Should be re-titled: The 5 Best Japanese Tenkara Rods - Available on Amazon
Either way, a good discussion starter, so let’s do…
The 5 Best Japanese Tenkara Rods - That I Own(ed) and Fish
Oni Type I
Oni Type III
Nissin Oni Honryu 395
Nissin Royal Stage 320
(although I’m sure the Zerosum or Airstage of similar length are killer rods, I don’t have either )
Shimano Pack Tenkara
Honorable Mentions: TenkaraBum 36, river peak KIWAMI 33
3 more I’d like to fish but haven’t - Nissin Zerosum (see above), Sansui Red Sniper 33, & Suntech Kurenai. Shimano BG Tenkara looks fun too, so make it 4.
Hate to say it, I didn’t care for the 2 Tenryu rods I owned/fished. Just not for my style, but I do that sportscar red color!
Anything Fujiyru. Their 5:5 rods are exceptional and the 6:4s will tackle just about anything. I have the 330 and 360s in both 5:5 and 6:4. They cast both nymphs and kebari equally well.
I believe an element that needs to be brought into this conversation is the difference between Rod Makers and Rod Builders - being that the Makers build the Rod Blanks themselves that their Rods are made with. Whereas the Rod Builders Rod Blanks are bought from other companies, which can be made to the buyer’s specifications but more often than not are not held to that high of standards.
While ONI Rods are considered to be some of the best rods available, he falls under the Rod Builder category because Nissin makes his rod blanks for him - probably to his exacting specifications.
The manufacture of rod blanks requires the use of expensive and complicated equipment that is generally beyond the resources and technical knowledge of small resource startups without an engineering staff. And, probably, some of the people who design and build some of the best rod blanks available do not even fish. What ONI brings to the rod building industry is an unmatched knowledge of what is needed to bring out the best fishing capabilities that can be built into a Tenkara rod for the Japanese Fishing Environment but not necessarily the US environment. But, I would expect over time some American Tenkara Rod Builders (Makers?) will produce superior Tenkara rods for our fishing preferences and our much bigger fish unique to this continent…Karl.
Like @dpnoll said, any of the air stage Fujiryu rods, Oni 1/3, Oni honryu (I have the 450), Gamakatsu Suimu Ex (5.0 for me), Daiwa Master Tenkara (L LL36), and I do love the Tenryu rods (just don’t love the handle shape). I guess that’s 6.
I think" best "is quite suggestive depending on what type of rod you like. Over the years I have gravitated towards soft full flex rods, mainly because I only fish single unweighted flies. If you love to fish beadheads or double nymphs you probably will like a stiffer, faster action rod. That being said, my favorite rods are from shortest to longest, Nissin air stage hakubi 240, Nissin air stage fuji-ryu 330 5:5, River peak 330 6:4, Nissin zero sum 360 6:4, Daiwa sagari 390 seiryu. The best rods are the ones that put a smile on your face.
Best casting: Oni type I
Best under 360 cm: Nissin AS Fujiryu 330 5:5
Best soft 360-380 cm: ASF 360 5:5
Best fast 360-380 cm: ASF 360 6:4
Best contact nymphing: ASF 360 6:4
Best 390-400 cm: TB40
Best 400+ cm: Gamakatsu Suimu 5.0
Best big trout: Gamakatsu Suimu 5.0
Best pack rod: Shimano Pack Tenkara
Best keiryu: Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori 53
Best seiryu: don’t own any anymore.
Best tanago: Daiwa Soyokaze 270
*subject to change.
I feel bad since I only have 5 of the rods on your list.
Actually your parting wish has already happened. Oni collaborated with Nissin to manufacture two lengths of the Zerosum based on his experiences in the US, optimized for US western rivers and fish. Nissin Oni Tenkara Mainstream is made in 390cm and 450cm. Definitely beefed up in the lower sections compared to my Zerosum 400 7:3. I own the 450, big waters, big fish, no problems, love that rod!
I must be slacking off, you have a rod that I don’t @tvdavisid!
The sexiest tenkara rod in all of tenkaradom right there…
My favorite rod is the Suntech GMR Special 360 and also comes with a 350 tip; a seiryu tip rod with a powerful butt, it will handle about any size fish under 20 inches and has too. A bit of overkill on native dinks but anything over 10 inches is fine and fun. Rather a fast rod.
My other favorites are the Fujiryu, I have most iterations, lovely rods.
Oni type 1 with a bamboo grip although all his rods are quite nice, the guy knows his stuff.
Anglo and Company Wasabi 36.
Daiwa LT 39 and 44 for real big fish.
There are a lot of very nice rods out there , and my list could go on and on, but over the years these are the ones I fish most.
Probably the one rod I most regret selling. I didn’t appreciate it for what it was when I had it. I agree, it was noticeably faster than expected for a seiryu rod.
I also agree with you about the Oni 1 and I have three of the Fujiryu rods. While I only purchased it this winter, I also have a Nissin Zerosum 7:3 400cm that I can really see myself enjoying. The couple of times I’ve gotten out to cast it on the water, it’s wonderful.
Even though it’s generally unavailable now, I’d also add the DT Karasu 360 to the list.
Indeed, very true.
For me, it also greatly depends on an individual’s casting and fishing style. While you and I seem to enjoy similar rods, I’m guessing we’d also agree others may not like them. Which is why I think it’s great there is so much choice out there. And what makes a topic like this so interesting to me to read.
Partly, it comes down to the point of, who has the right to judge or determine what the best rod or manufacturer is for another person? As an, albeit, vague example; I can think of at least 3 rather popular rods that have ardent fans that I really don’t like. However, I don’t think I have the right to make that judgement for someone else as much as they don’t for me. I’d rather see people excited about what they like and not criticizing others for what they like.
There are so many great rods out there that it’s hard not to find at least 10-15 rods. Rod designers and rod makers have really set the bar high for the future. I agree with everyone on the rods you have selected. My selection of rods would be:
- Oni 1 and 3
- Nissin Royal Stage 320 (6:4)
- Nissin Oni Honryu 395
- TenBum 36 and 40
- Nissin Fujiryu 33 and 36 (5:5) *** Yes, I know I selected 8 rods, I cheated. ***
I have many other great rods but it always seems these are the rods I have in my hand when fishing.
fun topic @troutrageous1 there are so many great rods out there. I have settled on 4 for my use and I admit they might not be the best I have ever cast or owned but I have decided to stick with them…
- my primary rod - Shimano Pack Tenkara
- bigger water longer line and unweighted flies - Fujiryu 360 6:4
- bigger water might need weighted flies - Nissin Royal Stage 360 6:4
- smaller water tight cover - Badger Sliver Creek
I still own my Oni Type 3…and not ready to part with it but I rarely use it…at this point the Shimano Pack rod is like an extension of my arm…
Tom Davis - Interesting that you choose the TB40 as your best 390-400 rod. Even over the Nissin Oni Honryu 395? I own the TB 36 & 40 and like them a lot. They are in my top 5. But I don’t own a lot of rods. No Onis for example. The other rods in my top five are Riverworks and Tanuki. What elevates the TB40 above the Oni Honryu in your experience?