January 6, 2019

Daiwa Master Tenkara L LL36 - review

I recently had the opportunity to test and cast the new Daiwa Master Tenkara L LL36, and boy, am I glad I did! I've always liked Daiwa tenkara rods, at least the Enshou and Expert class rods, but the Master L LL36 is in a class all it's own. This is one amazing rod.

One concept that is often promoted in the tenkara community is simplicity. Simplicity often tends to lead some anglers to minimalism. In adopting minimalism, some anglers lean towards very compact rods, thinking compact is more minimal. I can see where the backpacking tenkara angler would want a compact rod in their kit, but I bet most tenkara anglers in the US don't have to hike very far to get to the waters they fish. The point I'm getting at is that although most tenkara rods are rather short when they are nested, and sure, this is nice and convenient, a compact rod is usually not required on most waters. The Daiwa Master Tenkara L LL36 is not a compact rod, but like I just said, most of us don't need an uber compact rod. If you decide not to try this rod just because it isn't compact when nested, then well my friend, you are just going to miss out.

So, let's start.

The Daiwa Master Tenkara L LL36 comes with the standard plastic carton that is typical for most Japanese tenkara rods. It also comes with a rod sleeve, but not a typical one. The Daiwa sleeve is slightly padded, and opens and closes with a zipper at it's top.






It's not a compact rod. Left to right: Daiwa Master L LL36, Daiwa Expert L LL36, DT Karasu 360.
The overall coloration of the rod looks at first to be black, but when you get the rod in the sunlight it's actually dark green. The finish is glossy. The rod designation area is accented with prismatic paint that looks green in some light and blue/purple in other light. It's pretty cool. This accent paint is also on the tip of the other segments, except the tip segment. Near the winding check is a ring of crackle paint done in silver and green. I'm not so taken with this accent, but it isn't too bad either.






The joints of each segment have Daiwa's propriety V-Joint. There are rings machined into the section ends help to allow the joint to bend smoothly, while also dramatically reducing the likelihood of stuck joints. I'm a big fan of these, and wish other rods had them.



The handle is high quality cork that is gourd or camel shaped. It is 32 cm long. There is a small ring of cork composite at the butt of the handle. The diameter and shape of the handle is very comfortable. In fact, Daiwa Enshou, Expert, and now, Master rods have a handle that is my favorite length, shape and composition of any tenkara rod that I've used.




The tip plug is wood with a fluted rubber post. It is really tight fitting and is actually hard to get all the way back into the rod after it's removed. But this is not an issue for me, as I remove all my rod's tip plugs and use a Fuji universal rod cap instead. A KTC-12 works great for this rod. The butt cap is gold anodized metal, has a coin slot, but no air hole. It doesn't really need the air hole since this rod only has 4 segments to collapse.

It's a very tight fit. I can't get it back in. 




The lilian is like other Daiwa rods in that it is relatively short and thick. It would be difficult to tie a stopper knot in it, but since I don't use a stopper knot on my tenkara rods (I do on some of my kieryu rods) it's not an issue for me. The lilian is brown instead of the ubiquitous red. It is attached to the tip section with a perfectly executed micro swivel. The rod can be completely disassembled for drying and cleaning.


Lilian diameter. Top to bottom: Oni Type-I, Nissin Air Stage Honryu 380, Daiwa Master L LL36.


Here are my measurements:

Fully extended: 359 cm
Fully nested (with tip cap): 101 cm
Weight (without tip cap): 76.7 g
CCS/RFI: 15 pennies/4.2



RFI comparison chart. Click to enlarge. 


Casting the Daiwa Master L LL36 is amazing. This is a full flex rod, but it doesn't feel like the Expert L LL36, which is also a full flex rod. Here's what Chris Stewart says about this rod's feel: "The Daiwa Master Tenkara L LL36 is a penny firmer than the Expert L LL36, and a penny and a half firmer than the Expert LL36. That's not the only difference, though. The Master L LL36 is just slightly more full flex. People want to equate full flex with soft, but that is not always the case. The Master is more full flex, but it is also just a little bit stiffer. If you were to cast both rods side by side you could feel it. It feels like a very efficient transfer of the energy from your arm and hand to the rod and line."

The action is full and rich, and feels somewhat similar to another of my favorite rods, the Nissin Air Stage Honryu 380. This might have something to do with the length of each of the rods segments. Both rods have only 4 segments and so when collapsed are long. The Daiwa Master transfers the kinetic energy and momentum of your forearm to the line very efficiently. I use a 14' #2.5 fluorocarbon level line with 3.5 feet of 6X tippet to test rods. To the tippet is attached a dummy #12 thread body futsuu kebari, which provides enough wind resistance to challenge my casting. If the rod I'm testing casts this line without effort, then I know that at least for me, the rod will be a well matched tenkara rod. This rod does this.

The other readily noticeable feature of this rod is how well it dampens. I have fished with rods that dampen well as well as others that claim to dampen well, but this rod really does dampen well. Even I can tell! Linear and rotational dampening is phenomenal!

I haven't fished the rod yet, as all my small streams are frozen over. I'll fish it as soon as I can, though. I was so impressed by the Daiwa Master L LL36 that I bought it.

Conclusion: I really like this rod. Is there anything I don't like about this rod? Yes, three things. First, the tip plug. It's too tight. Second, the crackle paint. It's a little thing, but I don't care for it. And third, it costs too much! Take $100 USD off and maybe it would be OK. Still, that's a lot of money! The long collapsed length doesn't both me at all. After all, I fish my Air Stage Honryu 380 rather frequently and have taken it on some short hikes as well. If I'm going to cross country trek in somewhere I'll take a different rod. But if I feel like fishing a full flex 360 cm tenkara rod, then I'll likely take the Daiwa Master. As I have said before, I'd no more fish with just one rod as I'd fish just one fly. Ah, so many great rods, so little time.

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 have no formal affiliation with TenkaraBum and I purchased the Daiwa Master L LL36 at full price. 








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