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…