June 15, 2014

Oni Rod, Type III -- review

I have an original Oni rod that I really like. I bought it from Masami Sakakibara himself and it was shipped from Japan. That was nice, but since I don't speak Japanese, there was some difficulty in communication during the transaction. So when I saw that Jason Klass of Tenkara Talk was now the exclusive retail dealer for Oni rods I was pretty excited.  Jason offers three different rods: Oni, type I,II and III. I assume my original rod is a Type I Oni rod, but without the markings or the flash.

I decided to purchase a Type III Oni rod and test it out. Jason states: "With a shorter length and softer 5:5 action, the Type III is a fun rod that’s a great choice for beginners or those fishing small, brushy streams for smaller fish that need to load the rod at shorter distances. Like the Type II, it features a thicker tip section for added durability. It also features a unique camouflage EVA foam handle." Here is was I found.

The rod came from Jason in a standard triangular USPS Priority Mail mailing tube.  The rod was wrapped in bubble wrap for protection. No protective rod tube is provided.

Rod and sock


The rod is charcoal grey/black with a EVA foam handle. The handle is 30 cm long and is a pseudo-camo pattern that is sort of eclectic looking. I'm not sure why this pattern was chosen for the rod, but I must say, it is unique. The handle has a more shaped or contoured profile than my original Oni rod's, in that the Type III has a more double hump or "camel" profile. The handle is quite thick in diameter when compared to many of the other tenkara rods I have. This is not an issue for me, as I have extra-large palms, but for someone with small hands it might be an issue. The foam feels a little more compressible than the foam on my original Oni rod. Also, the Type III rod's foam has a slightly more course surface than the foam on my original Oni rod. I like both of these characteristics. I'm ambivalent regarding the "camo" pattern".

The winding check is purple anodized metal and fits tightly to the handle.

Winding check

Unique "camo" EVA foam handle

The segments have a fine gold ring accent on all but section 1, the tip section. The tip plug is black nylon plastic and fits securely. The butt cap is small, gold colored metal, is knurled and has a coin slot. A small drain hole is present. The small size of the butt cap is an issue. It is small enough that it is hard to grasp; the knurled edge does not help in any way. I suspect that this is the reason for the coin slot. Without it I'm not sure I'd be able to remove the butt cap.

Butt cap -- it is very small and difficult to grasp. Use the coin slot to facilitate removal.

Tip plug

The graphite weaver pattern

The lilian is dark red and is quite thick. It is thicker and stiffer than any lilian I have on any other rod. This makes it a little more difficult to double loop through the slip knot of a level line. I have not tried to tie a knot in this lilian, as I usually don't like lilian knots, but I suspect it could be difficult to do. The glue connection that holds the lilian to the tip of section 1 is perfect -- small, tight, and smooth. Section 1 will pass completely through section 2 when disassembling the rod.

Rod specifications: Collapsed it is 60.5 cm (with tip plug in place). Fully extended it is 344 cm. Weight is 56.3 g (without tip plug). Common Cents System measurement is 12 pennies. Rod Flex Index is 3.5.  This puts is on the slower end of the 5:5 rod range. For reference, my original Oni rod has a RFI of 3.9. That's still in the 5:5 rod range even though it bends as a 6:4 supposedly.

RFI comparison chart

As far as handling and balance, this rod feels nearly perfect. I don't think this should come as a surprise, as it comes from one a tenkara's casting masters. There is no tip heaviness and the in-hand balance causes the rod to rotate around a point in mid-handle. This is such a pleasant feel. The rod casts very similarly to my Daiwa Sagiri 39MC.

The rod flexes deeply into the mid-section when casting. The casting stroke is slow and smooth, and requires surprisingly little effort. The rod is designed to cast a very light level line and it achieves this flawlessly. It's a rod for smaller waters, so I don't think many will be casting 20 foot lines but I bet this rod could do it in the right hands. I did not use a furled line or a level line heavier than #3.5 so I can't comment on its performance in those situations.

I fished the Oni, Type III with a 9 foot #3.5 line on the upper sections of my home creek.  The water is only 4-5 feet wide, is quite shallow, and has the classic riffle-run-pool configuration of Rocky Mountain streams. The 3.4 m length of the Oni III fits this stream really well. Using a shorter line also works well in that it is easier to cast precisely into the narrow gaps in the willows.

I was able to hit some very small targets with the rod -- but bear in mind that there was no wind the times I used the rod. I think this fact makes all the difference. I like casting into 12-18 inch gaps in the overhanging willows to try to entice the lurking cutthroats. For this, I used a #14 parachute Adams. It's easy to see floating under the willows branches.  I took many 8-10 inch cutthroats with a couple coming in near 12 inches. The rod handles them well, but because of its soft, full flex action it is harder to keep the fish out of the snags when they run. A shorter line helps control the fish better on such small water.

Conclusion: I really like this rod. I'm not one for slow action, full flex rods in general, but I appreciate that they have their place. The Oni, type III is a wonderful rod for small trout in small streams/creeks, but coming in at over 11 feet fully extended it is not a rod for heavily canopied streams. Its balance is about as perfect as any rod I've ever used and it casts a lightweight level line effortlessly. It fishes very similarly to my Diawa Sagiri 39MC -- so closely, in fact, that they could be brothers. I'm not too smitten with the "camo" handle, but I don't hate it either. It's quirky. It gives the rod character. I'm sure I'll be using this rod a lot for certain streams that match its design. Thank you Jason, for bringing this, and the other Oni rods, to the USA!

Are there any downsides? Well, one is that the butt cap is too small for convenient removal. Also, it would be nice to get some sort of rod tube to protect this wonderful instrument. It doesn't have to be much, just a clear plastic tube, such as provided by Tenkara Times with their rods. I'd hate to see one of these rods destroyed during shipping.

Finally, I guess Jason emailed me regarding the sale but I didn't receive the communication. He is checking out why (for an update on this point, see Jason's comments below).

Here is a 3rd Person view video on me using the Oni, type III on my home creek:


  1. Hi Tom, thanks for the review! Regarding the email communication, I sent you 2 follow up emails regarding the shipping. One on 6/7 and another on 6/8 to see if you got the rod. Did you not get them? I sent them to the email address you provided when you checked out. Also, I do provide tracking numbers if requested.

    1. Thanks, Jason. I never received them, but it good to know that you do send email updates. Maybe I misspelled my address. It wouldn't be the first time!

  2. I own this rod and I am definitely addicted to it! Your review is excellent (as usual). When I did receive it from Japan I disassembled the rod and I did find a great difference with all the other rods I have: there was absolutely no dust within the sections. Has any other Oni rod owner noticed this fact?

    1. I haven't noticed that, but I'll look more carefully. Nice rod isn't it Christophe?

    2. This is my favorite rod, I like its smooth action with a lot of backbone.

  3. Tom, the email you entered was misspelled so you never got the automated confirmation email nor my 2 follow up emails. I can provide tracking numbers by request.

  4. I just returned from Japan and spent several days fishing with Masami Sakakibara. We talked at length about how his rods are designed.
    The grip cap is small so that when you hold the rod correctly with the end of the grip nested within your palm, the cap does not interfere with grip or comfort. Masami grips the rod pretty lightly with the thumb and middle finger. The rest of the fingers are very lightly touching the grip. We will post a video shortly showing how Masami grips the rod. It does 2 things. 1. dampens the tip extremely fast. 2. takes tension out of your arms so casting is fluid and smooth.

    Some people have wondered about why there is no smooth finish coating on the blanks. Masami said that all prototype rods are built that way and the final coatings are only applied during production runs. He feels that the coatings change the weight, balance, flex, and casting characteristics of the production rods from the prototype rods. He wants his rods to behave exactly the way he wants with no difference between proto and production.

    Grip material. Masami thinks that cork is too expensive to get the quality he will accept on his rods. He likes foam because the weight is always the same and it helps to make the rods consistent from one to the next. EVA will not degrade and break down like cork will eventually. He is striving to bring the most premium rod to the market in a value for the dollar range that is both durable and performance driven.

    The Type II and III rods are a direct result of input of tenkara anglers outside of Japan. All of his rods are hard use high performance tools. Don't be afraid to use them. A formula 1 race car that sits in a garage is nothing more than a paper weight. An Oni Rod that is not fished is the same thing. You have in your hands one of if not the best designed and manufactured tenkara rods on the market. Go use it.

    1. Thanks, John. This is excellent information. I'd like to see a 360 cm 6:4 rod from him.

  5. One thing I learned from fishing with Masami, Dr. Ishigaki, and Horimichi Fuji is that the rods each of these guys have designed are built around the rivers they each fish.

    Masami Sakakibara fishes a region of the Totsugawa River that is very technical, wide, and no or little overhead tree cover. That explains the 4m rods. The headstream is narrower with some overhead cover but mostly open. Hence the 3.4m. We only fished long lines (20-25ft) on a very wide honryu section of Mazwgawa River. Most of the fishing we did with Masami was with lines about the same length as the rods. Stealthy approach was more important than long reach. We were trout hunting.

    I did some fishing with a 20ft 3.0 level line with the 3.4m Type III. For being a relatively short rod, It casts long lines exceptionally well.