Ok I feel like jumping into this debate is like trying to untie the Gordonian knot, there is no answer. But since I’ve just wheelbarrowed and spread four yds of mulch and have little energy left for anything else, here goes.
If all you want is a tool and don’t carry about how coarse it is, your answer is to try lots of rods and find the one whose action matches your preference and whose warranty meets your needs. Lots of options out there for Skandi rods. Yes Goran was very instrumental in the early Sage rods, especially the European action models (9140-3, 10150-3 and 10151 come to mind). At the same time Jimmy Green was behind the PNW tapers like the 7136, 9140-4, 8150 and the 10150-4. At that time, I believe they were about the best money could buy. Sage warranty was good and that was a good thing because they broke. The 10151 in particular had a bad habit of blowing up.
The Scott rods at that time were a joke. Loomis had a couple in their inventory that were nice but few caught on. Winston had yet to jump into the game. On the other side of the pond there were some good options (Diawa, B&W, and a bit later some of the Loop rods). In my opinion they were not the match of the Sage though as the first two were really heavy and the last tended to not be super durable.
Note this was in the time when in North America anyways, there were few line options. Most of us threw a Windcutter (54’) or a double taper. I didn’t know one PNW angler That tossed a Skandi line. Soon, the lines caught up to rod development and longer bellies became available. Carron Jetstream, Rio
Accelerator, and SA XLT became popular options.
In the late 90’s rod development took off and Thomas and Thomas
and CND started putting out great rods that were dependable and also lighter and more responsive than the generation before. Even more so, you had a choice of actions with some rods designed for Skagit, some for Skandi and some for long bellies. Sage and the other players fell behind and had to play catch up and it took them a while.
It was shortly after this time that Meiser and Burkie started to become well known. Not only could you pick a rod for specific line use (e.g - Meiser MKS for Skagit or S-Series for Skandi) but you could dial in the fit and finish to your specs. For instance, I owned a number of Sage rods but always thought the handles were too fat, often not long enough (top) and the reel seats were crap. With the small guys, you ordered exactly what you wanted and liked. The warranty is as good as the big honchos as is the performance. So why not?
It all comes down to what you like. The technology is always changing too. Meisers in the last two years have become lighter and with a faster recovery. I’m sure the same can be said for Sage, Scott, etc. Many have suggested you cast a number and see what you think. I second that. And if you get to cast a Meiser or five, don’t limit yourself to the series that matches your line choice. In my experience, the MKS rods make great long belly tools and some of the S-series really shine with a mid belly. And drop a Highlander down a line weight and it will throw a 65’ head like a Skandi.
So in closing, different strokes for different folks. I still think some of the big boy’s rods are classics. The Loop Yellow 9 weight, the Sage 8150, a couple of the Scott ARC series and the T&T 1307-3. That last one is still the holy grail of rods in my book. I was so taken with it that when Bob Meiser told me he had an 8 weight with a similar action, I ordered it on the spot. In fact I fished it this morning.
Good luck on your search.