Rods I Still Own and Fish (From Longest to Shortest)
Daiwa Sagiri 45MC – What a rod! This is a seiryu rod, not a true tenkara rod, but I fish it as I would any tenkara rod. This is probably the best-casting rod I own. It’s a long zoom rod (fishing at both 13 feet and 14 ft 7 in) and is great for meadow streams, lakes, and any stream with lots of casting room. (TenkaraBum | Amazon | eBay)
Tanuki XL-1 – This rod casts slow and beautifully. It’s lighter for its length than even comparable Japanese rods. I’ve fished it only about a half dozen times, but I like it a lot. (Tanuki)
Dragontail Nirvana 400 – I bought this rod on sale to replace the TenkaraBum 40 that I got tired of buying expensive replacement parts for (see below). I then ended up breaking two sections of this rod at the same time in one instance, and then a couple months later I broke one of the tip sections. Sigh. At least the replacement parts are cheap and are shipped quickly. It doesn’t cast as well for me as the TB40, and it doesn’t feel as light in the hand. It’s not a bad rod, but I’m not in love with it, either. It’s fine. I’ve kept it as the rod I reach for when I’m going after big fish. (DRAGONtail | Amazon)
Dragontail Mutant – I backed this rod when it was on Kickstarter, but I don’t use it all that much. I didn’t really need another rod in this size class, but I bought it just because it was such a good deal. I may sell it in the future, but for now I’m keeping it to use as a loaner rod. (DRAGONtail | Amazon)
Nissin Zerosum (7:3 360) – I think this might be the most expensive rod I own (retailing for $270 on TenkaraBum). It’s a really nice rod. It feels extremely crisp and accurate when casting. (TenkaraBum)
Nissin Pro Square Super Tenkara (6:4 360) – I bought this rod because I found a great deal on it on Amazon.com ($100 new with free shipping). Chris Stewart from TenkaraBum calls this a surprisingly good beginner’s rod, and I wanted to see how what I think is the cheapest Japanese-made tenkara rod feels. I haven’t fished it yet. (TenkaraBum | Amazon)
Maxcatch Mini Tenkara Rod – Maxcatch is a Chinese company that sells generic tenkara rods that are nothing special. This particular rod is unique in that it’s super short and compact and comes in at around $50. I’ve fished with it a few times, and I have a pretty strong dislike for this rod. It feels heavy and is unpleasant to fish with. This is the 12 foot version. (Maxcatch)
Dragontail Mizuchi – This is a small stream rod. I prefer fishing small streams and so use this rod for much of my fishing. The thing I like most about this rod is that it can really handle a big fish and muscle it into the net quickly. I’ve caught wild trout up to 18 inches long with this rod. If I could have only one rod, this would be it. (DRAGONtail | Amazon)
Zen Tenkara Suzume – This is a very good small stream rod that I like a lot. It is more sensitive than the Mizuchi, and I think it’s a better rod if you’re targeting smaller fish. I lose more large fish on this rod than I do the Mizuchi, however, and I’d rather not feel the occasional strike of a smaller fish than lose the occasional larger one. That’s why I currently prefer the Mizuchi for most of my fishing. But if I know a stream has predominantly smaller fish, I’ll still use this rod. I’ve replaced the stock tip section with the one that Tom Davis recommended. (Zen Tenkara | Amazon)
Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 270 – Snapped it up when I saw someone selling it used for $35. Haven’t used it. (Search for it on eBay)
Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 180 – This is a very short rod for very brushy streams. I bought mine off of eBay. Sometimes it’s available for purchase there and sometimes not. I haven’t caught enough fish on it to have a strong opinion, but initial impressions are good. I caught a 12-inch cutthroat on it, and this rod handled it! It’s a bit stiff and not super sensitive (which is why it was able to handle the 12 incher). It’s a short rod, but it’s not meant for micro fishing. (Search for it on eBay.)
Tiny Ten – This is a funny little rod that is, true to its name, tiny. It’s very stiff. I haven’t used it yet. (Tiny Ten)
Rods I Don’t Own Anymore
TenkaraBum 40 – I broke sections of this rod twice. The first was entirely my fault, but I’m not entirely convinced the second was. The rod casts really beautifully, but I got tired of buying replacement parts that were almost as expensive as a brand new rod from other manufacturers. I sold it for parts and got the Nirvana 400. (TenkaraBum)
Wild Water Tenkara Rod – I bought this rod when I new absolutely nothing about tenkara. It was my first rod. It is not a nice rod. It works. I caught ~50 fish with it. But it feels heavy and stiff in the hand. I sold it after buying the Suzume. (Wild Water | Amazon)
Cheap Chinese Rods
I have a thing for super cheap Chinese rods that aren’t tenkara rods but that can be used for tenkara-style fishing. I’ve bought these through AliExpress and Amazon.
Generic Yellow Bamboo Rods
I bought most of these off of AliExpress here, but they’re also sometimes available on Amazon from various sellers and in various lengths. I have 4 lengths of this rod:
• 180 cm – A surprisingly decent (if not necessarily good) very short rod. (Here it is on Amazon.)
• 210 cm – Never used it, but I suspect it’s also decent.
• 300 cm – I’ve used this one a couple of times for tenkara fishing, and it’s not bad. It’s not great, but it’s usable.
• 360 cm – Terrible. It’s too heavy and poorly balanced to fish well. Don’t get this rod.
Goture Breeze (360 cm)
This is the best of the super cheap Chinese rods. It’s not as good as even a $99 rod like the Dragontail Shadowfire 365 (which I’ve used several times but do not own)—much less a more expensive rod—but it’s not terrible. It’s here on AliExpress for $14 and here on Amazon for $25.
I also have the following super cheap AliExpress rods:
• JITAI Fishing Rod Length 2.5M Telescopic Rod – A super weird little pocket rod that’s like a big tube of lipstick. I’ve used it once, and it’s not a great tenkara rod replacement, but it’s a fun little oddity to try and to have in the collection.
• Ultra Light Portable Hand Fishing Rod (1.8 m) – Too stiff to be any good.
• Portable Telescopic Rod Ultra-light Hand Glass Steel Pole (1.8 m) – Also too stiff.
• Retractable Fishing Rod Carbon Fiber Lure Portable Telescopic Hand Fishing Rod (1.5 m) – Also too stiff.