Your First Tenkara Rod
by Daniel Galhardo
“Which tenkara rod should I get?”
“What tenkara rod is best for beginners?”
“What should I get for my first tenkara rod?”
These are questions we have been asked daily at Tenkara USA for the 4 years we have been in business. If the world were such that there was always a silver-bullet, that one choice that would fit everyone and do everything, we would have no need for choices. Oh, how I wish that were the case! But, as people have different preferences, and fish different waters, there is a need for a different rods to exist. And, therefore there is a need for the question to be asked.
However, I want to write here that if you’re looking for a great first tenkara rod and would rather not agonize over rod choices, there is a way to keep the answer to this question simple.
For Your First Tenkara Rod, Keep it Simple
The method of tenkara in itself is what is simple and easy to learn, so all tenkara rods are great for beginners too. If you wish to try tenkara and want to choose a great first tenkara rod but not spend much time thinking about it, get one of these two rods. They will both handle the occasional large fish (say 20 inches) without much of a problem, and they will feel light on the hand.
12ft IWANA: This is a great all-around rod, great price ($157.95), average rod length, excellent action. It can be your one tenkara rod for many years to come.
13ft/14f7inch ITO: This is the rod most people eventually upgrade to. It is longer than the IWANA, and thus offers more versatility. It is a bit more expensive ($235.95), but a great value. The length of tenkara rods scares a few people, but once they start doing tenkara they realize the longer rods are an asset, and by simply holding the rod above the handle you instantly have a “shorty”.
Your first love
When asked “which is your favorite tenkara rod?”, it seems the majority of people will respond “XYZ….it was the first tenkara rod I got and I love it”.
I think there is a reason for this, the method is the main thing here. Tenkara is so different from other methods of fishing that chances are you will love the method and will likely grow fond of the first tenkara rod you chose. The reality is that if you get a quality tenkara rod you will grow to like it. Over time you may find yourself in a position to refine your preferences. Let’s say you get the 12ft Iwana, which is a great tenkara rod and our first recommendation in the majority of cases (it is also the most popular tenkara rod around), after fishing with it for sometime you may wish the rod was longer and a bit softer. At this point you’ll find out the Tenkara USA Ito (13ft/14ft7inches tenkara zoom rod) will meet that need. Or, you wish the rod had more backbone for fighting the bass you’ve been catching, then you’ll know the Tenkara USA Amago 13ft6inch will fit that need.
Also, it should be said that the rods are generally versatile enough that you’ll be okay using the one rod you choose in a variety of situations. Because they are not expensive, we often get messages that go something like this: “I have XYZ rod, but next month I’m visiting Montana, which rod should I get for that?” While there are rods that will be perfect for a certain area, and the sale of an extra rod wouldn’t hurt us, we often reply that “XYZ rod will be totally fine in that area. Occasionally you may wish for [a bit more length/a shorter rod/more backbone] so the YZX rod may be a good choice too if you’re looking for a second rod, but if you’d prefer to save some money, just take the XYZ rod with you.”
Go ahead, complicate things a bit
If you’re the type of person who really likes to analyze options before buying it, and don’t want to heed to my suggestion to keep things simple. Or, if you simply feel that you have a more specialized need, we have put together this chart and video walk-through of the Tenkara USA rods to give you a sense of what is available:
http://www.tenkarausa.com/blog/?p=2600 (video and complete blog post)
Manufacturer warranty and return policy
With the increasing number of choices out there, the one thing I’ll suggest as you shop for your first tenkara rod is that you keep replacement/warranty of rod sections in mind. As you start trying tenkara, there is a chance your rod will break, or that you quickly realize you wish you had gotten a different rod.
As I created Tenkara USA I had one goal in mind, to get people fishing with tenkara, and if their rod ever broke, I wanted to get their rod fixed quickly so they could get to fishing again right away. This would serve two purposes, the customer would continue having a good experience with the method, and the more they were fishing the more they could show tenkara to others and spread the word about the method. A broken rod that is stuffed in a closet because there are no parts available does no good for anyone. Also, if you take the rod out and immediately feel you made the wrong choice (this does not happen often at all), make sure you can return the rod and get something that better fits your needs.