Expert Review: Echo ION XL Fly Rod

This review is my honest opinion of the rod, which I purchased first in 2018, and then in a second length in 2020.

A person wading in a river with a fishing rod.

Fishing for Sea Run Cutthroat on the Hood Canal in Washington State. All photos courtesy of Cory G.

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About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the rod, which I purchased first in 2018, and then in a second length in 2020.

My take

The Echo Ion XL Fly Rod is a low-price, high-performance rod aimed at the beginner to the intermediate angler or as a backup for experienced anglers. It is also a “guide favorite,” because its action appeals to many anglers.

The Echo ION XL Fly Rod in the 9 foot 6wt size.

The 9 foot 6wt size

About this rod

  • Model: Echo Ion XL Fly Rod
  • Rod Length: 9’ and 10’
  • Rod Weight: 6wt
  • Rod Pieces: Four pieces each
  • Rod Material: Graphite

About me

  • Preferred fishing style(s): I love fishing in many different styles, but streamer fishing in saltwater, dry flies in small intimate waters, or bass fishing is most appealing to me.
  • Experience: I started fly fishing about 12 years ago when I lived in Tennessee. Since then, I have fished in North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington.

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: I purchased the 9-foot 6wt in winter 2018 and the 10-foot 6wt in winter 2020.
  • Reel Paired with Rod: I have fished this rod with an Orvis Battenkill Disc, Sage 2250, and an Orvis Hydros.
  • Line Paired Rod: The 9-foot rod was typically fished with a 6wt Airflo 40+ or Scientific Angler Sonar I/2/3 sinking line for 90% of the beach fishing. For the other 10%, I used a Scientific Angler Sharkwave Seige line for topwater fishing. The 10-foot rod likes a heavier Scientific Angler Titan 7wt line.
  • Days tested: I have had these rods on the water for over 50 days combined.
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Saltwater beaches here in the PNW, lakes, and some river fishing.
  • Species targeted with rod: Trout and salmon.

How it performs

Casting Ease
4/5
Durability
3/5
Performance
5/5
Quality
3/5
Versatility
4/5

What I was looking for

I needed a strong 6wt rod for fishing larger patterns from the beach and boat on our inland saltwater areas for searun cutthroat trout and resident salmon. I also wanted a rod that could handle heavier sinking lines and generate enough line speed to deal with the wind often encountered while surf fishing. Finally, the rod needed to be able to handle larger fish since I never know what I might catch in the salt.

Why I chose this gear

The Echo Ion XL is known for being a great inexpensive rod for saltwater fishing around here. I like high-value gear. For me, high value means it outperforms its price point, and the reputation of the Ion XL was just that. Perfect!

A fishing rod sitting on some sand.

Targeting Blackmouth Salmon from the beach in Puget Sound

What I love about it

  • Versatility: I have used this rod primarily for fishing the shores of Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Some time has been spent with it as a light bass rod. The faster action and power allowed me to fish in windy conditions. The power in the rod also allowed me to land fish in strong tidal currents and weedy structure-filled water where bass like to hide. On the other hand, this is not a presentation rod. Short casts to wary fish are not within its wheelhouse.
  • Use Case: I usually fish large streamers and poppers in the fall and winter with the Ion XL. As the season progresses, usually smaller streamers on long leaders are needed. The 10-foot models would be great for nymph fishing larger rivers or fishing from a float tube.
  • Action:
    • Ease of casting: This rod casts very easily with a large “window” for different casting strokes for many anglers.
    • Recover rate: The tip recovers quickly without feeling overly stiff.
    • Power: Medium-powered rod that bends well down into the blank.
    • Line speed: Fast line speeds can be accomplished.
    • Ideal casting distance: 30-70ft
    • Accuracy: This rod can be deadly accurate in capable hands.
    • Delicacy of presentation: This rod is not built with delicate presentations. A long leader is suggested with smaller flies where a lighter touch is needed.
  • Weight: The Ion XL comes in a 5-10wt rod with 5-8wt also offered in a 10-foot version. This covers many different “Big Game” fisheries in fresh and saltwater.
  • Length: I have both the 9-foot and 10-foot versions. The 9-foot is the better overall length. I like the 10-foot length for larger river fishing and when long-distance casts are needed.
  • Grip: The Ion XL has a full wells grip with a fighting butt. The grip is nicely shaped and feels good in my hand.
  • Warranty: Backed by Echo’s Lifetime Warranty to the original owner.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Quality: On first impression, the Ion XL immediately felt like a stout fast action rod. This is a sub $200 fishing tool meant to be fished hard. After years of hard fishing, the lower grade quality of the cork is becoming more apparent, with many divots in the cork and some of the cork rings loosening.
  • Literal Weight: This is not the lightest rod in its category, and all-day casting can be fatiguing. The 10-foot model feels significantly heavier while casting than the 9-foot model.
  • Sensitivity: Strikes are felt more through the line than the rod, especially with a faster action rod.
  • Build: The Ion XL is a value rod produced overseas, and the build reflects that. Most issues include a lower-grade cork or thick epoxy on the thread wraps.
  • Aesthetics: This is not a flashy rod and doesn't stand out in a crowd.
  • Durability: The cork rings that form the grip on the 9-foot 6wt rod have started to separate where my thumb presses against the cork during casting. Pitting occurred where the cork was filled, and the filling is now coming out. I have yet to see the ring separation on other Ion XLs, so this is probably a rare occurrence. The pitting is from cork quality and can be prevented by using a new cork sealant or filling it in with a little know-how. Pricier rods, especially those made in the U.S., will likely have better higher grade cork.
A little girl fishing on a bank.

My daughter fighting a Sea Run Cutthroat!

Favorite moment with this gear

Easily, my favorite day with this rod was a couple of years ago. We had been fishing for searun cutthroat all morning when a late-to-arrive group of coho salmon came within casting distance. Granted, they still weren't close, but close enough that I could way out and get a couple of casts in their area. Moments later, I hooked up with a bright wild coho, and the rod handled it with poise.

Value for the money vs. other options

For $200, the Ion XL is a hard rod to beat. It may not be as light or have a high grade of components like Recoil guides or flor grade cork. However, I don't have any less fun fishing with the Ion XL. There are some other options worth considering, like the brand new TFO Pro III, Greys GR60, the rereleased Fenwick Aetos, or the redesigned Orvis Clearwater.

Final verdict

As an entry-level, backup, or inexpensive “workhorse” for saltwater or big game fly rod, the Echo Ion XL should be on every angler’s list.

Selling Echo on Curated.com
Echo ION XL Fly Rod
$199.99
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Written By
I have loved fishing since I was a kid and solely focused on fly fishing for almost a decade. I have chased fish in many different places, mostly in the South and my home state of Washington. Here, I fish any water, from the upper headwaters to the sea. I am fortunate to live in a place where great...

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