Free Spirit Hi-‘S’ Specialist 12′ Big Water rods – First impressions.

February 5, 2014

Ifs_logo just received a pair of Free Spirit Hi-‘S’ Specialist 12′ Big Water barbel rods in the post this week. As always I’m excited about new fishing rods; despite the fact I’ve probably about 40 odd rods in my garage. I’m particularly pleased to get these rods, as I spend most of my fishing time these days on the rivers after barbel & chub.  Although Free Spirit has primarily been associated with carp rods they have also been producing Barbel and Specialist rods for many years now.
These have not been promoted heavily in the past due to bottlenecks in their production capacity – the priority has generally been given to keeping up with the demand for the carp rod ranges. But the do a wide variety of rods including these specialist tools. Here is the catalogue description:


Utilising our ultra high modulus (40t) Low Resin Carbon the Hi-‘S’ Specialist range are incredibly slim and light for their given power. Designed to cope with the demanding needs of the modern specialist angler these rods can be held all day if necessary. The material used helps ‘transmit’ more feeling through the blank and the addition of our Clone seat, made of the same material as the rod, further aids this sensation. These rods are also finished with our ‘Perdurable’ blank technology.

Sounds good doesn’t it?
The previous Free Spirit rods I’d been using for barbel were 1.75lb test X Wrap Tamer’s and were fine in the summer months, when the rivers were low and the flow not too fast. But once I needed to use much over 4oz, then they were understandably, struggling to cope. Casts were just gentle lobs, for fear of exploding the blank. To be fair, though, they stood up very well and at times were heavily overloaded as I cast probably 6oz of loaded feeder, when you take the ground bait into consideration, which is a lot for this TC rod.
To cope with what are medium to large rivers here in northern France, I felt I needed a more powerful rod so I could cast properly and user the heavier feeders, necessary in the faster, powerful flow. 2013 was a very wet year in France and the rivers were high and coloured and tanking through, for much of the summer. To cope with this I got hold of a cheap set of Fox Warrior 2.25lb barbel rods, and found that feeders in excess of 7oz could now he cast, this enabled me to fish swims in conditions I was unable to before.
So at the end of the year I ordered a pair of the Free spirit rods on the recommendation of my friend Shaun Harrison.As a serious tool for my fishing. There was nothing intrinsivcally wrong with the Warriors, they acquitted themselves very well. But they are a budget rod and I fancied something a bit more up market. Here’s what Shaun had to say about the Hi ‘S’ Specialist rods in the Free Spirit catalogue.

“Most know me for my carp fishing exploits but I also like to get out fishing for many other species. The 12 ft Hi-‘S’ Specialist has got to be one of the most versatile rods I have used. Great fun with chub, but also coping admirably with double figure barbel in a flood. I love them”!  Shaun Harrison.

My first impressions are ‘What beautiful rods!’.. I’ve used the Hi’S’ carp rods for a number of years and have found them to be fantastic & aesthetically pleasing tools for my style of carping. The marry performance with looks.. so that can’t be bad.
On opening the box at a first glimpse of the BW Barbel rods was that the build quality is excellent, and as I fully expected a lot better than the X- Wrap Tamers I’ve been using. I guess this is only to be expected.. you can’t really compare a hand built rod by a top craftsmen to a mass produced item. But all the small attentions to detail, like the stainless trim and reel seat isotope strike you immediately and set this rod in a class of its own.

On a quick inspection of what I received, the first thing that struck me is the quality of the cork handle. Now I’ve mentioned many times that I’m a huge fan of cork, and on the Tamers it was nice and slim and looked great.. but there was some compression movement as I cast and it did suffer some minor chunking while I was fishing. Nothing important, but enough to notice. The Hi’S’ cork just seems more robust..smoother, with less grain. My Hi ‘S’ carp rods certainly have not seen the same chaffing as the Tamers, and after a number of years are still as good as new, apart from the natural patina you get with age.. so only time will tell if the BW rods are of the same quality.

As I expected the blanks a superbly slim and elegant. Now I’m not really a tackle tart (“Yeah right!” I hear you say!!) , and my gear does get hammered. I’m not one who cleans his rods after a session. they go back in the holdall till the next trip. Feeder fishing is quite dirty, especially with the fishy, halibut type ground baits I use these days. River banks are often muddy so the gear does have a pretty hard life. That said though, when you spend a long time sitting behind the rods, and in the case of barbel fishing watching the rods, it’s great to sit and watch a beautiful piece of tackle. (Ok I  admit that comment is a bit tarty… but I bet most of you think the same as me.)
Anyway I’ve rigged them up with 30/100 P-Line Extrusion and my old faithful Shimano 8010 reels, and just waiting for the  flooding, we’ve had recently in France, to subside and I’ll be out testing them in earnest. I can’t wait.
In anycase I’ll be back with a proper review on the site, and I’m planning a short video of the rods in action once the spring sets in.



  1. Nice read Gareth, I look forward to reading your report in real conditions to see the behavior of these jewels, can’t wait!

  2. […] I gave my first impressions of the rods in my previous post so I won’t bore you with that aspect again. See: Hi’S Special BW:First Impressions […]

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