AS soon as I picked it up, I knew it would be good. With a rod blank design similar to the Steez, my initial thoughts were, "this will be up there in price." With super lightweight construction, quality guides and reel seat/grip set up, I was surprised to hear that the retail price would be less than $300. That's a serious bit of gear for the price, and sexy too (yes, that's possible – just ask any angler).

The sleek new Black Label comes in two ranges. The Versatile series and the Technical series - to which both feature HVF graphite blanks, Fuji Sic Guides, Daiwa surround hold reel seats and EVA grips. Both come with the "SSS" label (short for 'Skippin, Shootin, Shaky'), describing the many fishing styles anglers employ while out on the water - exactly what this rod was designed for.

The first time I laid eyes on the new range, I was fishing a lot for estuary jewfish in a couple of NSW South Coast and Sydney river systems. Up until then, I had been casting TMZ Extractors or Sols, fitted with the ever popular 3000 sized Caldias and loaded with 12-15lb Daiwa Tournament braid, and I certainly wasn't complaining. Brad Sissins, marketing manager for Daiwa Australia, was raving about this new, highly affordable rod that would give any elite system a run for its money. Naturally, I was busting to test one out, especially on some aggressive estuary inhabitants!

After reaching a favoured jewfish location on the Georges River, I loaded up a 5" plastic on a 3/8oz jighead and aimed for a spot just shy of the rocky shoreline. The slightly longer cork handle (as I prefer both hands), combined with the whippy top-end made it a dream to cast and I immediately knew what Brad was on about. Put simply, it just felt right. Plus I've always been a fan of cork grips, whether it's that old school vintage look or just the feel of the cork itself, they are just so comfortable to use. It wasn't long before I'd hooked my first jewfish for the morning session, and although it was merely a soapie, this rod did everything right. In fact, it was as good as any of the heavier estuary rods I have used in its class on both small or large estuary fish - if not better. Although this is the heaviest and longest model in the Technical range, I still felt everything. The sensitivity is astounding. Remember, we aren't talking about a $700 rod here!

Daiwa Black Label 2

The super large body of freshwater located in the Hunter region of NSW, known as Lake Glenbawn, was another testing ground for my new Black Label. Anyone who has fished this monster lake knows just how much force is required to extract these feisty bass from their haunts once they hit. Forget the bream outfits, this place demands serious gear and this Black Beauty was ideal for the task. You literally have seconds to win an aquatic argument, or at least attempt to amongst these snags.

Since the first trials of this new rod I have landed many large estuary specimens, ranging from big lizards and pan-sized snapper, to monster tailor and even a few small kingfish, to which the Black Label SSS 6101MLXS presented zero problem. Well done to the Daiwa team for producing such a strong, comfortable and functional, yet stylish rod for the price. This one scores a huge tick in the value box for me. If you haven't seen them or tried one out - I highly recommend visiting your nearest Daiwa dealer for a squiz.

Warren Keelan
Team Daiwa

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