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Review: Waterworks-Lamson Center-Axis Rod & Reel System

by Robert Morselli

I suspect that the fly fishers who have seen the Waterworks-Lamson Center-Axis Rod & Reel system photos (and certainly the ones who have actually laid hands on it), have wondered Why? The answer is deceptively simple:  It’s the result of looking at the rod and reel as a system. As per the company:  “By closely aligning the center mass of our Litespeed reel with the center axis of our medium-fast action rod, we’ve de-levered the mass of the heavier object. 

Product development usually occurs incrementally: it’s rare for manufacturers to attempt giant leaps, but Waterworks-Lamson has done just that, and should be commended for that alone. More precisely, as you go through your casting stroke, the mass of the reel affects the balance of the rod and the smoothness of the casting stroke. So Lamson designers considered that the mass of the reel should share the axis of the rod. The idea sounds intuitive, clever and right.

Handling the rod, especially for the first few times, is kinetically satisfying, and despite the unorthodox design I can’t even say that it felt foreign. While casting, roll-casting, reach-casting, mending, playing a fish, the CA system is a delight to manipulate. We often hear about a fly rod that delivers good feedback, allowing the angler know where they are in the casting stroke. Due to its design, the CA system delivers stellar feedback.

Also noteworthy is the rod blank, which designers and builders did not skimp on: it’s one of the most fluid casting blanks I’ve tested over the last 16-18 months, consistently delivering smooth, even power. The system combines to create one of the finest trout fishing ensembles to hit the market in a long, long time. A little industry secret is that rod designers test fly rods without reels attached, because it allows them to better feel rod nuances without reel mas muddying up their perception. It’s no surprise that the blanks are perfectly matched with the reel: the system balance cannot be improved upon. What I feel Lamson didn’t trumpet loud enough is their expertly calibrated and crafted blank. As a stand-alone component, it rivals top-tier blanks.

Back to the system itself.  It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that it feels like there’s no reel attached: the reel mass is actually quite cleverly camouflaged. The reel and rod mass is right there in your hand, yet you get the impression that the mass of the reel greatly diminishes as well as the overall impression that the system is lighter than a standard rod and reel set-up (note that the 5-weight system is impressively light to begin with, weighing in at a lean 2.4oz).

I won’t delve much into the reel itself, except to say that it’s yet another excellently designed and crafted item in the Lamson stable.  Nearly every one of their reels is a standout product.

This rod and reel system isn’t different just to be different: it serves a function, and deserves a very close look.  Available in 4-5-6 and 8-wt systems.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Robert Morselli is the research director for the internationally syndicated television show "How It's Made."
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  • Troutrad

    This is not a new concept. Credit should be given where credit is due. About 20 years ago (give or take), Sage came out with the SPL-CA (center-axis) line of rods, followed by the SLT-CA (after the SP and SPL series were decommissioned). These were and are amazing rods and are among my favorites. I’ve never found better anI still own 5 of them in weight ranges from 1 to 5 (the 3 wt is a particular favorite). This article makes a veiled suggestion that this product development was by Waterworks-Lampson.

    • Ryan Harrison

      Hi Troutrad – we (Waterworks-Lamson) licensed our center axis concept to Sage those 20+ years ago. I’m glad you love the Sage Center Axis, and now you know that the concept was ours! Ryan Harrison

      • Alan

        I have sage rplca 3 rod,but no reel.Any chance the Lamson center axis reel would fit? Any other suggestions.

        • Ryan Harrison

          No, our new Center Axis system is a different connection system; our C/A reels won’t fit Sage’s old C/A rods. You could always try Sage to see if, by chance, they still have any C/A reels in stock. Short of that…it would be eBay, etc., to see if you could find one used for sale. Good luck!

  • grantmcclintock

    I like this. It’s weird. And I love Litespeed reels. Curious about the warranty.

    • Ryan Harrison

      Hi Grant – Warranty is lifetime to original purchaser (covers both rod & reel).

  • Mark Greer

    My local shop (Fishwest Outfitters) just got the Center-Axis demo in last week. I can’t wait to go test cast it. I’m a long time fan of Lamson reels and I own two Litespeeds (including the newest Micra 5) and a Remix. All have performed flawlessly over the years.

  • JackN

    Reminds me of the integrated ski/binding setups that have come out from from time-to-time.

  • Clark Ross

    My local shop in Asheville – Hunter Banks – had two in stock – while I didnt cast the unit – I did handle the rod – it feels awesome in hand – super balanced – really almost as if the reel is not there… I was unsure of the quality of the blank – however the fellows at Hunter Banks had very favorable comments as they had actually cast the rods at a demo day for dealers… never know if you might find it’s way under the tree…