I do not need more tenkara rods. I have all the rods I need to cover the kinds of waters I fish and the kinds of fish I target. But I do want more tenkara rods.
I like alternating fishing with my different rods, and I like trying out new ones. It’s just fun for me. And like I’ve heard Tom of Teton Tenkara say a couple times (I believe once in this interview and once in this interview), I want to know for myself what these rods feel like. As much as I appreciate the rod reviews of people like Tom, I want to find out for myself what something is like, I don’t feel comfortable talking with confidence about something if I don’t have firsthand experience with it.
This comes into play when people ask me which tenkara rod to get. I get asked this at least once a week, if not more. I am not all that great of a tenkara angler, and I have not tried dozens and dozens of rods, so it always makes me a bit uncomfortable to answer questions like this, but I try to give my best answer with the knowledge I do have.
I’d read online that people seemed to like the $100 Dragontail Shadowfire 365 rod as an inexpensive first rod. The consensus seemed to be that it was a good value and a good rod, but I wanted to know for myself because I don’t feel comfortable recommending rods that I haven’t used. So last year I asked Brent of Dragontail Tenkara to loan me a Shadowfire 365 to use. I fished with it half a dozen times (it’s in this video and this video, among others) and found it to be a surprisingly good rod. It’s become my go-to rod recommendation for people asking me about what cheap first tenkara rod to get if they don’t give me any other information.
But that’s an American-designed rod made in China. What’s a good, cheap(ish) beginner rod designed and made in Japan? That I did not have a good firsthand answer or recommendation for.
I’ve been eyeing the Nissin Pro Square Super Tenkara rods (hereafter to be referred to simply as the Pro Square) for a while now. Chris Stewart on Tenkara Bum calls the 6:4 360 “surprisingly nice” and “the best ‘beginner’ rod I have ever come across.” (I believe it’s the cheapest made-in-Japan tenkara rod out there, but someone correct me if I’m wrong.) It’s a rod that I’ve been wanting to try both for my own curiosity and as a recommendation for people wanting a first tenkara rod that’s made in Japan.
It retails for around $150, but I saw one on Amazon.com listed for $100 with free shipping. That’s about what you’d expect to pay for a used one, so I jumped on it. It shipped from Japan via DHL and arrived in 8 days. Here’s the Amazon link I bought it from, but the price has gone back up to $150.
The rod arrived today. It was packaged in a standard plastic Japanese tenkara rod carton inside of a bunch of bubble wrap inside of a thick, heavy PVC mailing tube. Needless to say, it arrived in one piece.
A friend of mine has this rod in the 7:3 360 configuration. He said it’s “quite soft, but good.” Other conventional wisdom I’ve read online seems to be that a Nissin 7:3 is like most other companies’ 6:4. Guess we’ll see. I wanted to try the 6:4 because that’s what Chris offers at TenkaraBum as a beginner rod and because my Nissin ZeroSum 360 is a 7:3. It’ll be interesting to compare the two.
One other thing my friend who owns the rod mentioned is that he doesn’t like how the handle has just the one hump instead two. To quote him again:
“Really I’m just not a fan of the handle. I don’t like the single hump and how it starts to flare out again at the bottom.”
I didn’t notice this before, but he’s right. The grip at the bottom kind of just flares outward toward the butt cap. Having wiggled it around in my hand in my office, I don’t think this will bother me, but we’ll see once I actually use it on the water.
Anyway, I don’t have anything super insightful to say about this rod. I’m just excited about it and wanted to share my excitement. New gear day is always fun! I’ll be using this rod in the next month or so, so stay tuned.
Have you used any of the Nissin Pro Square rods? Which one(s), and how have you liked them?