Red Wiggler fishing with a tenkara rod

I know fishing with red wigglers/live bait isn’t Tenkara, but it sure is fun with the grandkids. I first learned about this fishing from the tenkarabum website and purchased a Royal Stage Syunki rod to fish for bluegills and perch in the summertime on local ponds and creeks. This rod is fantastic and it makes a bluegill even the small ones fun to catch, were talking about small fish feeling like nice size bass. I have caught stocker trout with it but you had better get them to slow water as quick as possible or you may be fighting the fish for a while but the rod is rated for 6x tippet, its just a very soft rod, that casts like a dream, slow and smooth. Side casting, vertical casting, and even roll casting with this rod is easy. I would only use light level line though because with a 15ft line of 2.5 the tip begins to flex. Its not for everybody but for the little ones and even me its a big plus when the trout are being finicky. I haven’t left a body of water yet without catching at least 40 bluegills with this rod. Alton

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I think you are correct. Bait tenkara is a fringe activity. But it is a method sometimes written about.

You can find some information about the practice or fishing method on the internet.
It is called Esa-tenkara or Bait-tenkara. エサテンカラ。or エサテンカラ釣法。Esatenkara fishing method. (chōhō).

There is a Japanese guy, 伊藤稔さん, Itō Minoru-san. I recall seeing his name before.
Who published a vhs tape in 1999, with the title : エサ・テンカラの世界, World of Bait Tenkara , or some translation close to that.
AmazonJP Itō Minoru’s World of Bait Tenkar vhs

And he published a book in 2001, 零釣法のすべて, Complete Zero Fishing Method, I guess. (actually called Iso fishing I think)
That mentions esa-tenkara in the book.
エサテンカラのスタンス, Esa tenkara stance
エサテンカラのキャスティング, esa tenkara casting.
エサテンカラのドリフト, esa tenkara drift.
エサテンカラのポイント, esa tenkara points.
Maybe you can see the page in this look inside feature of the book. However, it seems often the internet wont always take you to the same pages on subsequent visits. But if it does, the above phrases can be seen on the opening page, and on the next page, scrolling down. Actually you can scroll up too. Esa tenkara seems to be discussed from page 87 to 91. Perhaps more. The pages before and after are skipped in the sample pages.
Itō Minoru’s Complete Zero Fishing

Your grand kids won’t be interested in any of that. But maybe you wont feel like your breaking some taboo knowing about it.

Fishing with children is always a trick.

I taught my 5 year old how to tie flies. Then we took them to catch bluegills. She loved it.

Not that there is anything wrong with bait fishing, but both disciplines are accessible to children especially with bluegills.

As we know bluegills will eat just about anything. Who hasnt been entertained by how a bluegill will charge and devour a small piece of stick thrown on the water…or worse a perfectly placed wad of spit.

I love catching bluegills, especially the smallest. One of my streams has a lot of the tiny panfish in the
fall. So much fun catching those, creek chubs, fallfish, and the mini large mouth bass that are only 3" long.

Iso fishing is completely different. Iso is “island” and iso fishing is salt water fishing.

零 is “zero” and the technique is actually called “zero fishing.” Zero fishing is a niche within keiryu fishing (mountain stream bait fishing) that uses a small hook, the least amount of split shot needed to get the bait down to the fish, very light, thin line and a very soft rod that both protects the light line and also gives enough that the fish will feel no tension on the line after it takes the bait. Trout will indeed spit out live bait if they feel tension on the line. I had initially though that the name was for zero tension on the line, but now I think it is more than that. I think the name “zero” is because it is an attempt to add nothing (zero) that would affect the completely natural drift of the bait.

The closest I have come to that is fishing with a red wiggler, no added weight at all, a size 2.5 tenkara line and a soft tenkara or seiryu rod. Casting upstream or up and across. The 2.5 line has enough line sag that it will allow a fish to take the worm without feeling tension from the rod. The line straightening is the indication of a take. With no weight at all, the worm almost never gets snagged on the bottom, but you can only fish relatively shallow water with no weight.

In ponds, I find a very slow retrieve yields the same strike indication.

I have not read the book, but only because I cannot read Japanese.

Bluegills is fun with the kids and by myself as well as they tend to be more aggressive than trout. I got a Royal Stage Syunki 450 from TenkaraBum and it makes fighting them a real pleasure. A modest gill will bend the rod in half nearly.