August 17, 2013

Oni Rod -- review

I recently received a rod from Masami Sakakibara of Japan. This masterful tenkara fisher is also known as "Tenkara no Oni", and therefore his custom made rod is called an Oni rod. I want to present my review of this rod and some thoughts on how it compares to more commercially available tenkara rods.

Jason Klass has reviewed the rod also. His thoughts are here, and here.

I ordered the rod after communicating with "Team Oni" via email. The rod was payed for via PayPal and shipped in a timely manner. It arrived in a well packaged and padded shipping tube covered in cool looking Japanese shipping labels.

The rod came with a rod sock and also included were some kebari, a length of #4 pink Sansui level tenkara line and a note.





I don't know if Tenkara no Oni wrote the note himself, or if it was written under his direction (by Team Oni), but it is very kind and thoughtful and brings an instant appreciation of how special this rod is -- and might I add, what an honor it is to fish one!





The rod is beautiful. It doesn't look like any other tenkara rod that I current own: I guess the best way to attempt to describe it is to say that it is beautiful in it simplicity.






The rod is charcoal black in color, with a 30 cm long black EVA foam handle. The handle is slightly and subtly shaped, although at a quick glance it appears to be just plain cylindrical. The winding check is chrome-colored metal and fits tightly against the top of the handle.







The graphite bank is also different than any other rod I have. Most tenkara rods that I own or have used have a smooth finish, either glossy, satin, or flat. But the Oni rod has a unique spiral texture that has to be felt to be appreciated. This spiral texture is present on all sections of the rod, excepting section #1, the tip section. The finish is gloss.

The lilian attaches directly without a micro swivel. The tip plug is black plastic - nylon? The butt cap is also black plastic and has a rubber bumper, so to dampen noise from the collapsed segments.










The overall length of the rod is 396 cm extended. Collapsed, it is 63 cm (with tip plug and butt cap). Without the tip plug the rod weighs 101.1 g.






The action of the rod is soft, but not as you'd expect. On the Common Cents Scale (CCS) the Oni rod has a rating of 15.5 penny. This gives the rod a Rod Flex Index (RFI) of 3.9. This places this rod's static flex action right in the same ballpark as the Tenkara USA Ito (390 cm configuration) and the Daiwa Sagiri 39MC (390 cm configuration). However, the Oni rod doesn't feel much like these other rods. Again, the CCD and RFI are measurements of a rod's static flex but they don't really tell you how it feels casting -- they only estimates a rod's action. The Oni rod section #1 is solid and is very flexible. Section #2-4 are still flexible but less than section #1. This allows the Oni rod to flick out a light line with almost no effort at all. If I had to pick, I'd say the Daiwa Sagiri is the closest to how the Oni rod casts.

RFI comparison chart



Casting is smooth; no tip oscillation that I can tell -- even on video review. Targeting is phenomenal! And here is the really surprising thing: although the Oni rod weighs 101 g it feels like a 75-80 g rod!  There is no tip heaviness, no, not any! I'm not sure how Tenkara no Oni did it, but this rod seems to defy physics! At 396 cm, you'd expect to have to "fight" the rod a little to keep it's tip up, but not with this rod. Sublime, absolutely sublime. It has to be experienced to know what I'm trying to describe.

Here are two videos of Masami Sakakibara casting the Oni rod. You can see the rod in action by its designer (these are not my videos; my apologies to those that published them).










Fishing with the rod is a delightful experience. Very little rod movement it required to load the rod. This energy is then perfectly transferred to the line, shooting the line towards its target -- all will very little effort. The Oni rod works perfectly with proper tenkara casting method -- arm bent, elbow down and tight against your body, wrist inline with forearm, and imparting little wrist flexion/extension -- a relaxed, unforced action. Again, the closest rod I have to doing this is the Daiwa Sagiri; it's not even a tenkara rod!

The Oni rod was described to me by Team Oni as a rod designed for advanced tenkara fishers targeting fish to 35-40 cm. I assume this recommendation is for fish in a mountain stream-type gradient - fairly brisk. I caught trout from 8 inches to 14 inches (20-35 cm) and the rod had no issues what so ever handling them. The gradient of the stream I was fishing was only modest however. BTW, I used 6X tippet to protect the rod, and fished with an unweighted #10 kebari.

Here is a video clip of me using the rod and catching fish. Both POV and 3rd person view are represented:




Conclusion: This is a phenomenal rod. I think I have now fished with enough rods to know when I am holding something special.  Although its dead weight is higher than I like in a 13 ft rod it doesn't feel heavy at all. Again, I don't know how this was accomplished but the rod is not tip heavy at all and is not heavy in the hand, even after hours of use. I'm going to make a statement here that is a little strong, but it must be said: This is the best rod I have used to date. That should not surprise anyone though. The rod is custom made, one at a time, designed and manufactured (or at least has direct over sight) by one of the best tenkara fishers of our lifetime -- certainly the premier tenkara caster of our time (I think this statement would be undisputed, even in Japan).  The rod cost me 32,800 Yen (with shipping). Because of that, I don't think that it should be directly compared to most other commercially available tenkara rods. It is what it is, probably the best tenkara rod on the planet.






20 comments:

  1. Excellent review Tom! I agree with you 100%. This is definitely the best tenkara rod I've ever tried. And as you say, possible the best in the world. Nothing like it.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment, Jason. The rod is truly amazing. I'd love to know how he designed and made it.

      -Tom

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  2. A super review Tom. I had the pleasure to fish an Oni tenkara rod in the UK with Paul Gaskell of Discover Tenkara. I can only echo your conclusions. Quite simply I have have never cast or fished such a sublime tenkara rod as the Oni rod. I thought that some of the premium rods in the Nissin range a benchmark for others but now those parameters have had to shift to another level. As yet I don't own an Oni rod but it's on the shopping list now, nothing else feels quite so right. The Oni team have done an exceptional job.

    Tight lines


    Phil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Phil. It is a sublime rod.

      -Tom

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  3. Can you mention how much it cost in US dollars? Are they available for sale from team Oni?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Nick,

      It was about $340.00.

      Go to Tenkara no Oni website and contact them. They can assist you from there.

      -Tom

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  4. Your blog will be the death of me and certainly ruin my marriage. Now, I have to fish an Oni

    ReplyDelete
  5. Tom, the Oni rod proves that is possible to build a light rod
    from a heavier blank. Hope other manufacturers put their focus at that.

    Now i have a question, being it a custom rod can the buyer Request it to come with a cork handle?

    Very nice review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Carlos,

      I don't know if a cork handle can be substituted for the EVA foam. I never asked. Sorry.

      -Tom

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    2. Tom, i wrote to Team Oni and asked 'bout the cork handles.
      They told me that hi-grade cork are not available for them cause they run
      a small bussines and are not able to buy the big quantities the cork
      dealers ask for.

      He also advised me that they sell Nissin Zerosum rods for a fair price and,
      in their opinion, beyond having a cork handle, the Zerosums are quite stiffer than the Oni rods and more suitable to my environment.

      Delete
  6. Why not buy a Sagiri from Plat for 130 bucks laid-in and put a cork handle on it.

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    Replies
    1. Well, Anonymous, that would seem to be a logical thing to do. I'm not sure about the cork handle, as the Sagiri doesn't seem to need one. Mine sure doesn't.

      -Tom

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    2. I was being sarcastic Tom. I think fixed-line fishing with a handle made of cork, foam, wood or the like is . . . well like taking a shower with your clothes on. My Sagiri is naked and will remain so.
      Dan

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  7. Carp fishing with the Oni rod, awesome!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT0wsMWLpSg

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  8. have you tried a nissin airstage 390, and if so, how does it compare to the oni? my impression is that the airstage is more tip flex than the sagiri, and slightly firmer. I'd be interested in your opinion of where the airstage lies on the scale between the sagiri and the oni.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Craig,

      I haven't been able to test the Airstage 390, so I don't have an opinion on it. Sorry.

      Delete
  9. Tom,

    Those were some unbelievable tight spots to cast into.
    How would you compare casting the Daiwa LL41SF and the Oni? They are comparably priced. Do u think it will cast well in the wind? I know the Oni is heavier, but you did not mind the heaviness. I wonder if the Oni has a light blank but heavier handle, thereby moving the Center of Mass back. With a heavier handle, especially towards the back, I assume the moment of inertia will also be less.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure I could compare the two. I never used them side by side. I sold my LL41SF because I did not like it as much as the Sagiri 45MC. Personally, I had a hard time casting the LL41SF in wind.

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    2. I checked on the Oni's site, and indeed they say that they achieve that kid of balance by having a light blank and weight lower. Regardless, I just ordered one. They have a new model coming out in Feb 2014. Same stiffness, but stronger. So that's the one I ordered. My Daiwa 43MF (TenkaraBum) just arrived today (thank you, Chris Stewart !!!). I am going to have some fun with it before Feb.

      Delete