By writing the SQL myself I can write a single query that gives me exactly the results I need for almost anything. Class::DBI hits the database much harder and makes it shovel a lot more data back to the application for the same effect.
Here's the sweet spot that I've settled on. I use an RDBMS-OO mapper for all the simple-to-medium-complexity things. This covers a lot, IME...say, 90%. For the more complex operations, I use custom SQL encapsulated by methods that sit right alongside my RDBMS-OO mapper's multi-object manipulation methods. In them, I pull all the table and column metadata from the RDBMS-OO mapper classes where it's already stored.
Here's what it looks like in action:
Without the comments, it's difficult to tell which operations are supported by the RDBMS-OO mapper, which required custom SQL under the covers, and which merely call through to server-side stored procedures.
And that's the point: to hide the implementation details behind a uniform interface to all database operations. There's also no SQL whatsoever in "end-user" code, and all the table and column names exist in a single place in the entire code base.
In all cases, I create the expected (although possibly sparsely populated) RDBMS-OO mapper objects before returning from the Manager methods. The number and nature of the db queries are almost always the limiting factors, so creating objects is not a big deal once all the data is available.
Each time a new database-manipulation operation needs to be defined, I have a choice. I can use my RDBMS-OO mapper directly, I can write some custom SQL, or I can write it in the database using SPL. No matter which I choose, the interface is the same. And I'm free to change my mind down the road, swapping implementations in the Manager as needed.
I find this approach vastly preferable to a series of DBI-style calls, even accounting for convenient modules like DBIx::Simple. YMMV, of course :)