How do you chose a rod?

I’ve been curious how people pick their Tenkara rods, and what it takes to find ones they really like.

Let’s say you’re looking to add another rod to your quiver, what’s the first factor you think about. Where do you start your search, and what factors help you narrow down your options. And in the end, how does the rod you ultimately chose stack up to the rest of your quiver?

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For example, when I started looking for a new rod last fall it was because I wanted to fill a length gap in my quiver, but I wasn’t looking to change much else (tippet rating and action were the same as the rest of my rods).

I checked out my options on TenBum, Dragon Tail, and maybe a few other brands and then picked out all the rods that filled my length gap while not deviating too far from my preferred action or tippet rating.

Once I had a list of rods that fit the above pattern, I start thinking about price and repairability.

My final pick was a toss up of 2 rods.

However, when I first started out I was interested in exploring rod action. So in those searches, the first factor I considered was: have I tired that action yet? And then I might have had some slight preference for length or tippet rating.

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I’ll be honest the more years I fish with a tenkara rod the more I love a soft soft rod. I have some stiffer rods, 20 penny rods if you want to call them stiff! My sweet spot is about a 10 to 13penny rod with a mid to full flex Im in heaven with a rod like that! Which gets me to why my last two rods I got were the dragon tail fire fox (for my son) and dragon tail mutant. Iv never owned a dragon tail rod before so I didn’t know what to expect, so research was needed. I checked penny ratings and flex index and both seemed to be something I would like, mid to full flex soft rods. And they are I’m really enjoying the mutant. I would have to say it’s the best on the market Chinese rod for light level line I’m very impressed with this rod. That being said my choices really always come back to I what I personally like to fish, I was fishing two rods today and the first rod was better for the waters I was fishing but I kept bringing the mutant out bc it was more of what I liked to fish with and it gave me more joy. So I would have to say yes I do looks at penny ratings, flex charts etc… but really it comes down to what makes me happy when fishing more then anything when I’m choosing a new rod. As for how I knew I liked a soft full flex rod over a tip flex rod… well that came about by buying to many rods hahah I guess there is good and bad in that but really if you only fish one rod you only know that rod, but if you fish lots of rods you start seeing what type of rods give you the most fun out of your fishing experience.

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When I first started I bought a flurry of rods and experimented. Mostly a diverse selection to explore the extents of fixed line fishing.

Saltwater and freshwater. It was fun and educational.

These days I have little curiousity about rods and only have three that I use. The reality for me is that rods matter little in being effective as long as they are dependable…and if they are, you dont need another rod.

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For me, I look at several factors. The first is to consider the many types of water and fish I pursue: alpine lakes and streams, large blue ribbon rivers, brookies to bass, to carp to goldens. I like to match the rod to the situation, and the situation will often dictate the desirable rod characteristics: compact for backpacking, long rods for bigger rivers and lakes, stiffer for contact nymphing, keiryu rods for keiryu fishing, tiny rods for brushy creeks and tiny fish, long light rods for small fish in clear/open water, strong rods/tippet ratings for BIG fish, etc.

I also have personal preferences, which is trending toward full flex rods.

I enjoy premium and unique rods.

I also fill in “gaps” in length/penny ratings of my quiver and do a lot of research on specs and reviews.

I ask for opinions and insights from those I trust.

I generally prefer the lightest/longest rods for a given situation.

I like to have premium rods for “special situations” and workhorse rods for “everyday (ab)use”.

I like collecting rods.

I enjoy catching fish no matter which rod I have in hand.

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I’d like to give a Thank You! to @Tea_and_Tenkara Guenther for starting this thread. I’m not sure if there are older threads that have addressed this but this has me thinking about my overall rod preferences and how they apply to a new rod purchase I am considering for a specific purpose that quite frankly there aren’t a lot of opportunities for locally.

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Everyone who has responded has mentioned important considerations in choosing which rod to buy but, no one said anything about how much rod weight matters to them. It matters a lot to me, because lighter weight rods are, inherently, a lot more fun to fish with.

My rod buying decisions are based on the intended fishing the rod is to be used for, which primarily involves the fishing environment, conditions and the species of fish being fished for. Are you going to fish tight little streams for little trout or big open rivers for salmon and steelhead? Or ponds for bluegill and bass and/or high mountain lakes for trout? Roughly, these are the factors I think are most important in rod selection in their order of importance:

  1. Rod Length
  2. Rod Action
  3. Rod Weight and Moment or How Tip Heavy the Rod Is
  4. Penny Rating
  5. Grip or No Grip Rod Preference
  6. Take Down Length - If you are a Backpacker, this may be your # 1 consideration.
  7. Cost
  8. The Rod maker’s reputation for making high quality rods.
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This year I am attempting to simplify things so that I can pick up my quiver with 2 rods in it and be ready to fish anything from brushy blue line streams to bigger streams, and ponds, and high mountain lakes, and the broad range of fish sizes that go with them, being able to cast small dry flies, bead head nymphs and good sized streamers as well, with only those two rods.

Rod # 1 is the Dragontail Fox Fire - 200/240/280, which works out to be 6’ 5 3/4" and 12.5 pennies; 7’ 10 1/2" and 12.0 P, and 9’ 2 1/4" and 10.5 pennies for very tight streams through fair to middling streams. Usually with Zoom Rods, as additional rod blanks that are added to increase rod length, will increase stiffness as well. But because the Fox Fire is a S-Glass and Graphite Composite Rod, sections 1 & 2 are Graphite, while section # 3 is a Graphite/S-Glass blend, and sections 4, 5 and 6 are all S-Glass. This gives the rod more of a tip-casting action in the shorter lengths for getting your fly in to tight spots. But even tight streams open up in places, where the water also slows down, making gentle presentations highly desirable if you want to catch fish. And the slower action helps a lot with that. The take down length is 22 1/4" with the rod cap on. The rod weighs 2.79 Oz. The S-Glass is considerably heavier than graphite is but the weight is not bad on a rod this short. The Rod Flex Indexes are: Short to long, 6.3, 4.9 & 3.7. Trout season opens the last Saturday in April here, so I have not fished the FoxFire rod yet but I am looking forward to doing so.

Rod # 2 is the earlier Suntech version of the TenkaraBum Traveler 39 rod, which is a 320/360/390 Zoom Rod that actually measures out @10’ 2 1/2" and 18.5 P/ 11’ 5 1/2" and 21 P/ 12’ 7 1/8" and 21.5 pennies. The take down length is 21" and the weight is 2.1 Oz. with out the tip cap. The moment measurement is 6.2 @ 39, so this rod is a little Tip Heavy at its longest length, but not bad. The Rod Flex Indexes are 5.5 @ 390, 5.8 @ 360, and 5.8 @ 320 as well. I really love this rod.

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I have a similar approach for my “emergency fishing kit” that I keep in my car at all times as I travel the state. These are also my only American company rods…not expensive, easy repairs, durable(?).

Foxfire
Mizuchi
Hellbender

I just recently acquired them. I like them and I won’t be afraid to put them through hard use. They cover a LOT of typical situations for me. They are less “refined” IMO but I don’t mean that in a bad way. They will be my utilitarian workhorse rods and will get used a lot. When I go to remote wilderness locations that are “special” to me, I will have my JDM rods that I have emotional attachments too. They just feel right to me when I’m in my happy place.

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Great topic!!!

I have only been doing this fixed line thing for a few months, and had zero experience fishing with flies, but I had been bass fishing my entire life, where it is common to have specific rods for specific techniques. As such, I try to find the perfect rod for whatever technique I am trying to fish.

For me, perfect is generally the lightest, longest rod I can comfortably fish, with an action and power appropriate for the fly I am using. To help me get thru the learning curve faster, I ordered a bunch of rods from Chris at TenBum as soon as I found him.

I thought that I preferred full flex rods with a cork grip. Even after ten outings with the Traveller 44, fishing two tungsten nymphs on 7x, I thought I preferred full flex and cork handles.

Then I broke my Traveller on a stupid hookset into a snag. No problem, I pull out my Oni Honryu 450 and instantly discover that the lighter Traveller with no cork transmits a lot more info, especially fighting larger fish.

I must have broken off a dozen fish on the Oni Honryu with 7x before I gave up and went to 6x. After another session, I realized that with the Traveller, I could feel the fish’s movements and head shakes a lot easier which resulted in me giving or taking more with my arm when the rod/line is maxed out. Fishing my new Traveler 44 confirmed my theory, I am using my arm a lot more on the 18"+ fish than I first realized…

I’m currently trying to find the perfect rod for contact nymphing. I love the Traveller 44 and have been very successful with it, but I feel like I could use a little more power to turn fish without having to pull on them and a little more strength so I can use 6x tippet without as much risk to the rod. I have been trying to get used to my Fine Power 66, but I can’t seem to fall in love with rods that long, as much as I want to…

So, I ordered a Kaname III 43; I’m hoping its slightly lighter and more powerful version of the Traveler. I prefer to read a bunch of reviews, watch a few YouTube videos, and then make a decision, but I wasn’t able to find much about this rod and since the specs made it seem like a better version of a rod from a manufacturer who makes a rods I love for that technique, I decided to have Chris order one for me…

Also thinking about trying a 5m rod to see if I can get the best of both worlds in terms of 6m reach but 4 m weight; not sure which way to go since I don’t love my Fine Power. Thinking Sawanobori, but it seems pretty stiff for fishing the thinner tippets that produce more for me. If the Kaname performs well, I Amy end up trying one of its longer lengths if I can get one…

always fun to talk about fishing rods, especially on days when I couldn’t actually fish…
Harry

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@Harry I have the FP 43, the sawanobori 53&72, NP 66, Oni honryu 450, and the traveler 39/44. I don’t typically need/use 7x except on my seiryu rods.

I like the FP 43 for contact nymphing! It is super light and sensitive, but it is stiffer (25 Pennies) than the traveler 44 (19p). It is rated for 5x vs 6x and should be “more capable” as Chris states, but I would venture to say that it will not protect 7x tippet nearly as well….although it sounds like you plan on using 6x and should provide a wider safety margin.

I really, really like my oni 450, but the full flex profile isn’t quite as efficient for contact nymphing, although I do it regularly. It feels more at home with unweighted flies and longer lines.

The NP 66 is a little more unwieldy for sure compared to the other rods mentioned. I would like to try the NP 56 to have a better comparison to the sawanobori 53. The NP66 is definitely softer and feels more “wobbly” than even my sawanobori 72, but that’s by design and not a flaw.

The sawanobori 53 is one of my favorite rods. Don’t let the 32 penny rating fool you into thinking it’s too stiff. With the added length, progressive flex, and softer tip, I would be more confident protecting light tippet with the 53 than the FP43. I use the 53 one handed most of the time (choking up a little and bracing the butt on my forearm, but I enjoy using it 2 handed) and find it to be very sensitive and despite being heavier at 3.2 oz vs 2.1 oz, the softer tip makes it feel more relaxing to cast to me than the FP 43 (I think partially due to the 43’s narrow grip too), at least with unweighted kebari. It takes a little more to get it moving, but the tip does more of the work after that. It’s a little hard to explain how the momentum/inertia/flex affects the casting stroke, but I LOVE the 53. It easily handles double tungsten nymphs and yet it’s very/more versatile and is a joy to cast with a level line and kebari. I always use 5x with it and have caught some VERY respectable fish and have never been broke off with it…and I think 6x would be nearly as effective.

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Like many, I began with a blind buy of the only rod I could find locally. It was ok given how very little I knew.
But after a year long absence while I explored and learned a lot about euronymphing, I came back and found that I liked tenkara fishing more but wanted a much lighter weight rod.
Eventually I came to decide that for the waters I like to fish I needed two categories covered, headwaters and main rivers. Genryu and honryu.
I greatly prefer very light rods, with a softer flex rod for headwaters while a lot more backbone for the larger waters.
As has been so often my fate, I have been blessed by the good fortune to meet experienced and generous teachers, both here and in Japan, and had the opportunity to cast a number of rods eventually finding my perfect fits.
For me, that was how I chose the rods I fish. Basically “here cast this, how does that feel?”
It’s the method I now recommend for choosing a rod and I always repay my teachers by offering my rods to anyone I meet considering a new rod.
(As it turned out, all Nissins, from an AirStage Hakubai 240 up to a Zerosum Oni 450.)

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Well said @jamezu. Weight is also a big factor for me….and I have many Nissin and Suntech rods, as you probably know. I also made the transition to Tenkara from euro nymphing. To me it was “more of a good thing” with longer, lighter, and more sensitive rods. It was also a no brainer considering the amount of wilderness backpacking I do. I have loaned many of my rods to folks that were brand new to Tenkara or only had a rod or two that they got off Amazon or the rare fly shop that had one. Fishing them side by side is the best way to learn what you like. That is one of the biggest reasons I have so many. To me it is the best way to understand differences and preferences. It forces me to learn and understand, but for now I the rods, which is almost as fun for me as learning how to entice the fish.

In fact, I have 4 more NEW rods waiting for me at home today:)

I fully understand why some folks want to own or fish a couple rods and be intimately familiar with them. That’s what I planned on initially, but the more I learned about the rods, the more I wanted to experiment. Perhaps I will gravitate to just a few rods, but for now I feel like I have lessons to learn from each one of them.

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Hi Harry. You can tap into the inherent sensitivity of your rods with grips by changing the way you hold the rod - put your first finger tip on top of the rod blank in front of the grip to see how much more feedback you will get…Karl.

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All great stuff, I love it!

I’m so tempted by the Sawanabori 53… I keep telling myself to wait until I fish the Kaname, but I may have to bite the bullet and order the 53…

The grip dilemma is interesting. I actually started with a finger on the blank just out of habit, and felt like it was the best way to cast for a couple of months as I honed my technique on local ponds.

As I transitioned to Euro style nymphing with my Tenkara/Keiryu rods on the River, I quickly started to favor the grip style holding almost the butt of the rod as it allowed a much wider variety of casting and aerial mend options without compromising my elbow near my side arm position on my cork grip rods.

I felt like with a finger on the blank, I had more tailing loops and general issues with rig tangles. Although, I think finger on the blank is better for me when doing the standard overhead Tenkara cast with a weightless fly.

I’m going to try to transition to finger on the blank when fighting fish that feel over that 18” class to see if that helps on the cork rods…

Let’s hope my daycare is open so I can “work” from the River tomorrow and put this stuff into practice :smile:

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When throwing weighted flies (especially 2 fly rigs), I will either just use a lob cast or an oval/Belgian cast to avoid tangles and that “jolt” on the back cast. It’s much smoother and less hassle/tangles that way.

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To follow up, I think the descriptions on Tenkara Bum are very accurate and a great resource for choosing a rod.
The description for the Kaname III 43 led me to believe it would be a better option than the Traveller 44 for throwing two weighted nymphs to larger fish.

After twelve hours on three different rivers over four days, I think the Tenkara Bum description of the Kaname III 43 is perfect. The grip didn’t seem much smaller than the Traveller 44, and is only noticeable to me when trying to stabilize the rod in 20+mph wind. The biggest surprise is that I loose significantly less fish with the Kaname 43 versus the Traveller 44 fishing 7x fluorocarbon. I thought breaking off less fish was a fluke observation, but after another three outings my limits have been expanded considerably with 7x…

Interesting to compare the Kaname III 43 to some of the newest Contact Nymphing rods, seems lighter and more powerful for significantly less money; albeit parts may be more expensive and harder to come by…

So, the most important question, which rod to buy next, Mutliflex or Sawanobori?

Harry

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Here is Some expert Casting input Video on the finger on the rod blank casting and other related matters continued in parts 2, 3 and 4: