March 8, 2014

Shimano LLS36NX -- review

Perfection. What is perfection? Does it exist in a tenkara rod? I don't know. Perfection means different things to different people and therefore it must exist in a different form for everyone.

When it comes to tenkara I am still looking for the perfect tenkara rod.  I have some tenkara rods that I really, really like. I have some that I just like, too. But I don't yet have a rod that I just outright love -- one that embodies my expectation of perfection.

Most of the waters I prefer to fish take a 360 cm rod nicely. On these waters I'm going after 8-14 inch trout. I don't generally fish waters that have the big boys in them. I prefer the waters that are over looked, with fish that are wild, native and just plain fun.

I find myself reaching more and more for the Tenkara Times Try rods. They are light and have an action I enjoy. I also reach for my Nissin Zerosum and Pro-Spec rods frequently. In fact, these rods, the Try and Nissin rods get the most use from me. Oh sure, I have other rods that are pretty nice as well, but I really like these particular rods. They seem to be different than other tenkara rods; different in a way that I like.

Well, I think I have found another -- another rod that will likely rise to near the top of my "frequently reached for" list. This rod is the Shimano LLS36NX.

I have fished with many, many rods. A few were duds, but most were at least adequate.

Some of the rods I have fished with are C to C+ rods. They lack the better materials and design. They can fling a line but they are not refined in performance. They are often "me too" rods, offering nothing more to the pleasure of tenkara than what is obtained on a basic level. They are often inexpensive and serve as entry level rods.

Some of the rods I have used are B to B+ rods. They are solid in design, material, and performance. But, they the lack refinement needed to take them to the next level. Better, but not great.

A few of the rods I have used I would grade as A- to A rods. These are not only great in design, materials, balance, and performance, but they seem to have an extra "magic" about them. They set themselves apart only when you cast them. They have that "WOW" factor that has to be experienced -- it can not be fully described.

I have not yet found an A+ rod.

I think the Shimano LLS36NX falls in the A- to A category.

The LLS36NX comes in the typical Japanese plastic carton instead of a rod tube. That's OK by me since I don't use the rod tube. A rod sock is included.

The rod finish is glossy and the coloration is a subtle vegetation or olive green. There are metallic flecks in the finish paint. This gives the rod a very "finished" look without being to austere. For accents, there is a simple gold band near the tip of each of the lower segments.  These are simple but elegant. Collapsed, the LLS36NX is slightly shorter than the Nissin ZeroSum 360, and slightly longer than the Daiwa LT36SF. The LLS36NX is 98.8% carbon materials which are manufactured and designed in Japan, but the rod is assembled in Indonesia.

Rod Designation and finish

Gold accent bands

Troika of great Japanese 360 cm tenkara rods (left to right): ZeroSum, 360, LLS36NX, LT36SF

The handle has very good to excellent quality cork with little filler. The shape is camel or gourd shape but with more subtle curves than some other rods. It is 28.5 cm long. The winding check is gold metal and fits tightly against the cork handle. On the butt end of the handle, the female insert for the butt cap is gold metal and fits snugly against the cork. This finishes off the handle nicely.

The winding check
The butt end of the handle 

The lilian is dark brown and is without a knot. It attaches directly to the tip segment without a micro-swivel. The glue point profile is neat and tight allowing segment #1 to be fully withdrawn through segment #2. The tip plug is wood and is smoothly finished. The butt cap is green anodized metal. It has a rubber bumper, drainage hole, and O-ring. The O-ring aids is preventing the butt cap from spontaneously unscrewing. The butt cap has a smooth, curved profile. There is no knurling to aid in removal, but a coin slot is provided.

The lilian and attachment point
Tip plug

Butt cap

The rod fully extended is 363 cm. Fully collapsed, with tip plug, the rod is 50.5 cm. Without the tip cap the rod weighs 70.5 gm. I measure the rod at 21 pennies, which gives it a Rod Flex Index of 5.8. This puts the rod in the 6:4 action range. The COG is at 75 cm. Thus the Moment is 5.25, a very respectable number.

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

Casting the Shimano LLS36NX is crisp and easy. Since it is a 6:4 comparable rod, it requires a slightly shorter casting stroke than the Tenkara Times Try 360, which although classified as a 6:4 rod acts more like a 5:5 rod. The LLS36NX is just a hair slower than the TUSA Iwana 12', which has a Rod Flex Index of 6.4.

Even though this is a 6:4 comparable rod it answers to a #3.5 line very well. It will also handle a #3 line and a #4 line just as well, but in my hands a #3.5 level line seems to be the ticket. I have not used this rod with a furled line.

In-hand balance is excellent. There is little-to-no tip heaviness perceived, as one would expect from the rod's Moment calculation. Accuracy is very precise.  This rod has a tubular hollow tip section, while many other 360 rods have a solid tip section. The hollow or tubular tip make the tip slightly stiffer. This allows a higher line speed to be generated and thus more precise accuracy in casting.

I have been using this rod quite a bit lately. I have mostly been using it on higher gradient mountain streams with trout between 8-14 inches. It easily handles this size of fish in these current flows.

Conclusion: I really like this rod. This is a premium tenkara rod designed and made for a premium Japanese rod company. The fit and finish are excellent. The action is fast but not stiff. The balance is wonderful. It feels robust, yet is elegant, and should last many, many years. That said, this rod, like all the Japanese tenkara rods I have used, does not have a working warranty. You must be careful with all of them because even though replacement parts can be obtained, they can not be obtained very quickly, easily, or inexpensively. Also like other premium Japanese tenkara rods the price is higher than other available tenkara rods.

So, is this rod an A or a B? I'll let you be the judge.

Want one? You can get one from Chris Stewart at Tenkara Bum. He can also get replacement parts in the unlikely event that you needs some.

I already posted a video using this rod. If you want to see it again, it is here.


  1. Another "drooling" review Tom.
    About the perfect rod, the fun is in the chase. So i guess i don't want to find it
    cause, if it happens, all the fun will be gone. ;-)

  2. Very good review, thanks ... Very useful especially for those who, like me, is very difficult to access those rods, but it is always important to be informed .....