The Joker MJ is one of several ranges of spinning rods, designed by Rods Development Lab, each range being dedicated to a specific fishing technique. MJ stands for Micro Jig and means jigging with ultra-light, miniature plastics, feather jigs and other artificial baits. The idea behind Joker MJ was to create a rod with a sensitive tip to detect bites — and with an adequate backbone to set the hook properly and handle big fish.
We at Daily Fishing had the opportunity to examine and to test thoroughly the 7′4″ version (model JKS MJ-742UL). The two-piece rod blank is made of high quality low resin Japanese Mitsubishi prepreg featuring high modulus carbon fibre. However, low modulus fibre was chosen for the super-sensitive rod tip. To avoid misapprehension and misunderstanding, manufacturers prefer not to state exact grades of fibre or brands of prepreg used. Prepregs mean nothing to most anglers, and, on the other hand, there is a widespread erroneous belief among fishermen that the higher the fibre modulus is, the better the rod performs, though in reality each rod type and even each part of a rod (butt, middle part, tip) requires different properties and consequently different grades of fibre. The point is to use the right stuff in the right place.
The thick and stiff butt section is unusually powerful for such a light rod. The middle section, too, is rather stiff. A “Proof of power video” is available at the homepage of the manufacturer. It is really amazing how strong such a light rod can be.
The tip is, on the contrary, very, very soft, although of a tubular design. Why tubular instead of solid? The manufacturer puts it like this: a fine spliced solid-carbon tip will perfectly show you bottom contact and bites until a bow in the line appears, caused by wind or flow. With a bow in the line, the finest solid tip will show you nothing at all. Moreover, it won’t let the bites being transferred to your fingers. However, an especially soft tubular tip, while slightly inferior to a solid one in terms of the optical bite detection, will let you feel the bait hitting the bottom or snags regardless of that line bow. Thus, a light deterioration of the optical bite indication is more than compensated by a superior sensitivity. Another strong point of a tubular tip: it allows the use of hardbaits even with a micro-jig rod.
Let’s move on to the joint. The sleeve type put-over joint is carefully made and shows no intention to loosen by itself during fishing. The measured dimensions are as follows (joint length and diameters):
40 mm — 5.7/5.5 mm.
The joint area of the blank is reinforced. The blank is finished in a matt green/dark green. The tip is painted white and red. The new Nordic Stage design with the “Scottish Tartan” pattern, above the handle, is eye catching and immediately identifiable.
The Joker MJ-742UL is fitted with Kigan Coalite rings in black stainless frames:
— four ZH “Zero Tangle” single foot guides (sizes 20, 10, 8, 5.5),
— three Z “Zero Tangle” single foot guides (sizes 5, 5, 5), and
— a Z-Tip (size 5).
The Kigan Coalites seem to be a good choice: they are tough, light and slim. Kigan’s 3D press method is supposed to produce lighter guides than comparative products, and the Zero Tangle design ought to minimize the risk of tangles. The black windings are unassuming; however, there are some silver inlays on the butt-section windings.
The Joker MJ comes with a black EVA handle, no cork here. A downside to cork is that it’s very prone to wear and tear. Furthermore, good quality cork is expensive nowadays, and its use significantly increases the ultimate cost of the rod to the end user.
The split-grip design saves weight and increases sensitivity. There is no butt cap. A part of the fore grip is integrated into the reel seat’s locking mechanism. The winding checks are silvery.
The Fuji VSS reel seat really deserves the name “Versatile Spinning Reel Seat”, not only because it can be used with a wide range of reels, but also because it offers a wide choice of handle design solutions. Here it is installed in an up-locking position. It is lightweight, tough, and its collar reinforces the grip and provides an increased comfort for the angler’s hand. The fore grip has a really nice shape.
There is no hook keeper ahead of the fore grip. The Nordic Stage folks believe it to be superfluous and even incommoding! They are probably right. You can use the nearest guide as a keeper instead.
The rod comes with a functional black cloth bag bearing the manufacturer’s logo and the model’s designation.
On the water we found that the MJ-742UL far from being a purely ultra-light rod copes equally well with ultra-light and light plastics. The rod is rated 0.8 to 7 grams. According to Mr. Guschin, Chief Designer at RDL, those data relate to the weight of the jig head or other sinker excluding the plastic part of the lure (e.g. body). A basic 2″ twister-tail body (grub) weighs perhaps 0.7 g, and together with a jig head weighing 0.8 g (the stated minimum lure weight for the rod) this results in 1.5 g. We would consider 1.5 g to be acceptable as a minimum total lure weight. If the line is fine enough, you will get a reasonable casting distance, as well as some contact to the jig on retrieve, and you will also notice bites. However, you will not notice the jig touching the bottom or snags. The rod tip begins to register bottom contact from 3 g upwards. To feel something transmitted down the rod to you hand as you let the lure touch down, you must go up to a 4-gram jig head, and even then the bottom must be hard. If you are jigging over soft bottom, you will have to watch the rod tip in any case, as your hand will feel nothing at all.
A soft-plastic shad (paddletail) in the 2″ size teamed up with a 2-gram jig head is an effective method of fishing for perch with a simple straight retrieve. It can be deadly for perch of all sizes, from the smallest to the biggest. We found the MJ-742UL most suitable for this purpose.
In fact, the rod does feel best with the higher end of the stated weight range. The heaviest lure we tried with our Joker was a 3-inch-long, soft-plastic body on an 8-gram jig head. It casts like a bullet, and the rod blank does not appear overloaded. Therefore, the MJ-742UL can handle even those baits that exceed the recommended maximum of 7 grams.
We tried also some miniature spoons and small hardbodies such as ZipBaits’ Rigge 35F or 56F. It works, though, of course, standard (non-MJ) Joker models would be preferable in that case.
Generally, the rod feels crisp and accurate. It is also well balanced, and it feels light in hand. We’d recommend to team it with a lighter spinning reel featuring a carbon or magnesium body and weighing about seven or eight ounces. For example, Mitchell’s Mag-Pro Lite 500 and Mag-Pro Extreme 500 reels match up quite well with the rod. As to the line, we tried mono and finesse braid, both with success.
The painted tip is easily visible against the water surface.
An important asset for the Joker is its strong backbone. Once a bigger fish is hooked, the powerful butt comes into action and helps you to land your quarry quickly and safely. After all, micro baits do not necessarily mean small fish.
Just a few words on the quality issue. The wraps and epoxy work are neat enough. The build quality is solid overall. There is a noticeable difference in colour of the two parts: under certain lighting conditions, the top may appear darker than the butt. We don’t think that it matters much, though.
All Nordic Stage rods are covered with a “lifetime quality assurance” by RDL. In fact, it means that you can get once a free replacement of a broken rod section, butt or top, and then replacements and/or repairs “at a reasonable cost”. To save the costs, the service is provided by manufacturer with no intermediaries. That solution is undoubtedly of mutual benefit to the manufacturer and to the user.
Trade Mark: Nordic Stage
Model: Joker MJ JKS MJ-742UL
Stated Length: 7′4″ (224 cm)
Measured Length: 226.5 cm
Stated Weight: 95 g
Measured Weight: 97 g
Top-Section Weight: 13 g (stated 14 g)
Lure Weight: 0.8-7 g
Transport Length: 116 cm
Top Dia.: 1.2 mm
Butt Dia.: 11 mm
Handle: EVA Split Grip
Fore Grip: EVA
Total Handle Length: 370 mm
Handle Dia.: 13.5-25 mm
Butt Cap: n/a
Joint Type: put-over
Guides & Tip: Kigan Coalite ZH, Z (7 guides +1 tip)
Ring Sizes: 20, 10, 8, 5.5, 5, 5, 5 + 5
Reel Seat: Fuji VSS
Blank Colour: Green
Country of Origin: Korea
Verdict: an all-round ultra-light/light rod specially made for jigging miniature softbaits, but versatile enough to cover some other techniques too; for example, you can use it with small plugs and spoons.
This review I wrote for the online fishing magazine Daily Fishing (now defunct) in 2015. It doesn’t exist in Russian. At least, I haven’t seen any translations and I have no intention of translating it myself. However, there is a Russian comparative review of JKS MJ-712UL and JKS MJ-742UL by the same author.
Dmitry Y. Balichev