It's been my experience with a 9' 5wt Z-Axis that the rod does not like to be pushed or rushed. My casting stroke is very compact with the Z-Axis, something I developed after finding the rod very frustrating at first. You've been using much softer rods (I only take out my ZXL once in a while now), and they could have effected your timing. I tie my leaders, and find they turn over much better than the store-bought extruded types. Even my 6X leaders begin with a #50 butt section.