July 28, 2014

Tenkara Rod Co. Owyhee tenkara rod -- review

I purchased and reviewed the Tenkara Rod Co. Sawtooth this past year. I found it to be a handsome and sturdy rod worthy of consideration by anyone looking for a nice entry level tenkara rod. One thing I noticed about the folks at the Tenkara Rod Co. is that they have a taste for style! The Sawtooth, as is their Teton rod, is very aesthetically handsome!

I recently received two of their rods, the Owyhee and the Cascade. I'll review the Owyhee (pronounced oh-WYE-hee) now. I'll review the Cascade in a future blog post.

The Owyhee comes in a glossy black rod tube and has a nice black rod sock to protect it. When I first saw the rod I was a little taken aback. It doesn't look like any tenkara rod that I have used. The finish is glossy and the coloration is striking. The pattern is alternating green and yellow bands all the way up the rod, except for the tip section, which is just green. I'm not quite sure what to say about this pattern other than is is quite bold and somewhat eye catching. When I say eye catching I mean that this is not a rod for stealth! I assume that it is better for rods to be less obtrusive visually so to maintain stealth, but maybe not. This rod's coloration will certainly test that theory.

The extended rod

The handle is good to very good cork with the usual filler. It is a reverse-half wells so common to many tenkara rods. I personally don't care for this shape, but that's just me. My extra large sized palms don't hold this handle shape very easily. I prefer a camel or double hump shape. I know a lot of people who like the reverse-half wells shape on their tenkara rods so that is why it is often chosen. The handle is 28 cm long. The winding check is gold metal and fits tightly to cork.

Winding check

The tip plug is the usual wood with rubber that is available on most all rods, but the butt cap is totally different than any I've seen. It too is gold metal (it has fine knurling on its edges to aid in removal) but it is solid and heavy! The butt cap weighs a whopping 38 gm! There is no rubber bumper, rather, the inside of the butt cap tapers to a conical point. There is no drain hole either. I have a theory on why the butt cap is so heavy and I'll expound on it later on when I talk about the rod's feel and action.

Tip plug

Butt cap

Butt cap

The lilian is bright chartreuse green and is attached to the tip section with a micro swivel. The micro swivel is glued on and is pretty straight (slightly off axis with the tip). The lilian-swivel glue point is neat and clean but is too large to come through the second segment for complete disassembly.

Micro swivel, glued on slightly off center.

Here are some specifications. The rod fully collapsed is 56.5 cm. Fully extended it is 387 cm. The rod weighs 125.9 gm without the tip plug. On the Common Cents System it measures at 20 pennies. Its Rod Flex Index score is 5.2. This puts the rod squarely in the 6:4 action range.

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

Holding the rod one immediately feels how heavy it is. I haven't felt a tenkara rod this heavy for quite come time and at first I was put off. But the rod casts very nicely. It's action is moderately slow with a nice finish to the cast. I could detect only a slight end of cast tip oscillation and targeting was quite good. I used #3.5 and #4 level lines with the rod and it cast them real well. Due to it's weight, my arm did get somewhat fatigued after a while, however.


Now we come to a major point. The rod is somewhat tip heavy. I talked about tip heaviness of a rod in one of my previous posts.  There are a number of complicated formulas to numerically quantitate the tip heaviness of a rod, but the easiest way to estimate it is to measure its rotational moment or torque. This is done by measuring its weight in kg and multiplying that by its center of gravity distance (fully extended) in cm from the butt of the rod. Torque = mass times radius. This measurement has been substantiated commercially and is used by Gamakatsu, a high quality Japanese rod maker. They list it for their tenkara rods.

For the Owyhee I get a rotational moment of 7.9. Anything above 5.5 is noticeably tip heavy. For comparison to some other commonly used 390-400 cm rods: the Tenkara USA Ito has a moment of 7.84 at 390 cm, the Ayu II is 8.55 and the Oni type I is 5.2.

Now here's the interesting thing, I think the designers added the weight in the butt cap so to bring the center of gravity closer to the butt of the rod. This, of course, does this but it makes the rod heavier and does not help reduce tip heaviness. When you remove the butt cap the rod's weight goes down to 87.9 g (which is a respectable weight for a 390 cm rod). However, the center of gravity point moves out to 89 cm.  So, as we apply our rotational moment equation we get moment = 0.0879 X 89 = 7.8!! The moment, or tip heaviness, does not change. That's right. It does not change. This is where rod designers often make a mistake. Adding weight the to butt of the rod only makes the rod heavier, but does not change the rod's rotational moment (torque), or perceived tip heaviness. Numbers do not lie. To me, the rod feels just as tip heavy with and without the butt cap in place, but the rod is much lighter without it.


So what do I think of this rod? I think that it weights too much. I'd get rid of the heavy butt cap. I personally don't like the coloration as much as I like the Sawtooth's, but that is a taste thing and I am not an artist or graphic designer. Also, all that paint has to increase the weight of the rod. If the green/yellow pattern is really desired, then at least have it only on the handle segment with the rest of the segments being just green, like the tip. Or, at least tone it down. I'd also change the shape of the handle, but again, that's just me and my preferences.

What do I like? I like the fact that the Tenkara Rod Co. is willing to step out of the box and make a rod that has some visual pop -- even though I don't care for it. They want their rods to be different and look different than all the other "me too" tenkara rod company's rods and they certainly have achieved that goal. Besides, many people may really like the look of the rod. I also like the fact that they provide a rod tube and sleeve, not just either/or. They have excellent product support and have passion for tenkara. Those are great qualities. I also like the casting smoothness of the rod. They got it right on that point!

Remember, I'm just a guy with a blog. I am not an expert in tenkara or physics, but I have fished with over 60 fixed line rods designed by manufacturers from around the world. This post is just my opinion. You may disagree with everything I've just said about the Owyhee and you may like it very much. I say great! We all have opinions. If we all liked the same rods life would be boring... and this rod is certainly anything but boring!

Here is a video from the Tenkara Rod Co. using the rod to catch some nice browns:

Disclaimer: My opinions regarding this rod are just that, my opinions. Your opinion may differ. 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. Tenkara Rod Co. sent me this rod, and after the review I mailed it back.

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