Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers

I recently had the honor of being invited to attend the AGLOW (Association of Great Lakes Outdoors Writers) Conference in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  The Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes Associaton along with the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce, the Deadwood Mountain Grand, numerous Corporate Sponsors, and a bevy of friendly local volunteers from throughout the Hills Region provided unrivalled hospitality. 

This was in the form of guided hunting and fishing trips that took place in some of the phenomenal recreational locations that are found around just about every corner in this beautiful and unique area.  We experienced much more than just the obvious enjoyment of having someone taking the time to get us out and showing us their expertise afield.  There was great camaraderie shared along with some darn good ideas; hunting, fishing, and otherwise.  The otherwise was being exposed to the Corporate Sponsors who so generously basically helped pick up the tab for these experiences. 

There was a Corporate Breakout held at Buffalo Chip just outside Sturgis, yep, that’s the biker campground that has gained worldwide fame over the years during the annual Sturgis Bike Rally.  Been there and done that during the Rally, but this event held quite a different atmosphere.  Instead of wild and crazy, we could use relaxed and informative as adjectives.  It gave us an opportunity to meet one on one with some of the most reputable manufacturers of about everything conceivable of interest to the outdoor enthusiast.

Sure, they want to expose writers to their products in hopes of gaining some favorable exposure, but it was so much more than that.  It gave the companies the opportunity to get feedback from some of the best in each of our particular niches of the outdoor world.  They then go back home and begin working on new and improved products for us to use.  That in turn makes for a more pleasurable experience each time all of us who treasure the outdoors venture forth to our destination and avocation of choice.

A very good case in point would be some of what I personally learned.  For example, I have been a huge fan of St. Croix fishing rods for years.  And for good reason, they are simply among just a couple of companies making premier quality rods that far outpace even their closest competitors.  G Loomis being the other.  Or so I thought.  Even those of us supposedly in the know aren’t always aware of every product that is available.  I was introduced to David Gray and I must admit I have had some phone conversations with David over the years when he was running Ardent Reels-which he founded.  But I had never personally met him.  He has since moved on from Ardent and continued on a natural evolution of wanting to provide top flight products to the most avid fisherman; this being to create an entirely new line of superior grade fishing rods.  The new company he has created is named Carbon X Rods. 

You have probably never heard of them, as I hadn’t either.  After an in depth and spirited conversation sharing our thoughts on what a truly great rod should be, we then began to play around with some of the product he had on hand.  I was impressed with what I saw and what I learned about the thought process that went into the designs of various models that will handle nearly anything I can imagine as far as species and the techniques needed to catch them that the freshwater angler needs.  I even had the opportunity to put in my two cents on what is needed in a good walleye trolling rod.  Prototypes in the near future?  I sure hope so. 

Now, playing with a rod is good and fine, but putting it to work in the real world is where the rubber meets the road.  Due to our being treated to guided fishing trips as mentioned earlier, I immediately had the perfect chance to put a fistful of rods of various lengths and actions to work.  Namely, while putting a pretty good hurting on the aggressive trout that Pactola Lake and Lake Sheridan so graciously gave up to us.  I must say that I was very impressed.  But, the true measure of a rod is just how it can help us when we experience tough conditions and light biting fish.  That’s why we pay the extra money for quality.  I was given a couple of rods to take home and field test and with fishing being what it is, I have had ample opportunity to use them on fish that were biting in a far from enthusiastic manner. 

The rods performed as well or even better than I had expected.  Light and responsive combined with superb sensitivity no doubt helps bring more fish in the boat at the end of the day, and the rods have done just that for me.  Now that I have had time to thoroughly work with them, I can now form an educated decision on just where they rank.  I would have to say, in my humble opinion mind you, that they are the equal of what St. Croix and G Loomis currently offer.  This is a darn tough bar to be measured by and they do stack up nicely. 

One issue with rods of this caliber is that they are in turn, moderately expensive and quite frankly a lot of folks just won’t pay the money to step up to this kind of equipment.  Too bad too as they are worth every penny and then some in my book as you will catch more fish and therefore have more fun.  Isn’t that why we go fishing in the first place?  Yeah, the aesthetics are great, but I am the greedy type and prefer to catch as many and as big as fish as I can on each and every outing.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Carbon X Rods come in at about half the price of the aforementioned premium brands.  They really can’t build them any less expensively as quality components and the technology and processes needed to produce these rods are not cheap.  They have simply chosen to cut the middle man out of the equation and sell direct to the end user through an exclusive online dealer that can be found along with information on the specifics of the various models of rods and the story behind their coming into being on their website  Take a moment and check it out if you are serious about researching a top quality rod. 

So, to sum things up, the whole Black Hills experience turned out to be more than I could have hoped for.  Great times and learned a lot to boot!  Just doesn’t get much better than that.  In the end these events are meant for more than just the writers that are fortunate enough to be in attendance.  It directly impacts the average sportsman in the fact that we in turn share what we have learned, as I have done here to help educate and inform our readers to the best of our abilities.  After all, that is our real job and without continuing to do so, we would have no readers and therefore no real reason to write, or exist for that matter.  It is truly the so often touted but rarely accurate, win-win scenario.  The manufacturers who are astute enough to attend functions like this and seek input from the experts in the field so as to better their products come out ahead in that they stay in front of the competition and we as sportsman win as they continue to keep us using the very best products possible.  I for one am grateful for that.      

To learn more about AGLOW and its Corporate Parners, visit