TackleTour Reviews New 2021 Kistler Helium

Read The Full Review On TackleTour's Website Here.

Introduction: Not every manufacturer has one, but most of the successful, long standing companies do. A product line that, when mentioned by name alone, instantly invokes the name of that manufacturer in the consumer's mind: GLX, Legend Elite, Destroyer, Kaleido, Stella, Zillion, Revo. Consumers wanting to experience what an established manufacturer is all about need only look to these signature series to get that sense.

2021 brings us a new vintage in Kistler's Helium

 The first time Zander set eyes on a Kistler Helium was in 2002 - almost twenty years ago. My first experience with a Helium rod came in 2003 - before joining the TackleTour team, but after reading Zander's original review of the legendary He69APC. While there are other product lines above and below this one, in my mind, Helium is still the series that defines Kistler Custom Rods. We recently caught wind of some changes within the company surrounding their source for blanks, so we acquired a stick from the current Helium series to check out. Here's our look at the 2021 Kistler Custom Rods Helium.

Kistler 2021 Helium HE701ML Specifications

Material Kistler KC9 Blank (Toray Carbon Fiber)
Length 7'-0"
Line Wt. 6-10lbs
Lure Wt. 1/16-3/8oz
Pieces 1
Guides 9+tip (Fuji SS/Alconite)
Rear Handle Length 9.5"
Power Rating Medium Light
Taper Fast
Rod Weight 3.1
Origin Assembled in USA
MSRP $400

 Call it a force of habit or maybe just wishful thinking but the first thing I do every time I hold a new Helium in my hand is check the color of the guide inserts. Gone are the days of the Helium's original blue, Zirconium inserts. Instead, Kistler has long since transitioned to an arguably more durable insert of the more widely accepted manufacturer Fuji. Of course, I'm referring to the company's workhorse stainless steel framed Alconite guides. What Kistler has done, in an effort to re-capture some of the series' original appeal is to use blue, semi-translucent, thread wraps for a very refined looking wrap. Still, I miss the blue inserts.

I will forever miss the blue insert guides on the original Helium sticks, but the 2021 vintage comes equipped with Fuji Alconites

The next thing to check, at least with this incarnation of Helium is that blank. After a roughly ten year relationship with North Fork Composites that started with the use of their blanks in Kistler's original custom order ZBone line and saw it, at one point, expand to every single series the manufacturer offered, Kistler has chosen to transition the series to a different source. There was no single reason or cause for the move, and as far as we know, Kistler and North Fork Composites remain on good terms. Rather, the move arose out of Trey Kistler's continued search for lighter, more responsive blanks.

The split rear cork grip is clean, but certainly not free from imperfections

There's little question the pedigree of an NFC blank, so the thought there could be something lighter and more responsive will be inconceivable to many. However, that's why we're here - to acquire the product and test things out for ourselves. I was happy to discover, out of the shipping tube, this new Helium's blank definitely has the feel and sound of a high end product.


The new vintage carries on a familiar motif

Real World Tests: Of course, it's one thing to impress out of the shipping tube or off the tackle store shelf, it's another to meet those expectations out on the water. To change things up from our usual tests of all purpose, medium-heavy powered sticks, I acquired the medium-light rated new Helium to give some love to a growing movement - fishing light line techniques on a casting rod. That's right, growth of the movement may be as slow as that suspicious mole on your neck and perhaps, just as embarrassing to reveal, but similar to that mole, the bait finesse (BFS) initiative is real. Even better, it poses no real threat to your physical health - only the health of your tackle budget.

The HE701MLF in particular is a nice candidate for bait finesse (BFS) applications matched here with my Conquest BFS

Casting: On that note, I pulled my Shimano Conquest BFS out of retirement, spooled it with some six pound Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon and paired it with this new HE701ML for some drop shot and ned rig duties. The lightest of these rigs was a 3/32 oz Brian Schmidt Ned Dred matched with a Z-Man T.R.D. ned worm for a total lure weight of 7.7 grams, or just over one quarter of an ounce (1/4oz). My drop shot bait combo weighed 7.8 grams.

The rod's blank is definitely different, and in a good way

Unsure as to the capabilities of my combo, I'm always cautiously pessimistic when making that first cast with a new BFS rod or reel, but the HE701ML cast these bait combos surprisingly well. Of course, once I got back to the lab and weighed the components, to discover their true weight, it all made sense. One quarter ounce, plus or minus a tenth of a percentage to a rod and reel combo like this is like a five eighth ounce (5/8oz) lure weight combo to a medium-heavy combo - right in the wheelhouse.

The familiar butt section

Sensitivity: Casting abilities aside, the real question behind any new or refreshed rod with an unfamiliar to us blank is sensitivity. Specifically how sensitive or insensitive is that blank. If you noticed under our discussion of first impressions above, I made mention of the blank's sound. One thing I've noticed over the years, with rods that perform well in sensitivity is the sound they make when you flick your fingernail against them. Is it a dull thump or a slightly higher pitched knock? Even better, if the blank has some texture to the outside like an unsanded or partially sanded surface, when you run your fingers up and down its length, there's a hollow sound high end blanks tend to deliver.

A standard, Fuji exposed blank reel seat

The difference in sound is even more pronounced if you hold the rod, without a reel by its handle and gently tap a concrete floor. Some high end rods will make a sound that can almost be described as a "ping" while rods with lower modulus graphite will simply tap. These are all methods I use for initial impressions but reserve final judgment, of course, until I get a chance to fish a new rod out on the water.

The reel seat locking mechanism is finished off with a piece of EVA foam

Kistler's new HE701ML checked off all the appropriate boxes during my initial investigation. I even pulled down my Kistler ZB3LMH73 built on an NFC X-Ray blank for a side by side, off the water comparison of blank sound. They were surprisingly similar, so I had high hopes for this stick out on the water.

Subtle winding checks to help with the transition between cork and bare blank

Those hopes and expectations were immediately met when dragging and popping that ned rig bait combo along the bottom. I had a good feel for lure, but unfortunately, the bites with that technique are not very distinct. So I switched over to a drop shot to see if the fish would give me a better signal and they did. The HE701ML's new blank delivers a very distinct "tap" when the fish are biting in that aggressive manner. However, early in the season, the ned rig was producing better fish results, so I switched back. Bottom line, sensitivity with this new blank is very good. 

Fig 1 : The chart above illustrates the deflection characteristics of our Kistler 2021 Helium HE701ML against the historical averages of similarly powered rods we've tested over the past twenty years

Power: Kistler's power ratings though a bit confusing at times with terms like "light medium light," are generally spot on with what we'd expect based on our historical averages. The HE701ML is no exception as demonstrated by our RoD Deflection chart above. If anything, this stick falls on the lighter side of medium light and could be simply labeled light power.

Checking out that tip

Out on the water, I had zero issues with hooksets and battles. I say battles because you can't really control a fish with six pound line and a medium-light powered rod. What you can do is keep a nice bend in the rod and allow the fish to tire itself out enough to either lip it or guide it into the net. Light line fishing is about having fun experiencing the bite and fight and the HE701ML excels in both areas.

Changing things up with the new Alphas SV TW 801 for some general application tests 

Design & Ergonomics: Depending where you fall in the spectrum of dealing with change, the refreshed Helium will either delight or disappoint you. If you're a fan of consistency, you'll be delighted with the look of the new Helium because Kistler has not deviated from the previous generation's overall design. If you were hoping for something new like a different grip configuration or material, you will be disappointed. What I was hoping to see is a return to the series's original design with the full rear grip and no foregrip. I could also go for a slightly higher grade of cork, but understanding this material, is becoming increasingly scarce - especially at the higher grades, I'm not as critical of the small pits and gaps as I once was.

Lab Results for Kistler 2021 Helium HE701ML


Avg RoD


Measured Weight (oz)

Balance Point (inches)

Balancing Torque (ft lbs)

Kistler 2021 Helium HE701ML






What the Finesse Avg






Medium Pwr Avg






On the more critical issue of weight and balance, the HE701ML scores very nicely with an overall weight of just over three ounces and a balance point of seven and a half inches above the reel seat. These numbers are all in line with, or better than our averages for rods above and below this stick in power rating (Reference Lab Results Table above).

The HE701MLF makes a nice moving bait rod too

Price & Applications: The one area of serious disappointment with the new Helium? Well, that'd be the listed price point. With the new year and new blank, Kistler has raised the price on rods in their Helium series to a cool four hundred dollars ($400). By comparison, this is just under G.Loomis GLX and St. Croix Legend Elite, and $100 more than Megabass Orochi XX. I point this out because all three of these series have higher-end guide-trains than this generation Helium rods.

A closed loop hook hangar for the '21 Helium

Specifically, the G.Loomis MBR842C GLX is equipped with stainless steel framed, SiCs at $470. St. Croix's 7' medium powered rod retails for $420 and comes with a titanium framed, Torzite guide train, and save for two or three models, Megabass's entire Orochi XX lineup comes equipped with stainless steel framed SiC guides at $300. G.Loomis and St. Croix, like Kistler builds these two lines in the US while Megabass sources their rods from China. Bottom line, $400 is a lot for a stick built with Alconite guides. G.Loomis's MBR842C IMX has the same guide-train and retails for $355. Even that seems high.

Retail price for the HE701MLF is now $400

All of that aside, the HE701ML is a very worthy stick if you're looking for a rod with which to begin your bait finesse journey. It served me well in its role presenting both drop shot and ned rig bait combos, and after switching out reels, I even managed some time chucking Z-Man and Evergreens' new Jack Hammer Stealth Bladed Chatterbait with this rod. I wouldn't hesitate to use it with some other, small moving baits like Evergreen's Piccolo or similar micro-cranks that are making their way into the market either.


Kistler 2021 Helium HE701ML Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Nice, clean build 9
Performance Blank feels like an upgrade from the He3 from several years ago... excellent sensitivity 9
Price Cost of ownership is on the high side considering the competition 6
Features Blank is different, but components and handle materials remain the same. Solid overall 7.5
Design (Ergonomics) Same look but an enhanced feel thanks to the new blank. 8
Application An excellent BFS or micro-cranking rod option 8

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here

Pluses and Minuses:



+ Crisp, responsive blank - Cost of ownership is on the high side with current component spec
+ Very good sensitivity  
+ Light overall build  
+ Performance on point with the Helium brand  

Complacency is not an adjective one can use to easily describe the mindset over at Kistler Custom Rods. From the first incarnation of their popular Helium fishing rods, to the difficulties experienced during the second generation of that line, to the recovery during the third, Kistler's Helium story reads like a science fiction trilogy.

If Helium were a Pinot Noir and 2021 were a vintage, this series would definitely be on my recommended buy list as a good pairing to your favorite technique

With a new source for blanks, 2021 sees another new beginning for Helium as well as Kistler Custom Rods. Thing is, this new blank does not fish similar to any of the previous generations. It is a lot more lively with a resonance I normally equate to something high-end. It's as if Helium were a fine wine and this 2021 model were a vintage. In this case, Helium would definitely be on my recommended buy list as a good pairing to your favorite technique. 

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