This rod review has been updated in my 2014 version.
As I stated when I started this blog, I started fixed-line fishing in January of 2012. My first rod was a Tenkara USA Iwana 12 foot. Since that first rod I have fished with 22 rods, so I have began to get a pretty solid repitoire of various rod actions. Some of these rods have been tenkara rods, some have been kieryu rods, and some have even been tanago rods, but all have been fixed-line rods. It has been an interesting journey, this past year, and one of the things most interesting I found is the difference in various rods. I'm sure that I would not have been able to learn as much about fixed-line fishing if I had had exposure to only one type or brand of rod.
My experience: Since buying my Iwana I have fished with cork handled rods and corkless rods, 5:5, 6:4, 7:2 and 8:2 action rods. I have fished domestically offered rods, Japanese rods, Chinese rods, and generic rods. My rods vary from 7' 10" to 15'. Also, I have fished with some expensive or premium rods and also some inexpensive or entry level rods. As for fish, I have landed fish from mere inches in length to over 25 inches. I fished over 75 days this past year with these rods and caught nearly 600 fish. Because of these data, I think this gives me a pretty good basis for rendering a valid opinion of these rods.
In July of 2012 I posted a 6 month rod review that many of you have already read. In that post I outlined what rods I liked at the time and which rods I did not. I tried to describe my reasons for my decision -- whether I was able to do so or not remains to be seen.
In this post I'd again like to briefly review all the rods I have used. Hopefully this will be of some help to those of you who haven't been able to use these rods. Remember that what I state here is my opinion. I am not looking for an argument in which rod is best or worst. All I am pointing out is what I think works the best for me! If you have read my previous summary review then you may notice that I may have changed my mind about certain rods -- some I may like better now, some worse, and some I like just the same. No matter what I say, there is no substitution for actually fishing a certain rod. What I like in a rod, you may not. If you think you may like a certain rod, don't just go by someones review, rather, see if you can borrow that rod from a friend or acquaintance and fish with it. Personal fishing experience with a rod trumps all other opinions.
Before we begin, lets try to standardize measurements for the rods. First, their lengths will be in centimeters. Next, their weights (always without the tip plug) will be in grams. Finally, since action ratings (such as 5:5, 6:4. 7:3, 8:2) are not very accurate in representing the rods stiffness, rather it is where the rod begins to bend, their flexibility (not action) will be based on the Common Cents System. Although this system was designed for western fly rods it works equally well for telescoping fixed-line rods. The basics of this system has been described by Chris at Tenkara Bum (see the column on the right of the link page). Remember that the action rating demonstrates where the rod bends but does not translate to overall rod stiffness. The Common Cents Systems does that.
Let's get started. Be aware that for certain rods it might be the same as my 6 months review, but if I have an updated opinion I will state it. Here are the rods:
TUSA Iwana rods -- 12',11', 9'
Conclusion: I like this rod. Update: I still like this rod over all. It seems to last the time test in weight, action, and durability. I don't use it much anymore, but it is my main back up rod that I keep at the cabin.
The Iwana 11 ft (330 cm) is a slightly different matter. Replacing the handle and removing the lower segment of the Iwana 360 changes the characteristics of the rod. It is still wonderfully light and aesthetically beautiful, but the action transforms from a 6:4 to a sub-7:3. The flex point is clearly further up the rod. CCS: this rod is a 21 penny rod. I still like the Iwana 330, but not as much as the 360 model.
Conclusion: I mostly like this rod. Update: I haven't used this handle in months. I have much better short rods than the Iwana 11 ft, but I'm keeping it because it really is too inexpensive to sell and with the Iwana 12 ft it does increase the functionality.
Finally, the Iwana 9 ft (285 cm). Removing the 360 model handle and the two lower sections and replacing with the 9 ft handle really changes the rod. It definitely is feather-light but it is also amazingly stiff. I have not fished a traditionally stiff tenkara rod (I am told that the Hane by BackpackingLight was such a rod) but the Iwana 285 is stiffer than I like. Don't get me wrong, it is very functional and some people like the "fast" action of this rod but it is not for me. I like to feel the rod loading and to have a more relaxed casting stroke.
Conclusion: I didn't like this rod (handle) and sold it.
Anyway, back to the Ebisu. The other thing I like about the Ebisu is the Ebisu's wood handle. Maybe it is just eccentric or different enough from other rods, but whatever it is I like the wood. It is solid and feels nice under hand. I'm sure a cork handled Ebisu would be a nice rod too, but (have I said) I like the wood.
Conclusion: I like this rod. Update: After using the Ebisu for a while and comparing it to some of my 5:5 cork-less rods I have come to the conclusion that the Ebisu is too heavy for me to continue really liking it. At 96 g, for only a 360 cm rod, it is too heavy. So, having lighter 5:5 rods available I sold it.
Also, I felt like the Ito was quite tip heavy -- too much cantilever force. That issue was not as pronounce in the 390 configuration, but in the 450 configuration, wow, it was tip heavy. I know this because I have some long rods that don't feel nearly as tip heavy as the Ito did.
Finally, I did not personally care for the Ito's double half wells handle style. For rods over 360 cm I prefer a handle with a substantial "bulb" at the butt end (see the Daiwa LL41SF for what I mean). That bulb helps me grip a long rod (390 cm+) better, but I have found that I don't need it as much on a rod shorter than 390 cm.
Now, before you go saying that I am being too hard on the Ito just remember that all of this is just my opinion. The Ito is a good rod; I just like others better.
Conclusion: I was disappointed with the Ito and sold it. Update: Nothing new here, but I am looking forward to a newer version of this rod to see if I like the action, overall weight, weight distribution (less tip heavy), and handle better. I think Tenkara USA could have a real winner with this rod only if it was much lighter, had a better weight distribution, and had a "better" action when extended. (I say "better" meaning that I have other zoom rods that don't change their action when extended thus making them much more consistent rods when casting)
The cork handle (newer version) was too large in diameter for my wife's or daughter's small palm size so I trimmed it down on a cork lathe (I make my own western rods). Still, neither of them really like the rod due to its weight. They like the Iwana 12 ft much better.
Conclusion: I sort of like this rod. Update: I did not like it enough to keep it however. It didn't have any redeeming quality that made it stand out when compared to other 5:5 rods that I have. I sold it.
Conclusion: I sort of like this rod. Update: Although a great large fish rod, it was just way too overall heavy and really tip heavy for me to continue liking. I sold it.
I bought this rod on a whim. I could see from their website that it would likely be somewhat similar to the TUSA Amago but the Kasugo-4209 cost less. I just had to try it out. Well, I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I like this rod so far. Although it is billed as a 14 ft rod it is actually a 420 cm rod. Its overall weight is 102.6 g, which is heavier than my Amago. Despite this it actually feels lighter than the Amago. I am not sure why this is but I tried to explain it in my Kasugo-4209 review.
The Kasugo-4209 has a nice relaxed action for such a long rod, supposedly a 6:4. CCS: it is a 33 penny rod. It can control any line given it and excels at long furled lines throwing large, wind resistant flies. It is also an excellent Czech nymphing rod with its reach, action and ability to handle one or more heavily weighted nymphs. The handle shape is a bit funny with over accentuated curves but is comfortable to hold in multiple positions. The butt cap is cheap plastic and the cork is "poorish" in quality but with the way this rod fishes I can overlook that.
Conclusion: I like this rod. Update: I still have this rod and like it. It has landed me some pretty large fish. However, one thing I don't care for is its overall weight. In my opinion, if a rod is over 80 g it weighs too much, but a 420 cm rod will weight more just because it is longer (I could accept up to 90 g for a 420 cm rod, but not more). I am trying to tolerate its weight.
It is a 390 cm rod that is billed as a 7:3. However, when compared to my Daiwa 7:3 rods, the Hirame-ML-3909 feels much more like a 6:4. CCS: it is a 23 penny rod. It feels like what I wish the Ito in 390 cm configuration would have felt like. The Hirame-ML-3909 has a nice effortless casting stroke that I really enjoy. Some 7:3 rods are a little too stiff more my taste, but this one is not. It loads well and throws a level or furled line with equal proficiency. Also, there is no tip oscillation that I can appreciate. At 85 g, it is a little heavier than I would like, but for a 390 cm rod it is still a lot better than 100+ g!
I don't care for the handles shape though. As I have stated, for rods over 360 cm I prefer a "bulb" at the butt end. I have since modified the handle to my liking. Because of this, I fish with this rod a lot and I have caught some "big" fish (> 20 inches) with it. It handles large fish well, but you can still feel smaller fish as they fight. Another nice thing is that it has features that are available on many of the more premium rods like a tip-lillian swivel. Also, the finish is excellent and replacement parts are inexpensive and readily available.
I have heard of some quality issues with the handle, but I still think this rod is worth the investigation if you are looking for a "lightish" weighing 6:4+ 390 cm rod that can handle 20+ inch fish.
Conclusion: I really like this rod. Update: I have fished this rod a lot over the past few months. I really like its relaxed casting action and how it fights fish. I have landed many fish over 20 inches on this rod even in brisk currents. I know that the cork quality is not very good, the tip plug is loose (which I have since fixed), and the butt plug knurling is course, but the rest of the rod is really nice so I can overlook these quality issues. I think this rod is a best buy if you'd like a long rod (>360cm) with a smooth casting action.
I thought that maybe I just had a defective tip section so I replaced it with a replacement tip section that I already happen to have. But, with the next fish I caught (approx. 12 inches) that one snapped too!!
I contacted AllFishingBuy and they took the rod back and refunded my money. That was nice of them.
Conclusion: Either I got a defective rod and replacement tip section or this rod has a faulty design. If you are interested in this rod I'd suggest you contact AllFishingBuy and make sure that they have checked the rod out with the manufacturer. BTW, I did like the handle shape and the rod did cast well.
Daiwa Soyokaze 27SR, 31SR
Conclusion: I really like these rods. Update: I still really like these rods. I wish that Daiwa made them in longer lengths. A 360 cm version would be so fun to use!
Daiwa LL41 SF
|all from http://www.tenkarabum.com/daiwa-tenkara-rods.html|
Daiwa rods have what they call a V-joint. It does not look like a "V", but rather it appears that small, alternating bands of material has been removed from the butt section of each segment (see picture above). This reduces the contact surface area of the joint and makes the segments bend or flex smoothly when casting or fighting a fish. More importantly, it reduces the chance of jamming the segments together and getting them stuck. I have not formally tested this but I think I can feel a difference when collapsing the rod. It collapses with less force.
The tip has a swivel which makes winding up a level line very easy -- no tangled lines.
When I am on big water, and/or I want a long reach, I either go for the LL41SF or the Kasugo-4209 -- fly type, wind, gut feeling make the decision. I'll often use a shorter line (shorter than the rod length that is) on smaller streams. In that configuration I can reach an amazingly long way and yet not snag as many trees.
Conclusion: I really like this rod. Update: I have used this rod on both wide open, smooth waters and freestone streams. On smooth waters this rod lays out the line smoothly so that the line drops to the water like a feather. On freestone waters the rod loads easily with a short line and controls the fly well through and around pockets. One thing I don't like is that even when collapsed it is fairly long. It is hard to get this rod through heavy brush when it is stowed on the outside of your pack or sling.
I received this rod about 4 months ago and I have fished with it on many occasions. This first thing that struck me was how short the rod is when collapsed. At only 45.5 cm it is strikingly short, when compared to most tenkara rods, in its collapsed position.
This rod is graded as a 7:3 but it doesn't cast quite as stiffly as other 7:3 Daiwa rods that I have -- it is stiffer than an Iwana though, so it is likely not a 6:4. CCS: it is a 28 penny rod. The casting action is crisp but smooth. I have cast #3.5 - 4.5 weight lines without issue.
The rod is like most Daiwa rods, is light weight (82.4 g), but still just a hair heavier than I like. I'm not sure how they make their rods so light but I, for one, appreciate this characteristic. This rod has a cork handle and is classified as a "true" tenkara rod, where as my cork-less Daiwa rods are not.
Like most Daiwa tenkara rods, the price for this rod is higher than most domestically available rods. Maybe its the rod technology, special features (see the Daiwa LL41SF), or just the name, but whatever it is I think the price is just fine, as it is a premium rod.
Conclusion: I really like this rod. Update: I have used the rod on small creeks and large rivers. I like the control I get with this rod and it fights fish extremely well. This is truly a premium tenkara rod.
Daiwa Sagiri 39MC and 45MC
This is a zoom rod that extends from about 340 cm to 390 cm. It is, like all the Daiwa rods I have, astonishingly lightweight -- only 59 g for a 390 cm rod. Its action is pleasant and unlabored in both the 340 and 390 configurations -- I can't really feel much of a difference between the two actions; maybe it is a little softer in the 390 configuration, but its subtle. The handle, like with the Soyokaze 27SR and 31SR, is a comfortable non-slip portion of the butt section. It is not cork, but you know what, with these rods I don't even miss the cork! Who would have thought!
The 39MC also does not have any appreciable end of cast oscillation. It dampens in a heart beat. Something to note however, it does not have the V-joint feature like the other Daiwa rods that I own, which I think is unfortunate, but still this rod is such a pleasure to use. It is so fun to "zoom" between 340 and 390 depending on the conditions of a certain stretch of the stream. Of note, this rod is not tip heavy at all making it a rod you can fish with all day and not even know you had been wielding a fly rod!
CCS: this rod is 13 penny at the shorter configuration and 15 penny full extended.
I also have the longer version as well; the 45MC. It zooms from 400 cm to 450 cm. Like its shorter sibling, this rod is feather light and casts beautifully. It too has an amazingly effortless casting stroke and is a lot of fun with a fish on. Even though it is really long it has no appreciable tip heaviness.
Conclusion: I really, really like these rods. Update: I just love these rods. They are so much fun to use. Although they appear somewhat delicate, they fight fish well, but I only use 5-6X tippet so to protect the rod from a really large fish.
I wrote about this rod in detail in my post Big Fish Zoom.
This is another classical Daiwa keiryu rod. It is well balanced and light weight for being such a long rod. It too has the V-joint that the LL41SF has, but the 43M-F does not have a tip swivel. Why? I don't know!
The rod is a 7:3 (CCS: it is a 28 penny rod in the shorter configuration) and casts a #4-4.5 line or furled line beautifully. I have caught fish over 20 inches and near 4 pounds with this rod and never had the sensation that I was in trouble (in comparison, I hooked a HUGE rainbow while using the LL41SF. Unfortunately she broke off right at the last second while I was hand lining her in -- 6X tippet -- but I would estimate she was at least 25 inches and over 5 pounds. She was absolutely a monster (I have the video to prove it). The LL41SF was not the rod I should have been using. The 5:5 action protected the tippet really well but it exerted very little control over this large and powerful fish. I should have been using the 43 M-F!! Oh well, live and learn.).
Conclusion: I really like this rod. Update: Since my Big Fish Zoom post I have fished this rod a lot and caught both small and large fish. It performs wonderfully. This is my go to rod when I fish waters that hold large fish.
Daiwa Sekkei 36M
|courtesy of Tenkara Bum|
This rod is short when collapsed; only 42 cm. It is also very light at 68 g. I traveled with this rod to Arkansas and it fit nicely in my carry-on luggage. I fished for small mouth bass with it but I also caught bluegills and even though it is pretty stiff it was still fun with the bluegills.
But nymphing is where this rod really shines. Tie on a tandem Czech nymph set or a "duo" and you have two lengths to fish with equal effectiveness. Because the rod is so light your arm doesn't tire, even in the classical fully extended Czech nymphing style. It is nice!
Conclusion: I like this rod as a nymphing rod. Hooks sets are quick and line control is excellent.
Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24, Kiyotaki 33, Kiyotaki 39
These are fun rods. They are relatively inexpensive but have some nice features like a lillian swivel and a great finish. As you can see, they are cork-less rods. They are remarkably lightweight and are very short (39 cm) when fully collapsed. Their action is rated at 7:3 and I believe it! I wish they were just a little more flexible in their casting actions. CCS: all are between 35-38 penny. They make excellent travel or backpacking rods.
The handle has alternating non-slip bands that work great. The handles are sort of thin when compared to other cork-less rods but I have not had any issue with the grip -- and my hands are XL. When a fish takes your fly you can feel the hit very well with these rods.
Since they are on the stiff side of the penny scale they make really nice nymphing rods. The 24 is too short for this but the 39 is killer!
Conclusion: I like these rods. Update: Although I like these rods I did sell my Kiyotaki 33, but only to make room for a different rod in that length. I would have loved to keep it but too many rods makes my wife frown.
Shimano Kozuka 39
Lastly is the Shimano Kozuka 39. This 390 cm premium cork-less rod is beautiful in form and function. It too is rated as a 7:3 rod and has an action quite similar to the Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 39. On the CCS, the Shimano is a 38 penny rod.
The handle of the Shimano is different from the other cork-less rods that I have. The non-slip rubberized coating is very fine when compared to Daiwa rods. I'm not sure if I like the Shimano's as well but it does work just fine -- I'd have some concern about durability though. I have no proof that this coating would scratch or come off but time and use will tell.
I have used this rod for weighted nymphing and it works great. It is lightweight (85 g) and with the long reach it covers the water, even with a short nymphing line. I have not fished dries on a long line with it, but I'm sure it would cast a tight loop with accurate presentation.
Another nice thing about the rod is that it is very compact when collapsed -- just 36.8 cm! This would make an excellent travel or backpacking rod.
The largest fish I've caught to date with this rod was only 14 inches, but I am sure this rod could handle a 20+ inch fish without issue.
Conclusion: I like this rod. The action is just a bit stiffer than I like, but this rod has it's place in ones arsenal. I consider it a power rod.
So there you have it, my 12 month rods review. After fishing all if these rods I have come to the conclusion that overall I prefer rods between 19-26 penny on the CCS. Those that are slightly more flexible or slightly more stiffer are OK as well but not quite as desirable for my average fish type and size. For large fish though, a 28-35 penny rod works best for me. These stiffer rods give me the power to work a large fish and keep them out of snags.
I hope these reviews help you when considering a certain rod. I plan on doing more reviews as I fish more rods. Cheers, and happy tenkara fishing!