I had been looking forward to getting on the bank with the Xitan Z12 Evolution for a while. In my time reviewing tackle, I have never seen such an extensive promotional campaign as Browning has given the Z12 and I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about.
I could tell that Browning was immensely proud of the product and once I got it on the bank it was very easy to see why. Other than the Shimano Aspire, it is the only pole that I have had the privilege of reviewing that is supplied in a hard carry case. Immediately, this gives the feeling that you are picking up a quality piece of kit.
I unzipped the holdall, expecting to find the usual array of plastic tubes and have to sift through to find the sections that I needed. However, to my surprise, all the tubes are labelled with exactly what is inside them, and each top kit is supplied in its own protective plastic tube. There are six types of kit available, ranging from an Ultra Fine Match (with a 2.6mm-diameter tip) to a Carp XXL (with a 5.6mm tip). Each is supplied prebushed and the angler is able to choose prior to purchase which of the kits they want with the pole to suit their style of fishing.
Importantly, all of the top kits are supplied at the same length, and the cupping kit is also made to match. This is a totally unique feature, and one that I am sure anglers will find appealing. In short, it means that on the day that you would normally spend cutting back and bushing top kits, you can get on the bank and go fishing! It also gives you the comfort of knowing that you get the length of pole that you pay for, and don’t end up cutting away a big chunk of your hard-earned purchase.
I took the Z12 to Viaduct Fishery in Somerset, and was told that Lodge Lake, which I planned to fish, contained some real monsters! For this reason, I elasticated a Carp XL Kit with some Preston 15 Hollo elastic – I didn’t plan on taking any prisoners! Next job was setting up the pole and again I was instantly impressed with the quality of the product. I was lucky enough to have a play with the model’s predecessor, the Z9, which was a blinding piece of kit, and I didn’t honestly think that it could be improved on, but I was wrong.
The first feature that struck me as I slid the pole out of its protective tube was the reinforced band around a foot below the male part of every section. I for one can think of several occasions when I have put my thumb through a section while trying to pull sections apart. These reinforced areas make this a danger of the past. I started by putting the pole up at its full length of 16 metres and, as expected, it was brilliant – exceptionally stiff and very light.
To be honest, I was a little concerned that it might be a bit too stiff to stand up to the rigours of carp fishing, but what followed certainly put that to the test! Delving through the remainder of the carryall, I stumbled across another impressive extra; not one but three reversible dolly butts, all complete with their own integrated skid bungs. One of these three beauties will fit on any section from the No5 right up to the 16m, giving you the option to adapt your pole length to suit the bank terrain behind you.
The sun was beating down and the warm spring mist just starting to lift. I couldn’t wait to get fishing! The bailiff told me that the bushes down to my left were usually a sure bet for the lake’s resident lumps, so I chose to feed a line down here and another at 14.5 metres in front of me.
I had bought just sweetcorn and expander pellets and started my session down to the bush looking for an early leviathan!
Sadly, none were forthcoming, so it was out to 14.5 metres. Soon, my float slid away and something very angry made its way towards the top end of the lake! I had no option but to pull back against the fish to try and slow it down, and the pole felt plenty strong enough to stand up to the pressure. A feisty 10lb common soon came to the surface and was duly netted; not a bad fish to christen the pole with!
After this early carp, the skimmers put in an appearance and they were all a good size, averaging 1½lb! I would have loved to have scaled down and targeted these fish on lighter gear but I just knew that doing so was sure to see me hook a bigger fish and lose it. After around an hour I was glad that I had stuck with heavy tackle because my second carp of the day was hooked and a 7lb mirror soon landed.
On my next put-in I hooked something that was to test the pole to the limit. I have no idea what it was but it decided that it was going to run towards the trees to my left, and there was no stopping it. I added an extra section, taking the pole to 16 metres and held on for dear life! My 15 Hollo elastic bottomed out, but still the pole felt plenty strong enough to cope. In the end, something had to give and it was my main line. The unseen beast snapped 0.17mm Reflo Power like cotton.
Still, after that experience I have no hesitation in saying that the pole will have no problems standing up to the rigours of commercial carp fishing. Maybe a pole can be both super-stiff and super-strong! I soon rigged up and was back into quality skimmers. I was by no means bagging up, but really enjoying working for my bites. The fact that the stamp of fish was quite big was making the day thoroughly enjoyable.
I ended the session with a 40lb mixed bag and, more importantly, extremely impressed with the Z12. If you want to buy the best, then this could well be the pole for you.
Browning Xitan Z12 Evolution
Stated length: 16m
Actual length: 16.08m
Closed length: 1.99m
Top kit length: 2.58m
Match kit elastic rating: No12
Power kit elastic rating: No20+
Other features: Diamond Surface, Nano Carbon, Precision Points
SSP: Standard 16m package £2,499; 17.5m Pro package £2,999
Package: 16m pole including match kit, cupping kit, eight spare kits of your choice, 3x pole protectors, power No3, D Section and deluxe hard holdall
Pro Package: Same as above with extra extension, two more kits of your choice, an extra power No3 and an extra D Section
Spares: SLK Kits £85.50; Puller Kits £95.50; Parallel Extension £394.95