / steelhead rods. Expect to pay a premium for these flagship rods.
Interested in building your own KR Concept spinning rod? Angler’s Resource is the USA distributer for Fuji products and provides a free and thorough tutorial on the latest KR Concept guide layouts on their website at http://www.anglersresource.net In addition, Angler’s Resource employee JIm Ising answered my numerous technical questions about Fuji’s guide research and manufacturing.
Fishtale River Guide owner, Andy Couch, guides Alaska salmon fishing trips with custom built KR Concept spinning rods on Mat-Su Valley rivers north of Anchorage.