I recently was able to borrow a Pocket Ninja rod from Tenkara Tanuki. This rod has been out a while and I've heard some good things about the rod. Jason Klass blogged about his impressions of the Pocket Ninja, as did Anthony Naples. They both gave positive reviews.
Luong Tam, owner of Tenkara Tanuki, sent me some thoughts of his regarding the goals for the Pocket Ninja. He states, "I am traveling about 30 to 50 thousand miles/ year for fishing, hiking, trade shows, and fishing related events. I like to drive on backroads and there are many fishing streams run along those 50 thousand miles. I also do a lot of backpacking and hiking, high mountain stream fishing in Eastern Sierra to catch wild native trout like the Golden trout, Lahontan cutthroat. Most of those high mountain stream fish are not bigger than 12”, except on the outlets from lake where I can catch 20” monster horse race monster brown. More importantly, I am a member of Oakland Casting, Golden Gate Casting Club, Long Beach Casting Club, and Pasadena Casting. It tells you, how much I am interested casting, and also I do spend more time casting than catch fish. The casting ACTION FLEX is the most important to me.
Design philosophy: Convenience : it fits inside glovebox, it is easy to access “while driving” for the roadside fishing or on the hiking trails. It is a fisher best friend. The rod much be compact, light weight, and ergonomic. Casting experience and Playing high mountain native fish is more importantly than controlling a big fish.
The Challenges: The Pocket Ninja development are in rod casting ACTION FLEX, playing small fish FLEX, and strength for handling the good size one in sloppy water of the Sierra. The rod is designed for catching 10" mountain streams trophy. The rod can handle, a big fish, when needed. For example, the biggest fish was 22” wild rainbow in Yellowstone National Pack, 16” grass carp in Italy(early this month), 16” wild rainbow in fast water in Yosemite.
I have been working with the rod engineers for a few years and testing the rod at trade shows, fishing related events, casting club. The prototypes were in my glovebox for more than a year. It is safe to say a few thousand fish were caught on the roadside streams. I fished with all kind of fly from #10 tungsten bead head to #20 Midge in winter."
So that gives you some idea of what kind of thought and sweat equity that went into the design, and manufacturing of the Pocket Ninja. This is no off the shelf, repainted Chinese rod. This rod is special.
Here is what I found:
The Tanuki Pocket Ninja 11' comes in a plastic rod tube, along with a nicely designed rod sleeve. The overall coloration is carbon black, with a glossy finish. The surface of each segment is unsanded, so there are the prominent ridges of an unsanded blank as you would expect. The walls are thin and deform slightly under moderate squeeze pressure, but not nearly as much as the segments of the Nissin Pocket Mini rod.
There are prominent accents on the tip portion of each segment, excepting the tip segment. These accents are Tanuki classic hunter orange, and really stand out. If you are unfortunate enough to drop this rod while hiking, you'll have a good chance of finding it again; those orange accents seem to almost glow!
The handle is 20 cm in length and is made of a non-slip material that works well both wet and dry.
The tip plug is gold anodized metal with a nylon insert. It fits snugly, but not completely, into the handle segment of the rod. It has a loop of lilian material running through it. The butt cap is anodized metal, has a coin slot and decompression hole. The edge is lightly knurled and there is an O-ring to keep the cap in place.
The lilian is red and is joined to the tip segment with a perfectly executed glue joint (see photo below). The entire rod can be disassembled for cleaning and drying.
Here are my measurements:
Nested (with tip plug): 33.5 cm (13.2")
Extended: 317 cm (10.4')
Weight (without tip plug): 60 g (2.1 oz)
To see the RFI comparison chart in detail, click HERE and request the link.
As far as using the rod, the Pocket Ninja is balanced nicely, and has a quick, moderate flex action. Tanuki states that the Pocket Ninja has a slow or soft action, but I disagree. The Pocket Ninja has an RFI of 5, which puts is solidly in the moderate flex action range. A soft action would be like the Tanuki XL-1 (an excellent rod and one of most favorite tenkara rods) which has an RFI of 3.9. An RFI of 5 is not slow or soft, it is moderate. The numbers bear that out.
Now, I'm not dissing the Pocket Ninja, it's a very nice rod, with an excellent action. In fact, I prefer rods that have an RFI of around 5; it's my perfect flex action. With this flex action, the Pocket Ninja casts a tight loop, has a brisk and confident hook set, and has great control when fighting fish. I didn't hook anything large on the Pocket Ninja, but Anthony Naples did. Go back and read his review again. Nice brown!
I fished the Pocket Ninja on a moderate sized stream and caught small cutthroats. The rod threw my unweighted kebari perfectly. The Pocket Ninja is a little short for the stream I tested it on, but all my small streams are frozen over. In winter you do what you've got to do!
Here is a video of my on-the-water test:
Conclusion: the Tenkara Tanuki Pocket Ninja is a very nice rod! It meets all Luong's design and function goals, as far as I can tell. It has thoughtful design, excellent materials, very nice fit and finish, and spot-on function. It would be an excellent rod for someone on the go, traveling, biking, backpacking, or as a second carry rod.
I don't care for the trademark Tanuki hunter orange accents, but that's a personal thing. Also, I am disappointed that the rod is billed as a 335 cm (11') extended length, but is actually much shorter at 317 cm (10.4'). I believe all the slip joints shorten the rod, but again, this is just a minor complaint and shouldn't be interpreted as that big of a deal.
So, if you are in the market for a non-zooming, very compact, high quality fixed line rod, I don't think you can do much better than the Tenkara Tanuki Pocket Ninja!
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 incentive or compensation from Tenkara Tanuki, and there was no expectation of a favorable review of this product. I was loaned the Pocket Ninja, and I returned it after this review.