April 13, 2014

Gamakatsu MultiFlex Suimu 4.0 tenkara rod -- review

I have fished a number of multi-zoom rods including the Suntech Field Master GM-39, Suntech Suikei GM-39 (soft version) and the Tenkara USA Sato. These rods have made the promise of multi-functionality, all-around versatility in an all inclusive package. Some delivered, some not as much.  I have since sold my Field Master and Sato, but I still have and fish my Suikei 39.

When Tenkara USA released their Sato, every one was very excited to see a rod that could be "multi-zoomed" and fished in three different lengths. Many thought that this was new to the world of tenkara, a so called "game changer", but not realizing that multi-zoom fixed-line rods have existed for a number of years in Japan. The Gamakatsu MultiFlex rods are one of these.

The Gamakatsu MultiFlex Suimu comes in three different versions: 4.0, 4.5, 5.0 meters. The 4.0 and 4.5 versions are bi-zoom, whereas the 5.0 is a uni-zoom. I have only used the 4.0 m version, so this is what I will be reviewing here. This rod can be fished in the 3 m, 3.5 m , and 4 m lengths.

The MultiFlex Suimu 4.0 comes in a plastic carton and has a rod sleeve included. There is not much exciting about this, what can I say.

Rod designation and Title

The rod has an overall beautiful appearance. Like most other Japanese tenkara rods that I have used, the Suimu 4.0 is perfect in aesthetics, design and execution. The overall coloration is black or a very dark charcoal with a glossy finish. There are terra cotta accents on all but the tip section. There is some emerald green wrapping near the winding check and on the lower segment as well. All of this makes a very handsome rod.

The lower sections of the rod are stamped with the number 47 on their friction-fit joint surface. Whether this applies just to my rod, the manufacturing lot, or something else, I don't rightly know.

The zoom sections

The lower section's friction-fit surface stamped with the number 47

The handle has excellent quality cork. It is 31.5 cm long and has a subtle reverse half-wells curvature. It's overall diameter fits the hand well and the handle is long enough to provide numerous hand hold positions. The winding check is silver and fits tightly to the handle.

Winding check and green wrapping

The lilian is red and does not come with a knot. It is attached to the 1st segment via a very well executed micro-swivel.  The connection is small enough to be fully retracted through the second segment to allow for complete rod disassembly and thorough cleaning/drying.

The perfect micro-swivel

The tip plug is rather unusual. It is not a plug at all, but rather, is a long rubber friction fit cap. It slides very snugly over the ends of the lower three segments securing them in place and protecting the tip.  The butt cap screws into the base of the handle easily. It is black plastic and has equally spaced grooves around its circumference to aid in its removal. The post is unusual as well. Instead of O-rings (which can wear out) to hold the zoom sections in place, the post is tapered. This achieves the same goal as the O-ring design and is very effective.  There is a small drainage hole that is too small for effective drying of the rod, but more likely acts as a pressure release hole to allow air movement when extending or collapsing the rod.

Tip cap in place

Tip cap
Tip cap

Butt cap with center post to hold the zoom sections

The handle butt insert and cap (note the drain/pressure release hole)

The physical specifications are as follows. Collapsed length is 61 cm. Weight (without the tip cap) is 85.8 gm. Extended lengths for the 3.0 m configuration is 304 cm, for the 3.5 m configuration is 352 cm, and for the full 4.0 m configuration is 398 cm. BTW, these are clearly marked on the plastic carton as such, therefore you know exactly what you are getting. There is no guessing if your rod meets design specs or will come up short.

At the 3.0 m length

At the 3.5 m length

At the 4.0 m length

The Suimu 4.0 has three different Common Cents (CCS) and Rod Flex Index (RFI) measurements, one for each of its three fishable lengths.  At 3 m the CCS is 21 pennies with an RFI of 6.9. At 3.5 m the CCS is 26 pennies with an RFI of 7.4. And finally, at 4 m the CCS is 28 pennies and RFI of 7. These measurements place this rod squarely in the 7:3 rod action range.

As far as Moment, the rod as low numbers for the 3 and 3.5 m configurations, and slightly high for the 4 m. At 3 m it is 3.7, and at 3.5 m it is 4.8.  This shows that in these two configurations there is no appreciable tip heaviness. In the 4 m configuration the Moment is 6.5, just as suggested on the plastic carton (since they publish the Moment value on the plastic carton you can see that Gamakatsu validates using the rod Moment as a numerical way to show tip heaviness). This number shows that there is some slight tip heaviness felt when fully extended. Still, it's much better than many 4 m rods and even better than many 3.8 m rods!

[Moment equals wt (in kg) times radius (distance in centimeters from the butt end to the center of mass or balance point). It is easier to calculate than Moment of Inertia (MOI). It may be an indication of how tip heavy a rod is and how fatiguing a rod is to fish over time. As noted, it is measured by Gamakatsu for their rods. A rod that has a moment equal to or less than 5.5 seems to feel lightweight and without tip heaviness.  Rod reference data: Iwana 12' moment is 6.14; Ito at 390cm is 7.84 and at 450cm is 10.93; Oni rod is 5.2].

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

Fishing this rod is fun. As with most zoom rods, I generally fished it in its two shorter configurations. I also fished it in the fully extended configuration, but not as much. I used the rod on small creeks and larger mountain streams. It really is a versatile rod.

I mainly used a #3.5 line and varied its length from 9 feet to 13 feet, depending on what water I was fishing. The rod casts this weight of line really well. It also casts a #4 line well, but that should not be a surprise since it is a 7:3 rod. I did not use a furled or PVC line, so I can not render an opinion of the rod using these lines. I used flies ranging from unweighted kebari to tungsten beadheads. I did not use dry flies.

The Suimu 4.0 is a tip flex rod, and as such it generates a fast line speed and tight loops. Casting accuracy is excellent. Still, when I used the beadhead I could easily open the casting loop and still place the fly where I wanted it to go. I have fished with one other Gamakatsu rod, a Ryokei 360 cm, that I feel was one of the best casting rods I have ever used.  This rod comes close to, but not exactly matches, the Ryokei. The Suimu 4.0 is heavier and more robust.

I have mostly caught 8-12 inch trout so far using the Suimu 4.0.  From it's characteristics I'm sure it would handle larger fish, say in the 14-18 inch range. But like all tenkara rods, the size of the fish is not the only thing that matters when judging the capability of a rod. The current speed and current dynamics play a huge role in how large a fish that the rod can handle. If this rod was used in still waters I'm pretty sure it could handle a 18+ inch trout. In slow to modest current, maybe up to 18 inches would be safe. But in moderately fast to fast currents, without any pockets or eddies to take pressure off the rod, I'd guess up to 16 inches is as much as I'd venture. I'm probably being conservative in these guesses, but for the price of this rod it's likely best not to try to risk breaking it. Remember, this is a Japanese rod; there is no warranty. I use 5X tippet with most of my rods, this one included.

Conclusion: I like this rod. If you are looking for a premium Japanese multi-zoom tenkara rod, then here is another option. It is a little heavier than the other multi-zoom tenkara rod available, but it has wonderful balance in both the shorter configurations, with only a hint of tip heaviness in its fully extended length. Also, unlike the other available multi-zoom tenkara rod, this rod is true to its advertised lengths -- you get what you are expecting to get. The materials, fit and finish, and design appear to be of the highest quality. Be aware, however, that this rod is a tip flex 7:3 rod and may not be for those of you who like soft, full flex rods.  Still, if you like a faster rod, want to throw wind resistance flies or beadheads, or are just looking for a truly all-around rod with a 4 m reach, then this rod might answer very well.

I'll post a video of one of my trips with this rod at a later blog entry.

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same characteristics or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod then make up your own mind. 

I purchased this rod and have no formal affiliation with Gamakatsu.


  1. Excellent review ....comprehensive as usual ..Thank you very much for sharing ..

  2. Very complete review! The guys writing reviews in magazines should take example on you and really review the tackle instead of using the commercial arguments from the manufacturer.

    1. Thank you, Christophe. I try to be thorough an fair in my reviews. Hopefully that shows.

  3. Very nice rod.
    85 grams is prety nice considering its lenght
    and zoom features.
    I've a Kamasu rod from All Fishing Buy, a copy from the gamakatsu Gensuirai, and it features the same very nice color pattern as the one you reviwed here.

    1. Hi Carlos,

      How is that AFB rod? Good?

    2. Actualy no.
      I've conflicting feelings about it.
      It is a full flex rod with hollow, fast tip section.
      It casts and fight fish very well but weights 95 grams what is a bit to much for a 375 cm rod (moment is 7.4)