Hardy had been a serious contender in the coarse market for much of its life and utilised the talents of leading names like Fred Buller and Richard Walker in its rod designs of the mid/late 20th Century. However, by 2000, the company had dropped out of coarse entirely. New MD, Richard Sanderson hired well known coarse angler John Bailey as part of the Hardy Creative Team in 2001 and together they talked about a new coarse range, The Marksman rods and centre pins. Sanderson, Bailey and Dave Coster established the Hardy Coarse Academy and between them specified rods for the range. Once the list was complete, Product Manager Alan Yates and technicians Chris Bond and Colin Skene went to work on the actual designs. All the rods were manufactured in China in line with the company’s policy at the time. Working in tandem, engineers Charlie Norris and Stevie Harper began work on the centre pins to accompany the rods. These were originally called Marksman, like the rods, but in deference to past centre pins, the name was changed to Conquest.
The range included float rods, Avon rods, quiver tip rods and an Ultra Light Bomb rod. All were made from high modulus carbon and featured the Anti-lock system which meant that a rod under load transferred power into the fighting curve, rather than “bottoming out” too quickly. Whatever the jargon, all the rods proved to be strong, resilient and yet sensitive. Each rod model came in either the Specimen or Specialist form. The former was a slightly beefed-up version of the standard Specialist, designed to give more power without sacrificing feel.
The rods featured a custom machined screw-down anodised aluminium reel seat to hold the reel securely. Handles were constructed from top-grade flor cork with a strip of corklon on the leading edge for extra durability. Fuji Y SiC guides were standard with olive green whipping and a high gloss finish. The rods came in a protective Cordura tube along with aluminium stoppers and a high-quality cloth bag.
Float rods included the 13ft Specialist and Specimen range, the 14 and 15 ft Specialist rods, and eventually the 11ft 10 inch lighter model. The popular Avons included the 11ft Specialist, the 11ft 6in Specimen, the 11ft 6in Specimen Smuggler, and the 11ft Specialist Smuggler, both of which came in four sections for ease of transport. Eventually, there would be a 12ft Avon/Carp model for heavier work and big river barbel. The 11ft and 12ft Specialist Feeder rods came with three carbon tips with 1,2 and 3-ounce ratings as did the 13ft Specimen Feeder model. The 10ft Ultralite Bomb rod was supplied with 1 and 1.5-ounce tips and was designed for slower rivers in tough conditions when small bites were to be expected.
Towards the end of the life of the Marksman range, the company introduced the Supero upgrades which were finished in darker green and which were substantially lighter and more tactile. The rods were not cheap at around £350 retail but they were an instant success and far exceeded Sanderson’s sales forecasts. He expected to sell 1000 units of all rod and reel models combined but final figures were far in excess of this figure. When Hardy was sold to Pure Fishing in 2013 one of the first jobs the US firm did after the takeover was to scrap the entire Marksman range – and eventually dispense with the services of both Coster and Bailey. Sanderson had left some time before. Today, the rods are all still very highly sought after in the second-hand market, which is reflected in their prices. Rods made before 2008 were covered by the Unlimited Lifetime Guarantee and after that date by the Worldwide Extended Guarantee but anglers report that the company can no longer supply new sections.
Also under the Marksman range, Hardy produced the relatively short-lived XT models. these were the brain-child of commercial director at the time, Ian Mccormack. in his words, everyone wants a BMW but sometimes you can only afford a Ford. the XT rods included float and tip models, much like the Marksman range but they were cheaper to buy and more basic in construction. the carbon, corks and guides were all of lower specification and this was reflected in the price, in general around 50% of the Marksman retail. Most obviously, the XT rods were coloured silver/grey, rather than the distinctive green of the Marksman. the XTS never truly caught on. for most anglers, it was Marksman or nothing and the XT rods felt and performed nowhere nearly as well. they were heavier with a much stiffer action that was most obvious and damaging across the float range. whilst the world mourned the demise of the Marksmans, we think it is fair to say the XT range was little missed.
We often sell Hardy Marksman rods, click here to have a look at what we have in stock now.