Buyer’s Guide & Information

Best Tenkara Rods Reviewed

We have reviewed and compared the best Tenkara rods. Find a top-rated model for your next fishing adventure for all budgets.

by Andrew

Buyer’s Guide & Information

Best Tenkara Rods Reviewed

We have reviewed and compared the best Tenkara rods. Find a top-rated model for your next fishing adventure for all budgets.

by Andrew

by Andrew

Tenkara fishing (fishing from the skies) is a Japanese fly fishing method that has become a firm favorite amongst anglers. Essentially, it is a far more scaled-back method of fishing that does not make use of a reel. Due to its unique nature, it requires long rods of fixed casting line lengths.

If you want to test out this famed method and maybe catch that elusive fish that's been evading you in your favorite fishing spot, then make sure to keep reading.

Preview

Product

Rod Length

Line Weight

Rod Action

Check Price

DRAGONtail Shadowfire 365 12' Tenkara Fly...

DRAGONtail Shadowfire 365 Tenkara

12 Feet

3 or 3.5 Pounds

6:4 (fast)

Tenkara USA Sato tenkara Rod (10'8', 11'10',...

Tenkara USA Sato Tenkara Rod

10'8", 11'10", and 12'9" (Triple Zoom)

2 to 4 pounds

6:4 (fast)

M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Tenkara Fishing Rod...

Maxcatch

Tenkara

8'3''/9'6''/10'6'',10'8''/11'10''/12'9'' (Triple Zoom)

2 to 4 pounds

6:4 (fast)

Wild Water Fly Fishing 12' Tenkara Fly Rod...

Wild Water Tenkara Package

12 feet

0.8 to 1.2 pounds

7:3

DRAGONtail Hellbender Zoom Big Fish Tenkara...

DRAGONtail Hellbender

11 and 13 feet

0.8 to 1.2 pounds

7:3

Why Tenkara Fishing Requires a Specific Rod

Tenkara is built around simplicity. Instead of being preoccupied with the equipment being used, Tenkara teaches the angler to focus on the actual act of catching fish. For that reason, Tenkara focus on technique and stream-craft.

Tenkara makes use of a long rod for a few reasons. Firstly, the length allows the fisherman to place the fly with precision, often in small pools that would be occupied with fish. The rod's length also allows for better control of the fly, which is, of course, handy when trying to catch a fish!

Simultaneously, the long line can help you fight the currents that may end up spoiling your drift.


Buyer's Guide: What Makes a Great Tenkara Fishing Rod

Frame Quality

The best Tenkara fishing rods are made from ultra-light, high-tech carbon fiber. It's stiff, strong, and lightweight. It is also sensitive and resistant to corrosion, making it a little more expensive than most.

Another excellent and affordable option for your rod is a graphite frame. It is also durable and lightweight, which makes it perfect for nymphing and fishing in windy conditions.

Casting Ability & Distance

When using Tenkara rods, the first thing that anglers will need to get used to is the fixed casting distance. With the absence of a reel, there is not an endless line at your disposal. Instead, Tenkara fishing requires you to be much more strategic and precise.

Usually, you'll be working with around 15 to 20 feet of fishing line, but if you want to be more scientific, the length of the line will be the length of your Tenkara rod plus/minus the handle length.

Target Fish & Fishing Environment

A Tenkara rod kit works best in trout rivers and small streams, but can even be useful in larger lakes. Traditionally, it was used to catch mountain stream trouts and rainbow trouts (Iwana, Amago, and Yamame).

Western fly fishers can also make use of Tenkara rods to catch char and coldwater trout. Examples include brook trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, marble trout, European grayling, and the Arctic Grayling fin.

Rod Length

The best Tenkara rod lengths range from 11 to 14 feet long. However, your choice should depend on the environment where you wish to fish.

If you're a beginner to Tenkara fishing, we would recommend starting with a rod of 12 feet long, as it can be used in most streams. An 11-foot rod can work in small streams with low branches. A 13 or 14-footer rod is ideal for larger streams and lakes.

Flex Profile & Rod Action/Power

The Tenkara fly rod's flex point influences its cast and action. In contrast to western fishing terms (slow, medium, and fast), Tenkara rods use numbers. This determines the closeness of the tip when the rod flexes. 

Ranking the rods from softness (slower cast) to stiffness (faster cast), the hierarchy is as follows: 5:5, 6:4, 7:3, and 8:2.

Line Choice

When it comes to line choices, you have three, although you'll mostly only find furled and level lines in the US. The three types of line are:

  • Tapered
  • Furled
  • Level

Furled lines are more closely aligned to the traditional type of lines used in Tenkara fishing. They are delicate and durable, but can sometimes spook fish with the spray they create.

Level lines are a simple length of fluorocarbon. As they can be mass-produced, they are far cheaper yet suffer in terms of durability.

Price & Warranty

Obviously, it's best to opt for an extended warranty. Some companies, such as the Tenkara rod company, even offer lifetime cover. This gives you the best value for your money, as it can cover repairs and replacements for damaged parts. You should, of course, be prepared to pay a little extra for this benefit.

But if you don't have a lot of cash to spend, there are a wide range of choices of Tenkara rods to suit all budgets, which leads us nicely on to our reviews!


5 Best Tenkara Rods Reviewed

1. DRAGONtail Shadowfire 365 Tenkara

Our Top Pick

Rod Length

12 Feet

Line Weight

3 or 3.5 Pounds

Action

6:4 (fast)

Power

Light

Pieces

1 pc.

The DRAGONtail Shadowfire 365 is the best Tenkara rod on this list for several reasons.

For one, the rod is made of graphite, making it strong, lightweight, yet surprisingly easy on the wallet. With a standard rod length of 12 inches, it makes for an excellent multi-use rod for most scenarios.

With its premium rod flex and low oscillation, this rod makes for soft, smooth, and accurate casting. It can balance pressure nicely, which allows you to eliminate any discomfort when catching fish. This is actually one of Shadowfire 365's strongest suits, as this feature is often found in more expensive rods.

With its light 6:4 action, it provides a lot of play. However, it's durable enough to catch fish measuring up to 18 inches.

As one of the best Tenkara rods for nymphing, it can help you catch more trout with the line's ability to imitate larvae/juvenile insects. Even with its superb performance, this Tenkara fly rod is very lightweight. At 2.9 ounces, it makes for better trout catching in shallow streams.

Pros
  • Best Tenkara rod for the money
  • One-time rod replacement for accidental damage
  • Camel double hump handle for better casting control and reduced handle fatigue
  • 23.25-inch compact collapsible shape
Cons
  • 12-ft length can be challenging to use in tight streams
  • Rod finish can be damaged with constant use

2. Tenkara USA Sato Tenkara Rod

Best Tenkara Rod for Backpacking

Rod Length

10'8", 11'10", and 12'9" (Triple Zoom)

Line Weight

2 to 4 pounds

Action

6:4 (fast)

Power

Light

Pieces

1 pc.

If you don't want a bulky rod to cramp your style, then the Tenkara USA Sato should be your go-to pole. The phenomenal Sato rod is named after Ernest Sato, the first person to write a chronicle about the wonders of Tenkara fishing.

As the best Tenkara rod for backpacking, it can be collapsed to a compact 22.75 inches. Weighing a mere 2.6 ounces, this rod is very lightweight. Reviews praise the Sato for its portability, allowing you to take it far off the beaten track to untouched pools, rivers, and lakes. And if you’re looking for the perfect backpack to carry your rod, be sure to check out our in-depth guide.

Despite its small size, the Sato rod is huge in performance. Thanks to its triple zoom feature, the length can be adjusted to 10'8", 11'10", and 12'9". Truly versatile, you can use its shorter length for tight streams - and its 12'9" size for bigger pools.

Equipped with 6:4 fast action, the Tenkara Sato has stiffer base parts that make for precise casting. As it is made of high-grade carbon fiber, it is guaranteed to remain durable and sturdy for years to come. For that reason, you can count on this to catch larger fish weighing up to 2 kilos.

Pros
  • Tenkara Care Lifetime original owner warranty
  • Tenkara Rod Co.'s Keep your Plug™ system prevents you from losing your plug
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
Cons
  • Pricey

3. Maxcatch Tenkara

Best Tenkara Rod for Beginners

Rod Length

8'3''/9'6''/10'6'',10'8''/11'10''/12'9'' (Triple Zoom)

Line Weight

2 to 4 pounds

Action

6:4 (fast)

Power

Light

Pieces

1 pc.

If it's your first time trying Tenkara fishing, then you should give this rod a try. It's easy to see why this is such an excellent rod for beginners.

Named as one of the most versatile poles in the market, its triple zoom feature allows you to configure it to 5 varying lengths. The shorter configurations (below 10 feet) will enable you to practice in smaller streams with overhanging branches, so you can go ahead and catch smaller (less than 12 inches) fish. As you get better and try bigger streams, you can adjust the rod to its longer lengths.

Durability-wise, this product is made from sturdy and resilient carbon fiber. This means it's also lightweight at only 3.10 ounces. It's one of the most portable too, as you can collapse it to a short 12.6-inch rod.

One of the greatest things about this product is that it's very economical. And when it comes packed with as many features as it has, it's hard to justify spending more.

With these awesome features and its reasonable price point, this rod is the best choice for new Tenkara anglers.

Pros
  • Affordable price yet superb performance
  • Collapses to a very compact 12.6-inch length
  • Cork handle allows for a good grip
  • Excellent customer service provided by M Maximumcatch
Cons
  • 1-year warranty only
  • Heavier than most Tenkara rods

4. Wild Water Tenkara Package

Best Tenkara Rod for the Money

Rod Length

12 feet

Line Weight

0.8 to 1.2 pounds

Action

7:3

Power

Medium-Light

Pieces

1 pc.

The Wild Water Starter Package has everything you need for Tenkara fishing. As the best Tenkara rod kit in this list, it comes with a fly rod, Tenkara line, rod case, fly box, and extra accessories. Everything you need to get started from day one!

The rod itself is made with a graphite frame, making it a durable choice for Tenkara fly fishing. It comes at the standard 12-foot length, which allows you to fish in pretty much all scenarios. Coupled with a 7:3 rating, it is powerful and sensitive enough for catching 6 lb trout.

As for the Tenkara line, you get a furled nylon line that facilitates easy control. With its included fly box, you can bring along plenty of flies for your fishing trip. Choose between Black Sakasa Kebari, Olive Sakasa Kebari, Tan Killer Kebari, or Black Killer Kebari, to name a few.

And when you're done, you can store it effortlessly in the cloth bag that comes as part of the kit. You can then slip it in the 22.5-inch hard tube case, which has a carry strap for easy toting.

If you're looking for a kit with everything you need to start your Tenkara journey, this is it! Just don't rely too much on the included manual, which can be a little difficult to follow!

Pros
  • Intuitive design
  • Excellent starter package
  • Good price
Cons
  • Instructions are a little hard to follow

5. DRAGONtail Hellbender

Best Tenkara Rod for Big Fish

Rod Length

11 and 13 feet

Line Weight

0.8 to 1.2 pounds

Action

7:3

Power

Medium-Light

Pieces

1 pc.

If you're planning on fishing for larger fish, then go for the Dragontail Hellbender. As the Best Tenkara rod for big fish, it can help you to reel in those impressive catches you can boast about for years to come. (Don’t forget to catch it on camera!)

This power is made possible by its 7:3 action, which can help you land fish up to 6 lbs with relative ease. With its medium-light power, the stiff bottom sections make for precise and powerful casting.

What's great about the Hellbender is that its telescopic zoom function allows you to use it at 11 and 13 feet. For that reason, you can use this for a variety of environments. Be it tight streams or more significant lakes, you can fish them all effortlessly with the Hellbender.

As the rod is made with a carbon fiber frame, you have a lightweight pole that is exceedingly durable. It's very portable as well, as you can reduce it to a packable rod that measures 24 inches long. As it weighs only 3.4 ounces, you can take this for backpacking journeys and trips where space is a concern.

The Hellbender is also very easy to use as you can set this up in under 3 minutes (some have done this under 2). Many customers praise its ease of use, with many claiming that even their children can use it to land fish!

Pros
  • Telescopic zoom function
  • Easily catches bigger fish
  • Set up in under 3 minutes
Cons
  • One-time rod replacement is quite pricey, on top of the shipping fee you have to pay

More on Tenkara Fishing

Tenkara fishing originated in Japan some 400 years ago, with the early fishermen making use of rudimentary bamboo rods with horsehair lines.

Until now, the Tenkara fishing rod has been used to catch mountain stream/coldwater trout. While it's primarily used in small streams and rivers, this fishing rod can be used in larger lakes as well.


Tips for Tenkara Rod Setup

The first step is to fasten the line to the rod. A furled line is durable, easy to attach, and makes for an excellent turnover. This, however, is not good for windy conditions. For such an environment, the better choice is a level line, which is thin and drag-reducing.

Whatever line you choose, make sure to loop it over itself before you loop it over the lillian. You can tighten this up by pulling the line.

Next, attach the tippet to the line with a clinch knot. Afterward, you can proceed with attaching the fly to the tippet, which again can be done with a clinch knot.

But if all that has gone over your head (we don't blame you), check out this easy to follow YouTube video.


How to Use Tenkara Rods - Tips & Techniques

As Tenkara rods are telescopic, the first thing you need to learn is how to extend the rod carefully, to minimalize potential damage to the rod.

First, remove the rod plug and tilt it slightly to expose the tip. Keep the rod's hard tip inside as you reveal the lillian (the braided tip of the rod). Once this is done, hold the rod handle with one hand as you pull the tip with the other. Extend fully.

Rigging the line is a little complicated to follow by reading, so follow this short video for a visual guide. Attach your preferred fly, and you’re good to go. You can even pick up a handy fly-tying kit to create your own!

To cast, bring it to 12 o'clock - then 3 o'clock - before you let the line and fly fall. Cast delicately (like what an insect would do), which can help you bait the fish.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What are spey rods?

A spey rod, which is 12 to 14 feet in length, is a long type of fishing rod. As such, it is best used when casting further distances.

Do most Tenkara rods come with warranty coverage?

It depends on the brand. Some rods do indeed come with warranty coverage (some with lifetime coverage!). Check the warranty coverage before you buy.

Who carries the best Tenkara rods?

Aside from the brands mentioned in this list, The Tenkara Rod Company and Patagonia are excellent manufacturers of Japanese Tenkara rods.

How do I clean and store my Tenkara fishing rod?

Clean your Tenkara rod segments with the use of a cloth moistened with warm water. Afterward, remove the moisture by wiping it with a dry cloth.

As for storage, retract your rod by starting with the thickest part. This will prevent damage to the tip.


Conclusion

Of the many Tenkara rods for sale, opt for a product with the best power and action. All things considered, the Dragontail Shadowfire 365 is our hands-down winner. With its 12-foot length and 6:4 action, it makes an excellent multi-use rod, which makes catching all the easier.

Should you have more money to burn, then go for the runner-up that is the Tenkara Sato rod. A favorite amongst backpackers, it has a triple zoom feature that allows you to use multiple configurations.

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