>>UPDATED (May 23, 2010)
I went to Kilsong's Jigging World to pull on all the GT/tuna popping rods. (I don' think Kil saw me pulling on all of them, he was doing business with another guy) I think I pulled on about 15 different ones. Over the last few trips I pulled on many more...
JM 8'6 Tuna - most favored as the long popping species, however too long for personal comfort
JM 7'8GT - over lifting is stronger than BD200. Shorter series brings this to top ranking but weight is 14oz.
Atlas 76/8 - lifting is same as BD200 but not as forgiving. Strong for weight of 12oz
Blue Sniper 80/5 - not favored as it is lengthy and too light for tuna
Atlas 76/6 - much like the 76/8 but without the backbone
Smith 80P - original popping rod with added bulk, weight. Has endurance, used as a benchmark
BlackHole 7'6(?) - stiff feeling, over eparabolic rod with more lifting power than BD200
BlackHole (longer one) - longer than needed, enough back bone, feels invincible.
Tuna Sniper 40/60 - painfull at max bend, longer then comfortable.
Tuna Sniper60/80 - faster action and favored less then the forgiving BD200. More lifting power then BD200
Black Devil 200 - benchmark for ultimate parabolic and forgiving tuna popping rod. Almost too long.
Ripple Fisher GT79R - perfect stickbait rod at the cusp of perfect forgivness
Ripple Fisher GT78 - power rod with tight action
Gipang 79XH - perfect action for semi-parabolic feel
Gipang 75XXH - favourite in bend and weight. Sophisticated bend and typical hots feel. Top comfort rod.
Gipang GT77XXXH (whoa) - mighty version of XXH with perfect length and more backbone. Popper rod.
updated May 23, 2010:
I got to bend a few more rods in the meantime since my last mod.
Smith Komodo Dragon bends like a dream. If you dont like pain and can't stand it you will choose the GTK over this one. However it screams power. More power then the BD200. Not sure if you will do better on stickbait or popper with this one.
Blackhole Cape Cod Special 8' Nano-carbon - this is the prototype that I bent last time however didn't much of a description above. This rod flexes comfortably with a "soft bend". Still more backbone then the BD200. You can work a stick bait comfortably.
Blackhole Cape Cod Special 7'6" Nano-carbon - coming soon... (this is my future 2010 bft rod). I like the spacer in the handle and although the handle is thinner, I do enjoy it.
Blackhole Cape Cod Special 7'6"- Graphite - Competes with feel alongside the Ripple Fisher GT78 PF. Dare to say it is par. If you like the RF GT78 PF and want a softer feel with slightly more backbone (yes possible!) then you and I have the same agreements for the perfect blank. Handle is super light and will probably win you over. IF you are a fan of long handle blanks, this is the one. I have so much to say about this rod. (I heard projected retail is around $450USD)
Ripple Fisher GT78 PF - true PE10 rod. Lives up to the name and price tag. I like the length over an 8' rod at same rating. Bends like a Smith Komodo Dragon.
(Sidenote) An additional jigging blank I pulled on was the blackhole 250gram which is a beauty I would love to own. The 450g is suitible for giants 73" and over. There is so much beautiful flex in the 250 that I think that will be my amberjack rod. I'd like to get it in 5'2" or 5'5" 2 piece. Just waiting for that blank to appear in Kil's office. Let me tell you about the strengths of these blackhole blanks, it just cant be compared right now. My next jigging rod will be of these blanks. I wish I bought the 250gram blank that day but my goal of a 2-piece stopped me from doing so. I have a custom wrap style for this blank.
I cant substitute pulling on them for the actual fish but I cannot afford to go on trip to test-pull then. I feel like certain rods can displace pressure better then others. Of course this is for my own experience and certain rod is better for me then others. I can understand how some guys we see on youtube can do it with the great rods they have. The high drag for them is just a tool and as long as they learn technique, it's quite manageable.
I really feel JM GT 7'8" has significant design. The winding check before blank butt entry is sophisticated idea. The color design on it is not. Significant plus is the MNSG guides used. They are consistently larger ring versions and I believe that is a plus when it comes to casting. The reason for the split butt aluminum insert is beyond my liking. However perhaps it is there to "balance" the rod when casting. There is significant weight for the handle portion as noticeable. If there was no aluminum gimbel and insert mid-butt I would rank this rod higher. It would also weigh in 2 ounces lighter being matched with the Yamaga Atlas 76/8 as the lightest production rod on the list.
I would say the winner is the Hots Gipang XXH, Second is the JM GT, and distant third at Yamaga Atlas 76/8. I'm still concerned about the actions of Carpenter UHL and Smith Tokara.
International street cred goes to: Gipang, older school gangstaness goes to Tokara, In-crowd Asian popper selective goes to: Carpenter, and finally Under-world respect choice goes to: Yamaga Atlas / Ripple Fisher.
If I had to choose now, without bending the Tokara, the GT rod goes to Gipang, the Cape Cod tuna rod is open to Tokara, Yamaga, Carpenter, in that order.