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The Cues They Use

Top players are painstakingly finicky about their cues. A dozen top pros share the details of their magic wands.

By Keith Paradise

When someone makes their living by playing — whether it is playing a game like pool or golf or music with an instrument — that person needs to feel comfortable and confident with the equipment they choose.

Billiards Digest spoke to a dozen of the top men’s and women’s professional pool players about their equipment — cues, shafts and tips they prefer in competition — to analyze their likes and dislikes. The preferences are as varied as the options available to today’s competitors. For example, reigning women’s World 9-Ball champion and recent Billiards Congress of America Hall of Fame inductee Kelly Fisher dreads the thought of any kind of equipment change, while countryman Chris Melling entered last month’s Predator Championship League Pool with a cue he’d literally just taken out of the box a couple of days before.

Jennifer Barretta

Resume: One of the top-ranked Women’s Professional Billiards Association players in 2020. Runner-up in the 2020 Ashton Twins Classic. Earned three top-10 finishes at WPBA events in 2019.

Playing cue: 58-inch, 19-ounce, Predator P3 equipped with synthetic leather with a Predator 12.4 Revo carbon fiber shaft. Tip is a Predator Victory with medium hardness. Cue also includes a 6-inch extension used for longer shots.

Break cue: Predator BK Rush with sport wrap and the standard BK hybrid tip.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

JB: I switched to carbon fiber, which I guess is significant. I switched probably about a year ago. When they first came out, I just wanted to try it and see what it was like. At the time I was playing with a Z-3 and it played exactly like my Z-3, so there was really no adjustment.

I’ve had cues warp from flying with them, and I knew this one wouldn’t so that was really appealing to me so I decided to switch.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

JB: I just want consistency. I’ve been at tournaments before where my equipment didn’t show up when I was using a P2 with a 314 shaft. It just so happened that Gerda Hofstater had a P2 with a 314 shaft. I played with it, didn’t notice a difference and finished in the top-10 of the tournament. So, consistency is really important. Even though the Predator is beautiful, I don’t really care what my cue looks like. I’m not into fancy woods. I only care about how it plays.

Niels Feijen

Resume: World 9-Ball champion in 2014, two-time World Pool Masters champion, four-time Mosconi Cup Most Valuable Player.

Playing cue: 58-inch, 19.5-ounce Feijen series Longoni Flames cue, which includes a Longoni Luna Nera 12.4 mm graphite shaft. Butt diameter of the cue is slightly thicker than standard and the tip installed is a Kamui soft brown. Cue has a linen wrap, American shaft taper and is also equipped with the “3lobite” extension system for hard-to-reach shots.

Break cue: 20.5-ounce Longoni TJB break cue with Lacerta grip and a Kamui hard tip.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

NF: The biggest change was going from wood to graphite last August. Because of Covid, I had plenty of time to make adjustments. They sent over demo models and, in the beginning, I wasn’t thrilled about them but I found out that graphite has a really strong reaction to the tip. I play with a Kamui soft and they had sent shafts with a medium instead. We got together on a phone call, realized it was the wrong tip, so they sent over the right tip and the right height and I loved it. And the durability is so much better than wood. I usually changed shafts every six months because when you’re traveling the wood loses its deflection power.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

NF: It’s probably the balance and the feel. The feel is important. If I have a nice hit with it and I like the vibration. For me, the thickness of the butt is pretty important. If it’s too thin, I don’t like it. It has to be a little thicker. And just the overall balance. You swing it in your arm and it has to feel not too heavy, not too light, just powerful and nice.

Joshua and Pia Filler

Resume: Joshua is the 2019 U.S. Open 9-Ball champion, 2017 China Open winner and three-time Mosconi Cup competitor. His wife, Pia, has a handful of top-five finishes on the EuroTour’s women’s division.

Playing cue:

JF: 17-ounce, 58-inch Predator Panthera 5-2 with a lizard skin wrap. The cue has a low rise, professional taper Predator Z-3 shaft equipped with an 11.75 mm HOW tip.

PF: 17-ounce, 58-inch Predator Panthera 5-2 with a lizard skin wrap. Pia uses the Predator Revo 12.4 carbon fiber shaft equipped with a HOW tip.

Break cue:

JF: 19-ounce Predator BK Rush Redline with sports wrap equipped with BK Hybrid tip.

PF: 19-ounce Predator BK Rush Redline with sports wrap equipped with BK Hybrid tip.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

PF: The only equipment change that we’ve made in the last two years is switching from the BK Rush black to the red model.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

PF: The most important for what we are looking for in our cues is weight of the cue and also the deflection of the shaft.

Kelly Fisher

Resume: Recently elected BCA Hall of Famer, two-time World 9-Ball Champion, 2011 World 10-Ball Champion, two-time WPBA U.S. Open 9-Ball Champion.

Playing cue: Fisher uses a 58-inch, 19.5-ounce Fury coupled with the company’s EX-2 11.75 mm low deflection shaft which includes a medium softness Tiger Sniper tip. Cue has a linen wrap and Fisher has a two-inch miniature extension for the stick that she leaves on permanently while she plays to help with weighting and balance.

Break cue: Black, 19-ounce Fury Apache break cue that has a linen wrap, phenolic tip and also has a two-inch extension permanently affixed.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

KF: Been adding the extension now for the last two years. Ever since I’ve had the multiple surgeries I’ve been struggling with my backswing. I had a glitch in my stroke and I couldn’t pull back. I really worked hard on trying to fix that for four years and someone in Taiwan suggested to me that I attach a weight on the back of my cue to try and slow my arm down and it seemed to work. Obviously, the rage was everyone putting these extensions on and I thought it may be worth trying. Sure enough, maybe its psychological, but it just gave me that extra bit to slow down that backstroke even further. I’ve worked hard on it and it really paid off.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

KF: It’s the feel. I don’t like the design to be too flashy. It really is all on the feel and the hit. I really like a crisp hit. On the break cue, I like there to be some body on the cue. A lot of players like it lighter and that’s fine, as long as it is a strong piece of wood.

I change nothing. Fury comes out with new models of cue all of the time and I really don’t like change. I played with one of their older model break cues and they asked me to try a new one. Same with my playing cue. If I like something, I’ll keep it as long as possible. I had an old butterfly-splice cue that I won a lot of tournaments with and, finally, I switched to another cue. I think they’d like for me to change to a newer model but they don’t even bother to ask me anymore. I don’t even like changing anything. Even my shafts, I wear them right down until there’s a problem with them. I think that comes from snooker. In snooker, you get one cue and you don’t change unless you have a new sponsor or something goes wrong with the cue.

Fedor Gorst

Resume: Mosconi Cup rookie in 2020 and winner of the 2019 World 9-Ball Championship.

Playing cue: 19-ounce Cuetec True-Wood walnut cue with the company’s 30-inch Synergy 12.5 mm carbon fiber shaft, making the cue 59 inches. Cue has a professional taper, linen wrap and Kamui brown medium tip. Gorst has a 4-inch and 2-inch extension for hard-to-reach shots.

Break cue: 20-ounce, wrapless Cuetec Synergy Breach Ghost edition with Taom 2.0 break/jump tip.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

FG: I used to play with a normal-length shaft, but then I changed to a 30-inch shaft because I felt like I had gotten a little taller and I was grabbing my cue at the very end of the butt. So, I decided to switch to the longer shaft and it worked. I won the world championship with the shorter one but I felt like the longer one would help my game. I changed it and I think I’m playing better since then.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

FG: First, its deflection. I like when it’s low deflection but it has a little deflection. I can’t say that my shaft has zero deflection or that it has big deflection, but it has a little that I like and it really helps with my aiming. I think it’s all personal. How it hits, if it’s solid or not.

Chris Melling

Resume: 2011 China Open champion and 2012 Mosconi Cup Most Valuable Player.

Playing cue: Standard 58-inch, 18-ounce Predator Ikon coupled with the 11.8 mm Predator Revo carbon fiber shaft. Melling removes all of the weight from the cue that he can in order to replicate the lightness the 12-ounce stick he used while competing in English pool earlier in his career. Cue has Uni-Loc “Leather Luxe” wrap and a Kamui soft brown tip. Melling has a 3-inch and 8-inch extension for his cue but, given his snooker background, is quite proficient with the rake as well.

Break cue: Standard Predator BK Rush Redline with sport wrap and standard BK Hybrid tip.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

CM: I switched from the Predator Blak to the Ikon. Believe it or not, the joint in the middle of the Blak cue is shiny silver. So, when you’re playing on television, the light seems to reflect off the center of the cue where the joint is. And it seems to reflect into your eyes when you’re playing. So, when the new Ikons came out, I asked if I could use the 4-5. It’s been in the case for four months. I literally pulled it out of the case yesterday. I’m playing with the carbon fiber shaft but I’m thinking of switching back to the wood shaft. I think the carbon fiber might be a bit too light for me and you get a lot of reaction where, when you’re playing on the television table, you don’t want a lot of reaction.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

CM: I just pick the cue up and I just use it. I don’t look into it too much. If it looks good and it feels good, I’ll use it. And if it doesn’t, I won’t. That’s the way I’ve always been really. For me, it just needs to feel good. I don’t really care what it looks like. It could have chips all over it for all I care and it could be any color. I just pick a cue up and, if it feels good to me, then I’ll use it.

Jasmin Ouschan

Resume: Multiple-time women’s EuroTour champion and 29-time gold medalist at the European Championships. Winner of the 2006 BCA Open and two-time runner-up at the Women’s World 9-Ball Championships.

Playing cue: Predator Panthera Surute cue with genuine leather wrap, 19-ounces and 58 inches in length. Shaft is a 12.4 mm Predator Revo carbon fiber that includes a medium soft Predator Victory tip. Ouschan also has a 3-inch and 8-inch extension at her disposal for longer shots.

Break cue: Predator BK Rush with the sport wrap and the BK Hybrid tip.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

JO: I have switched to the new Predator Panthera cue – I’ve been playing the Panthera series for years. I also have switched to the 12.4 Revo shaft with the white vault plate. BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

JO: Stiffness and accuracy are always important to me. I also want my material to be reliable because I don’t want to change it much over time. That’s why I like the Revo shaft so much. I find it more reliable than wooden shafts. Also, design is also important to me.

Chris Robinson

Resume: 2020 Mosconi Cup rookie. 2017 Associations of College Unions International National 9-Ball Champion.

Playing cue: 58-inch, 19.3-ounce, black Predator P3 with leather wrap with the professional taper paired with a 11.8 mm Predator Z-3 shaft and a medium softness Predator Victory tip. Robinson has an 8-inch extension for the cue as well.

Break cue: Standard length, 18-5-ounce Predator BK Rush Redline with sports wrap coupled with Taom red break tip.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

CR: I switched from Mezz to Predator in October of 2019 so I’ve been using their equipment ever since.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

CR: I like a wider handle because it just fits in my hand better. It’s harder to have a looser grip for me because, believe it or not, I have bigger hands. I’m short but I have big hands for some reason. So, it’s better on my bank hand. There’s really ever been three shafts that I’ve used my whole career. I started with a Z shaft and that is what I was used to growing up, then I switched to the Mezz EX Pro when I got sponsored by Mezz. Then I went to the Mezz Ignite and, when I got to Predator, I tried out the Revo but felt at home with the Z shaft. I’m so used to the ball coming off a certain way with a wood shaft and, with a carbon fiber, it’s going to get more energy and I just don’t like that. It throws off everything for me.

Ralf Souquet

Resume: BCA Hall of Fame member, 1996 World 9-Ball champion, 2008 World 8-Ball champion. Captured U.S. Open 9-Ball championship in 2002 and the World Cup of Pool in 2011.

Playing cue: 58-inch, 19-ounce Predator Panthera CRM currently coupled with Souquet’s old 11.85 mm Predator 314 shafts. Once his new batch of 30-inch 314 shafts are retrofitted to his new cue, the length will increase to 59-inches. Tip on the shaft is a Kamui Original Supersoft non-clear and the equipment is equipped with four different extensions.

Break cue: 18.5-ounce Predator BK Rush jump-break cue with BK Hybrid tip and without the sport wrap.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

RS: I got a new cue from Predator in February from the carom stock. It’s a previous generation Panthera before this latest model came out. I like brownish cues and that’s what this one is. I don’t like a wrap. I have to have a cue that is just a one-piece finished handle because I hate feeling different materials on the butt. If it has a finish, I can hold the cue much looser than all of the other materials. I’ve played with a butt that has a wrapless handle going back at least 25 years.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

RS: Obviously, the balance point is very important but you can actually move that around a little bit because the balance point is a little further in the back. When a cue will get a little heavier again, the balance point has to move forward. Otherwise, it feels way too heavy in my back hand. So, the balance point is also important so that the cue stays very smooth in your hand. I very often play with an open bridge and when the balance point is too far in the back, it is very easy to lose your cue in the front end. It goes up in the air and that’s the case when you miss so many balls. I also like to have a cue that looks good. There’s nothing really particular when it comes to the inlays, but I need to like the cue. I want to look at the cue and say, “this is really beautiful.” That makes me happy and it makes it a lot easier to play with. I could not play with an ugly cue, so to speak.

Kristina Tkach

Resume: 2017 World Pool-Billiard Association World 9-Ball Junior champion and seven-time winner on the EuroTour.

Playing cue: 58-inch, 19-ounce Predator Blak 4-5 edition with the Uni-Loc “Leather Luxe” wrap coupled with the Predator Revo 12.4 mm carbon fiber shaft. The shaft is coupled Predator Victory soft tip. Tkach has three extensions that range from 10-to-12-inches for a longer reach.

Break cue: Standard length, 19-ounce Predator BK Rush with the sport wrap.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

KT: No. Not really.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

KT: For me, one of the biggest issues is deflection. I can’t really play with a cue that has a lot of deflection. It takes me a long time to adjust and it feels like it plays different every time. Also, I really love the feedback and vibration you get when you shoot. I must admit that I’m a picky player when it comes to equipment, so as long as it’s a low-deflection cue and I like the way it looks. I want to be good with that. Typical girl. I really like the Blak edition because I like the color and its very elegant and I like the minimalism.

Skyler Woodward

Resume: Six-time Mosconi Cup participant, 2019 Derby City Classic Master of the Table and United States Open 8-Ball champion.

Playing cue: 18-ounce, 58.5-inch Meucci with a professional 12mm taper. Cue is equipped with a lizard skin wrap and a medium-softness Techno Dud tip by Outsville. Woodward also has an extension for the cue.

Break cue: 19-ounce wrapless Meucci break cue with a Samsara break tip.

BD: Have you made any major changes to your equipment lately?

SW: I’ve not made any changes. Once I find what I like, I stick to it.

BD: What characteristics do you look for in a cue?

SW: The feel of the cue. The power, deflection and balance.