April 26, 2013

Suntech Suikei GM 39 Rod -- review

(UPDATE: This rod is now called the TenkaraBum Traveler 39. Also, the original butt cap has been replaced with a solid one-piece plastic butt cap. So, it will not fall apart like mine did in this review. ) 

I had a chance to fish the Suntech Suikei GM 32-36-39 rod and I want to give you my impression.

The Suntech Suikei is another of the zoom rods from Suntech. Like its more stiffer and faster sibling, the Field Master, the Suikei can zoom from 320 cm to 360 cm to 390 cm just by pulling out the lower two sections. However, compared to the Field Master there are a few noticeable difference with the Suikei.

The Suikei comes in a typical Japanese plastic carton. There is a simple but effective rod sock included. The rod is lightweight; it weighs 60.5 gm.

Superficially the two rods look very similar. The Suikei however is a little longer when collapsed, coming in at 54 cm. Also, the Suikei is a little narrower through its handle and lower sections. This, I assume, is in part why the Suikei has a slightly softer action compared to the Field Master. The Suikei has a Common Cents Scale rating of 18, 21, 21.5 for it 3.2m, 3.6m, and 3.9m configurations. This gives it a Rod Flex Index of 5.8, 5.8, 5.5 respectively. The Field Master is stiffer at 7.5, 7.2, 7.2 for the same three lengths. The Suikei acts like a 6:4 rod while the Field Master is a stiffer 7:3. But one thing the be aware of: this rod's RFI may fall within the 6:4 range but it is a stiffer 6:4. If you like soft action rods, then this rod may not for you.

Field Master (left) and Suikei (right)

Rod Flex Index (RFI) chart

Cosmetically, the Suikei is charcoal with metallic flecks. The handle is the lower section of the rod and is covered with a very effect slip-resistance coating. This works well both dry and wet. The Suntech brand and symbol are right in the handle, just the Field Master.


The lilian, red material, is attached with a micro-swivel. It is nicely done; no frayed edges or glue globs.


As previously mentioned, the Suikei can zoom twice and therefore be fished at three different lengths. The lower three sections of the rod have printed on them their individual length. To fish at 320 cm leave all the lower section collapsed  360 cm, extend the appropriate segment; 390 cm, all segment extended. It's pretty simple and effective.

This rod, like the Field Master, does not come with a tip plug, but rather, it has a universal top cap. This protects the rod very well as is unlikely to get lost or fall off. The butt cap is rubber and rounded. It has a post with two O-rings that capture the two zoom sections effectively. There is also some friction tape on these two sections that help keep them tight when collapsed.

Fuji KTC-12 top cap
Butt cap

The rounded rubber portion is glued to the metal

Fishing this rod is a pleasure. Since it has a slightly smaller diameter handle than the Field Master it can be a little fatiguing to hold for long periods of time -- if your hands are extra large like mine. I suspect for most folks that would not be an issue.

As I mentioned above, the casting action is within the 6:4 RFI but feels on the stiffer side of other 6:4 rods I have used. Interestingly enough, its RFI numbers are lower than the Iwana-12 but the Suikei feels slightly stiffer. I think this may be due to difference in the bend profile. The Suikei is stiff in the lower section with a flexible tip. This may also be why it does so well controlling fish in currents. The rod casts best in the 3.2m and 3.6m, but does fine in the 3.9m as well. It does feel a little tip heavy when in the 3.9m configuration -- but I have found that this is common with most zoom rods; they balance better in the shorter configuration.

I used a #4, 12 foot line with 24 inches on 5X tippet. Casts were accurate. The casting stroke is brisk and crisp. This is not a smooth, slow casting rod, but it's not as stiff and brisk as the Field Master either.

I caught brown trout ranging from 8-13 inches, in water of moderate gradient and fast current. The rod handled them without any issues. I could even pull the larger trout up current and guide them to keep them out of snags. All-in-all this is a very nice rod for this type of fishing.

Net hoop diameter is 12 inches 

One issue arose while fishing. The rubber portion of the butt cap separated from the metal portion and must have floated down stream without me knowing. I tend to hold my rods low, with a portion of my hand covering the butt of the handle. Maybe some side pressure popped the rubber cap off, I don't know. Since the metal portion of the butt cap was still in place the segments didn't fall out -- that's nice. I took a picture of broken butt cap and sent it to Chris right right from the streamside. He emailed me back that he'd send a new one right away.  Now that's great service!!

Conclusion: I like this rod. It has a pleasing brisk action, if you like moderately fast rods, but it's not too stiff so to not be able to feel the rod load. Its light weight is wonderful and its collapsed length is good for travel. I could wish the handle was a little wider in diameter but that could be modified if desired. The zoom feature is really convenient for streams with varying degrees of canopy, or if you wanted just one rod to cover most off streams/rivers you may fish.

If you would like one of these rods, contact Chris Stewart at TenkaraBum

Here is a video of these fish:


  1. Tom
    When reading your review, I agreed with everything, especially about the casting and comparison to the fieldmaseter. I was also going to warn you that the butt cap on mine fell off on the first day..... I have that same picture. Hah!
    I guess we both like to hold the rod the same way.

    Chris took care of me just the same.
    Thinking that the glue they use isn't compatible with the rubber. Already thinking that I may try to replace it with a bonded/pressed in piece of wood.

    Anyway, great review.


    1. Thanks, Phil. Sounds like we have found a manufacturering defect. One rod with the defect may just be random, but two rods make a trend.


  2. I exchanged the Field Master for the Suikei since i didn't like the feel and action of the Field Master. Haven't fished the Suikei yet but looking forward to it. looks like a winner for backcountry/hike-in trips where you might different size rods.

    1. Karel,

      This rod is not as stiff as the Field Master, but it is stiffer than the Ito. Fish it as such. It is not a delicate casting rod.


  3. Aaaaand the rubber plug fell out of the replacement butt cap this afternoon. Happened again after an hour of fishing. There's no hope without some stronger glue.
    May just find a replacement.


  4. Great first hand report along with the added information from the Rod Flex Index. Now to figure out if this is a rod I want to add. Will need to figure out some solution to the butt cap problem. Thanks.


  5. Hi I fixed my plug with ZAP Gel before I lost it and have not had a problem . I like the rod a lot . It is becoming my go to rod . The zoom is spoiling me. It is a leader .

  6. I pulled off my cap trying to unscrew the plug. There was only a small amount of silicone glue holding it in. A problem easily remedied.

    I have limited tenkara experience, but I'm enjoying fishing with this rod. The zoom is very helpful. Love the no cork grip.

    1. It seems to be a great rod otherwise. I'll fix my replacement plug when it comes.


  7. Hey Tom I'm a nymph guy like you. Do you fish mainly a #4 level line with this rod atvrod length? And what line would you recommend. And how has a tapered furled line handled with this rod if you used any?