Time to turn on the Exhaust Fan


Originally posted on 2/28/2013

Now that the novelty of the Microwave Guide System has ebbed a little we feel it’s time to share some information that, while admittedly biased, is nonetheless based on simple observation. Obviously, something new in the component industry will be introduced with as much fanfare as possible by the company bringing it forward, and occasionally some smoke and mirrors. We are as guilty of that as anyone although Fuji, being the ever-modest patriarch, feels obligated to temper our claims from time to time. Forum posters call it ”hype”, but we doubt you would pay much attention to boring new products.

MIcrowave has built it’s campaign around the idea that it’s ”Not a Concept, it’s Reality” as if a concept is suddenly a bad thing. Fuji’s concepts have revolutionized the component industry and driven more change than any other contribution to the craft. The ”Reality” is that the sum total of American Tackle’s contribution to new design and innovation counting the introduction of the Microwave System – is one. Considering the fact that they bought the manufacturing rights from someone else, crediting them with even one innovation might be too generous.

But let’s get back to the idea that reality is better than a concept. Is that true? Is a rod building philosophy that can be applicable to thousands of rods used for hundreds of species actually be a bad thing? Can mastering a point of view that steers a builder through any project actually be a cumbersome limitation? We don’t think so. We think that Fuji’s building concepts have actually sparked a liberation, freeing rod builders for more experimentation, more personal innovation, more debate, more sharing and more advancement in the craft than any reality ever could. Would you rather work with a set of goals for a project and have the freedom to reach those goals in a variety of unique ways; or simply transfer information from one place to another? One experience sparks new thinking, the other is, in our opinion, a little robotic.

Fuji concepts become reality in  the hands of custom rod builders. The ”reality” of the Microwave System is that it is, in the final analysis, a kit. No leeway, no latitude, no creativity, and no control. We won’t argue the fact that it works pretty well and it’s very easy. That will fill the bill for a lot of builders but we stand by the notion that the more you move forward in the craft, the less appealing ”kits” become.

Beyond the obvious variation in opinion between a concept and a reality, we also took a look at how the numbers stacked up in a head to head comparison of Microwave versus Fuji’s new KR Concept. This may be a mute comparison at this point since American Tackle has since reversed course on their frontal attack of the NGC and KR Concept, at least that was the case when we checked their web site before starting this commentary. Still, their introductory claims were squarely aimed at the NGC and KR before ultimately settling on the Cone of Flight as the chosen target. Is the Microwave better than Cone of Flight? Yes. And so are most guide train layouts compared to a method first used some 30 plus years ago.

Using the ”kit” ordered from Mudhole and following the installation guidelines to the letter, we looked at the Microwave System using a Shimano Sustain 4000FE on a 7’0” blank. We securely taped up the Microwave System followed by a taped up KR Concept build resulting from information entered into GPS at our web site. Before we started we weighed the layouts, comparing stainless to stainless.

The combined weight of the Microwave guides was 5.49 grams while the KR Concept guides totalled 6.38 grams. Less than 1 gram of weight separates the two layouts even when you include an additional reduction guide and the new wide footed KB in the KR layout. One might conclude that with only a single stripper, the Microwave would be much lighter than the KR but that is not the case.

The Microwave places the multi-ringed stripper at 19 1/2 inches and the choke at 39 7/8 inches, a reduction train length of just over 20 inches, with a single transition guide at 30 1/2 inches. The KR Concept is “reel dependent” and using the Rapid Choke outlined in the concept the choke point is at 31 inches or within 1/2 inch of the position of the transition guide on the Microwave layout. Interesting that even though the Microwave claims to have all the choking done in a single guide it doesn’t actually reach a fully choked running guide until 39 7/8 inches beyond the spool lip. THAT’S 8 7/8 INCHES FURTHER OUT THAN A KR CONCEPT ROD with the set up we used.

Because of the single multi-ringed stripper, the Microwave System claims more sensitivity and ”crispness” than other layouts. Not necessarily. Most would agree that the upper two thirds of the rods is most critical in determining sensitivity, recovery and even power so we separated the rod into thirds and compared the top two thirds and the bottom third to see which system offered a superior top section. The bottom third was a gimme, Microwave had a single guide where KR had two. In the bottom third KR weighed 2.35 grams more than  the Microwave, an amount that is most likely imperceptible in that section of rod and certainly has little bearing on action or sensitivity.

In the top two thirds the Microwave System included the transition guide (remember it was 30 1/2 inches out from the spool lip) and 7 size 6 runners. The KR included a KB choke point guide size 4.5 and 7, KT4.5 runners. Total weight of the top two thirds of a Microwave rod was 2.0 grams. Total weight of a KR layout in the top two thirds was .73 grams.

63% lighter than Microwave.

We have noticed that now the Microwave kit includes size 5 running guides so these numbers have changed somewhat but KR is still substantially lighter than MW where it matters most. Plus, KR includes an additional runner. Not only is the top lighter and more responsive it is also more sensitive and more powerful thanks to better tracking of the blank’s bend  and more ”touch” points on the blank.

Once layed out, the casting results were among our least surprising results. Our 7 foot KR Concept rod consistently out-casted the Microwave but only by a little. Both were smooth, with low vibration and distances were impressive by any standard. Still, the KR rod felt a bit lighter while casting and recovery or ”crispness” was notably better in the KR rod.

The final choice is up to you of course and that’s OK with us. It’s likely most builders will have to try the Microwave for its novelty if nothing else. We simply wanted to set the record straight and we couldn’t bear to sit by and have the Fuji brand misrepresented. We appreciate American Tackle’s apparent decision to compare the Microwave to the COF rather than NGC or KR. There’s plenty of room in the component market for all of us.