Finally, after more than a month of going crazy over price vs feature/tone/brand battle inside my head I pulled the tigger on a Fender Lite Ash Strat. The specs are:
Color: Natural (Looks really pretty...especially the grain)
Neck and Fretboard: Birds Eye Maple (super smooth)
Pickups: 3 Seymour Duncan Single Coils
Rest of it : Straightforward Strat Layout...nothing fancy
Here's the pic: Fender Lite Ash Strat
It has a fender vintage tremolo too but I dont use tremolo at all so I have removed the arm for the time being.
The tone is great. Not mind blowing, but great for my style of music. The clean tone especially is a killer and duncans deliver good gain where/when it matters. I can play the twangy country blues to the fat power blues with ease. The birds eye maple neck is a lot smoother than an Ibanez Wizard although not as thin.
Rabi, thanks a ton for your inputs.
BLUES IS THE HEALER
- John Lee Hooker