UPDATE AFTER 15 MONTHS:
About 90 days in with this rod, I noticed that the first guide - closest to the handle - was loose. Contacted Okuma and they asked me to send them the rod for repair or replacement. Fine, except, if you're not Amazon, the shipping was going to cost me 90% of what the rod cost, new. So, rats! I opted to fill the wraps and the voids with rod-building epoxy and the guide tightened up enough that I could break it down into two pieces without worrying about ripping off the loose guide.
Last month, a different guide - the third one up from the handle - just fell off in mid cast. I hadn't noticed the guide being loose in any way. I cast, I started to retrieve and "ping" the guide that had fallen off slid down the line and hit the reel.
I don't get it. The SST-S-902MH is not an inexpensive rod. It's not in the stratospheric range of some, but it's expensive enough that Okuma should be able to put the stupid guides on properly.
I'm tossing this traitorous stick in the trash and putting Okuma at the top of my list of "Makers of Things That Aren't Worth Buying".
I'm not a fan of Okuma products. Don't know about their ultra-high end professional fishing products, but those offered in my price range usually fall short of what I hope and expect to receive. But, I wanted a decent rod that could throw some weight for light tackle surf fishing and gave the SST-S-902MH a try. No one else makes a rod with similar characteristics for anywhere near this price.
I have it paired with a Pflueger 6750XTX reel and it's not quite in balance.
From the Okuma website, I had expected the rod to have cork handles with a carbon-fiber reel seat. It does not: the handles are covered with a material that's very similar to the material used for golf club grips. They're comfortable, I don't mind them, but I prefer cork, and their weight moves the balance point of the rod too far back towards the butt of the rod.
Okuma chose to use a smaller first guide - the one closest to the reel. This is a rod designed for relatively large freshwater spinning reel and they chintzed out with a size 30 guide when they needed a size 50. The difference in price, for me, between a top-of-the-line size 30 and a size 50 guide is $1.50. It can't possibly be half of that for a manufacturer.
None of my reels, from a 2000-size Shimano through 3000, 3500 and 4000 sized reels, up to the 5000-size Pflueger, are perfectly matched to the rod. The angle of all of the reel shafts intersect the rod well below the tip guide. For this rod, the angle of the shaft of my 5000-sized reel should intersect the rod at the eigth guide, not just barely past the sixth guide.
The reel seat has an alloy (?) decorative sleeve around it, reducing or eliminating any benefit of the underlying carbon-fiber seat.
The 902MH is described as having a medium-fast action which should mean that it flexes in the top 30% of the rod. I would call this a moderate action, flexing throughout the top 50% - 60% of the rod. The last Okuma SST I had was an 8'6" medium weight with a fast acion, but compared to other rods with the same specifications, that Okuma was medium-light with a slow action. I dont think Okuma understands what we expect the description of a rod's action to mean.
None of that affects how I'll continue to use this rod. For light tackle surf fishing in the Northwest, I'll be using up to 3 ounces of lead and only need to toss it 50 yards at most for fish under 6 pounds.
But for salmon fishing - and this is a salmon rod - this rod would stink. Bad alignment of reel shaft angle to rod guides means a lot of unnecessary friction on the line and a high risk of the line breaking off with a 20 pound fish in fast water. The decorative cover over the reel seat could be the difference that allows you to miss delicate nibbles... but the slower than expected action of the rod would be an asset for larger fish in slower currents.
I wanted a light surf rod with more length than inshore rods so I can keep the line above the heavy surf and without moving up to dedicated surf rods. The SST-902-MH gives me 2 extra feet.
I wanted a rod that could toss three ounce weights and still be light enough to lug up-and-down steep hills. The SST-902-MH handles three ounces well enough and weighs less than 8 ounces.
I wanted to stay below $100, and as far below $100 as I could. Bingo.
I wanted a bit more sensitivity than fiberglass or composite and the SST's are high modulus graphite. Despite the woebegone decorative cover on the reel seat, it is a step up in sensitivity.
For what I wanted this is a decent rod and worth 4 stars. Lots of folks like it for salmon fishing, and I don't know why. I'll never risk a game fish using it.