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Bill Cottam Reviews

Long Term Review - Free Spirit XS Rods

They come with a hefty price tag (which he paid), but is it justified? Bill Cottam gives you his verdict…


After a catfish in excess of a hundred pounds towed me around for an hour, went on to go under the boat and ultimately snap the tip section of one of my trusty Daiwa Amorphouses, I found myself down to three rods, and realised that the time had come to replace the wands that had served me so well for so many years. If my memory serves me correctly, my move to Free Spirit took place in the late nineties. I bought my first set of 12ft 3.25lb XSes from what was then, Chapman’s Tackle in Scunthorpe, and I loved them from the moment I got them. 

Judging by what I see in print, and the rods some of my Free Spirit-using friends have, I suspect some would deem me somewhat under-gunned with a mere 3.25lb test curve, but I assure you, I have never found the XSes wanting in any respect. In common with the fella using my set, they are probably not capable of hitting some of the outrageous distances other rods in the Free Spirit range can undoubtedly achieve in the right hands, and it is not claimed that they are able to do so. For anything other than absolute maximum range, however, I simply cannot imagine a nicer rod.

I want an all-round rod that I am equally happy to use at range and under the rod tip, one which will control very big fish with ease, and if the need arises, one I can use with total confidence to play a fish with from a boat; the XSes do it all with aplomb. I changed my XSes in 2008, for guess what… another set of the 3.25lb 12-footers. There was nothing wrong with my original set whatsoever, but the carp tiger in me demanded the 50mm butt rings. Truth be known, how much difference they actually make compared with the more standard, 40mm alternative, I have no idea… I like ’em though!

At £330 a pop, XSes are certainly not the cheapest rods out there, but it is refreshing that, in common with other rods in the Free Spirit range, you do undoubtedly get what you pay for. It is also probably worth noting that many retailers offer better deals if you buy two, three or four rods.

All XSes come with the Free Spirit clone reel seat as standard (complete with isotope), an abbreviated handle produced from EVA, and a shrink rubber butt grip with stainless steel collars and butt cap, but I understand other options are available from some retailers.

At this point in the review, I guess I should list any reservations I have about this rod, but in all honesty, I can say without any fear of contradiction, that I don’t have any… I cannot fault ’em!

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