Tenkara rods are pretty easy to understand yet at the same time trying to decide on a rod can be a bit confusing as well. In this post we will cover what the new or experienced tenkara angler needs to know when making a rod selection.
Tenkara Rod Basics
Historically, tenkara rods were made using sections of bamboo to create a rod allowing the Japanese tenkara angler to easily carry his rod into the high mountain streams yet give him the opportunity to fish in a very effecient manner, thus increasing his daily catch rate. The benefits that bamboo gave the traditional tenkara angler were very diverse therefore making it the optimal material to use.
Benefits of Bamboo
- Availability of material: Bamboo grew rampantly throughout Japan.
- Strength to weight ratio: Because it has vertical fibers running the length between each node, bamboo is amazingly strong for what it is.
- Nestability: Because bamboo is hollow, with a bit of work, smaller diameter pieces of a rod could be fitted into larger diameter sections, thus allowing a rod builder to make a 12′ rod fit into a 32″ package.
With the advent of modern materials such as fiberglass, graphite or even carbon fiber, extremely light and responsive tenkara rods are being made that will give a tenkara angler a level of perfection never seen until now. The majority of the available tenkara rods available on the market use on of these materials although there are some rods still made in Japan which still use bamboo, although it appears it may be a dying art.
Benefits of Modern Materials
- Availability of materials: The production of modern materials takes a fraction of the time it takes Mother Nature to create the same amount of bamboo.
- Strength to weight ratio: Engineered materials such as graphite have decreased the necessary weight without sacrificing strength.
- Nestability: Manufacturing allows for smaller tolerances in sizing as well as consistency.
Selecting a Rod
When selecting a modern tenkara rod there are few major points of confusion. But, there are some specifics a beginning tenkara angler needs to consider when buying a tenkara rod.
- Rod Length: Rods typically start around 12 feet in length and graduate up to approximately 15 feet. The tenkara angler should choose a rod which will give them the maximum reach for the waters they typically fish. If the angler is fishing small streams a 12 foot rod should be perfect. If the angler is fishing larger waters then a rod with more length will be more appropriate.
- Rod Strength: Tenkara rods are not weight rated like a western rod and reel. When looking at tenkara rods an an angler will not find a one weight or even a 10 weight rod. What the tenkara angler will find are rods of different diameters with a corresponding backbone to target different sizes of fish. We, here at TenkaraGrasshopper Guide Services, suggest a mid strength rod, such as the Tenkara USA Sato rod to target 90 percent of the fish most anglers will catch.
- Fixed Length or Zoom Rods: Most tenkara rod manufacturers offer two styles of rods, one being the fixed length rod which extends to a maximum length with no additional adjustability, or a zoom rod that starts at one length and has one to two sections that can be extended thus offering the angler up to three rod lengths in on package. Examples of fixed length rods are the Tenkara USA 12 foot Iwana or the Tenkara USA 13 foot Amago. Examples of zoom rods would be the Tenkara USA Sato or Tenkara USA Ito.
After considering the above three points, a tenkara angler should be able to make a fairly quick decision on what rod to purchase. We have found that the best suggestion we can give a new tenkara angler is to start around 12 feet (i.e. Tenkara USA Iwana or Tenkara USA Sato) before moving on to longer and heavier rods (i.e. Tenkara USA Ito or Tenkara USA Amago).
With experience a tenkara angler will eventually grow his or her rod collection from one to many. Trust us on this point as we speak from experience.