July 12, 2017

Discover Tenkara Karasu 360 Tenkara Rod -- review

The other day I received in the mail a very special package. It was the new Karasu 360 tenkara rod by Paul Gaskell and John Pearson of Discover Tenkara. I know that this rod, and some of the statements about this rod, have created quite a stir in our little tenkara universe and therefore, I like you, was very interested in seeing it first hand. Because of that I also know that writing a review about this rod (or any other rod for that matter) carries with it some responsibility -- the responsibility to try to be as objective as possible, and the responsibility of trying to relate to you how this rod feels and performs. I take that responsibility very seriously, so here goes.

Before I begin (skip over this part if you want), let me mention some of the tenkara rods I have used and fished with. I do this to illustrate that I am not new to using premium tenkara rods and I think I know a little about how they should feel and perform (no guarantee though). I have used Oni rods, Nissin Zerosum and Air Stage rods, Shimano Mainstream and Keiryu Tenkara 34-38 ZL rods, Daiwa Expert rods, TenkaraBum 36 and 40, Shimotsuke Ten, Gamakatsu Multiflex and other Gamakatsu rods (whose names are a mystery to me), Tenryu rods, and the Sakura Seki Rei. I have also fished with some other very nice rods such as those from Tenkara USA, Tenkara Tanuki, The Tenkara Times, and many others. In other words, I've fished with a lot of rods -- Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, etc.

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The Karasu that I received came by itself without rod tube, carton or sock. Paul says that it will come to customers in a Japanese-style plastic carton and have a black fabric rod sleeve with tie cords. The over all coloration of the rod is black with a glossy finish, but the 3rd through 7th sections (holding to Japanese tradition, the tip is the 1st section) have a a gradual color gradient from black to grey. They also have a sliver accent ring on their tipward portion. The rod does not have the usual warning stickers as do many other rods. The rod designation is simple and the "Made in Japan" is quite prominent (but no more prominent than what is seen on the TenkaraBum rods). The fit and finish of the rod is top notch. The blanks are unsanded and show the craftsmanship of the manufacturer.






The sections are black at the bottom and transition to grey towards the top.


The handle is black EVA foam and is 30 cm long. It has the classic gourd or camel shape of most tenkara rods, but the curves are less pronounced than some others rods. The handle fills the hand nicely and comfortably.



The tip plug is black nylon and fits snugly into the handle section without slipping out. The butt cap is anodized metal, has knurling to aid in removal, and also has an air hole. It also has a rubber bumper insert. Interestingly, both the tip plug and the butt cap look exactly like the ones for the Suntech TenkaraBum tenkara rods.



The lilian is dark red and thicker than most rods. The rod I have came with a pre-tied knot in the lilian, but I'm not sure if it will be supplied that way. I did not untie the knot but the glue joint is perfect, and without the knot the rod could be easily completely disassembled for drying and cleaning.



Here are some of my measurements:

Fully nested: 56 cm
Fully Extended: 361 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 85 g
CCS: 18 pennies
RFI: 5.6




The rod feels substantial in the hand. It's not heavy by any means, but it feels solid, substantial, robust. The rod has wonderful balance in all positions. Because it's a 360 cm rod I did not measure the rotational moment. That would be a more important piece of information for the 400 cm version.

The rod casts very smoothly. There is no overshoot even when the casting stroke is forced, and tip recovery is very quick. I can't perceive any oscillation. I fished the rod with a #2.5 fluorocarbon level line of 300 cm. I added 90 cm (3') of tippet to this making the line a little longer than the rod. The rod cast the #2.5 line effortlessly and I could easily place the fly first onto the water with every cast.

I fished the rod on a small mountain stream of moderately high gradient. I fished a #10 wool bodied sakasa kebari and small dry flies. I caught trout in the 8 -14 inch range. The rod performed perfectly.






As a point of comparison, I also fished my TenkaraBum 36 using the same line and flies. I'd fish the Karasu and catch a few trout, then change the line to the TB36 and catch a few trout. Here is what I think I felt: the Karasu is a little smoother and damps a little better (probably due to its more substantial handle and weighing 20 g more overall than the TB36 ). The TB36 feels lighter and I think a little better balanced (lighter definitely, but the balance is pretty close between the two). The TB36 was able to keep the trout out of the streamside underwater snags easier (likely because it is just a little stiffer in the midsection than the Karasu. This is important for my tight streams, but this may not be that important for you and your streams). And finally, most importantly, both rods make me look really good -- you know, like I actually know what I'm doing!


Replacement parts will be available, but it remains to be seen what the US price will be for each section. Paul says that the UK price for the top three sections will be something like £17, £19 and £22 GBP, respectively.

I saw this beauty after fishing. We sized each other up then went our separate ways. 


Conclusion: This is a premium, top of the line rod, and I really like it. Its simplistic aesthetics and fit and finish are second to none. It has near perfect (if not perfect) balance, dampening, and recovery with a very smooth casting arc. It is a joy to use -- pure and simple. Do I think it is the best rod I've every used? I'm not sure I can say yes to that question, but it definitely is one of the best rods I've used. Do I like it better than my TB36? $200.00 better? I'm not sure about that either. Both rods are wonderful and perform at the topmost limit. Would you like this rod? I don't know -- why don't you buy one and see for yourself! I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, 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 received no revenue or enticement from Discover Tenkara for a favorable review of their products. I was loaned the Karasu 360 and returned it after this review.







2 comments:

  1. Much apreciated... The side by side comparison with TB 360 was really a clever idea.

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    1. Thanks, Carlos. I chose the TB36 specifically since it is another Japanese made tenkara rod designed by another non-Japanese tenkara angler who has vast experience with rods.

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