Why Do I Buy and Fish with Super Cheap “Tenkara” Rods?

There were a couple of interesting comments on the last blog post wondering why I bothered with super cheap tenkara rods, referring to the bargain basement AliExpress and Amazon rods that I sometimes fish with (and that I talk about more in this video). Steve said:

What I don’t understand, at least in my view, is why bother with buying the cheap Chinese sticks. I know they’re $8-$12 or whatever, but why waste money on them? Now I think they would be an excellent pick if you wanted to hand a tenkara rod to someone who’s never fished before, or even better, a young child to teach them the basics and not worry about the inevitable rod breakage.

And Bill said:

I would agree with Steve. Why bother with a cheap, fish okay,rod when you have really good quality tenkara rods to fish with. Wouldn’t you want to have a good experience and time on the water with something you enjoy and have fun fishing with?

I see people online saying that they’ve fished with these super cheap rods and that they can’t tell any difference between them and the more expensive rods made by more well-known tenkara rod companies. I also see people online saying that these super cheap rods are complete garbage and are not worth trying. So who’s telling the truth here? There is no value in me parroting whichever point of view that conforms to whatever bias I may already have. I want to find out for myself.

With the Tenkara Addict YouTube channel, I have what I believe is the largest active tenkara audience in the English language (and it’s certainly the largest one not controlled by a tenkara rod company). I take that seriously. I get asked multiple times each week about what rods to get. Sometimes these people have $300 to spend on a tenkara rod. Sometimes they have $10. Not everyone in the world has the same fishing budgets you or I do.

So let me directly answer the question. I try out all of these super cheap rods because…

  1. I want to be able to give an informed opinion about these rods to those who ask me.
  2. I want to show people that you can get out and catch fish and have fun on a very tight budget.
  3. I’m personally curious about them.
  4. It’s fun trying new gear.
  5. It’s boring for me to fish the same great tenkara rods over and over. I’d rather fish ten different $10 rods one time each than the same excellent rod ten times.
  6. They make fishing a creek I’m very familiar with (which, again, can be boring) more challenging and interesting.
  7. They add variety to the YouTube channel.
  8. I believe it makes me more well-rounded tenkara angler.
  9. It makes me more appreciative of the good rods when I do get back around to fishing them again.

8 thoughts on “Why Do I Buy and Fish with Super Cheap “Tenkara” Rods?”

  1. No matter what you do today , someone will always have a negative reaction. I think what you do to help low income people get into Tenkara fishing I great , keep up the Tenkara Addict videos …..they’re very enjoyable..

  2. Right on Tristan. What is the harm in trying new things? After 35 years of my fly fishing (not all tenkara) I still try to have something new (rod,fly,stream) each time I go out. Keeps it interesting and you never know when you will find a hidden gem! The problem is that tenkara, as a sub set of fly fishing is subject to the same prejudices as other branches of the sport.

  3. Now I understand your thinking and I agree with you. I also have fun with my Uxcell rod and catch fish with it as well. Thank you for your specifics.

  4. First off, let me say that I wasn’t trying to be negative or critical about your choosing the cheap Chinese rods that you review. I didn’t realize your intention was to give budget options to some people. Now that you’ve made that clear, I get it. I think I’ve watched all of your Tenkara Addict videos from day 1 and I really enjoy them all. The only one, (and I may be wrong here), where “budget friendly” was implied was your review on the Dragontail Shadowfire, a nice rod. Before tenkara came along, I’ve fished a lot of cheap rod and reel setups and found that most of them worked, but for me, were not as enjoyable as the better quality gear and made the valuable time that I had for fishing not as satisfying. I viewed the videos on the cheap rods as more of a “let’s see if this rod can catch fish” kind of thing. Again, not meaning to be negative or critical, just expressing my opinion for conversation. Keep up the great videos, I love watching them every Saturday morning!

  5. Amen. Enough said. On a side note thanks for the promptness in filling my yarn order. I love the new u v colors. My two year old grandson caught his his “ fish on a tenkara rod” last week in bend Oregon where we were visiting. Thanks for all your great work Suv and tenkara

  6. Hi Tristan!

    I am the polar opposite of you.

    I would rather spend all my time with one rod, one good rod. And learn it.

    But that’s just me. It’s the same thing with friends. I would rather spend all my time with just one getting to know him or her rather than a new meeting with new friends.

    Also, on making a web site, opposite, include everyone, pay tribute to the community and not just what I like.

    Y comments are not critical of you, just a contrast of different approaches.

    I think if I were to offer advice to new tenkara anglers, I would send them to a old Japanese tenkara angler like Dr. Ishigaki and the HouTube channel Master Tenkara.

    Your channel does serve a purpose and I appreciate your making it. It’s nice, I visit from time to time and I like it. What’s not to like? You enjoy tenkara, you edit great videos.

    But we are two vary different people and approaches.

    Variety is the spice of life, seems fitting.

    Take care and have fun!

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