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Choosing the Best Tenkara Rod

When it comes to fishing tenkara, the number one question we are asked by new tenkara anglers is which tenkara rod to buy.

Since all Tenkara USA rods will work for most trout fishing and smaller fish scenarios it’s hard to pin each one down to a specific use or to match your exact tenkara fishing preference. 

Each tenkara rod in our lineup was developed to fill a specific niche or preference for tenkara anglers, and have somewhat little overlap among them. 

How to Choose a Tenkara Rod

Decision tree chart by Tenkara USA. Learn which tenkara fly-fishing rod is best suited to your needs.

Choosing a Tenkara Rod

  downloadable PDF

An infographic with information on how to choose the best tenkara rod.

Three Easy Choices

If you wish we offered fewer options, you can easily narrow the choices of the best tenkara rods down to 3 “all-arounder” rods: the Hane (our adventure rod, ideal if you're looking for a solid tenkara rod that is super compact), the 12ft Iwana (a great value all-around tenkara rod), and the Sato (our premium all-around rod)

These rods are very easy for us to recommend, with the other rods in the lineup being considered more “specialty” tenkara fishing rods.

If in doubt: just get the 12ft Iwana, or the triple-adjustable Sato (10ft8in to 12ft9in), primarily based on your budget.

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Bigger Fish – two more choices

We have developed two tenkara rods with more backbone if you frequently catch fish that are 17″ (43cm): the adjustable Ito (13' /14'7"), and the 13ft 6in Amago have more backbone and make landing the larger fish a bit easier. The Ito is the premium fixed-line rod, and Daniel's unabashedly favorite tenkara fly rod. 

Smaller Streams – one more choice 

The Rhodo! Named after the Rhododendron that surrounds small streams, the Rhodo is an adjustable tenkara fly rod that can be fished at 8 feet 10 inches, 9 feet 9 inches, or 10 feet 6 inches. It is a delightful tenkara fly rod that feels incredibly light on the hand at only about 2oz overall. This is the best tenkara rod to add to your fly-fishing gear if you're primarily targeting smaller mountain streams. 

Some further thoughts on how we make our recommendations on the best tenkara rods

Rod length, start here

The first question you should ask yourself when choosing the perfect rod is which length is right for the majority of fly fishing you plan to do.  Generally speaking, we always recommend using the longest tenkara rod you can get away with.  This will give you more reach, help you keep more line off of the water and give you more control over your fly (one of the main benefits of tenkara fishing).

A 12ft (360cm) tenkara rod is a very standard length for tenkara. But, if you live near pretty small streams with low, overhanging branches, then a shorter tenkara rod (say in the  11ft / 330cm range ) might let you cast and maneuver more easily under the canopy.

Secondly, the type of water

In either case, you should decide on your tenkara fly fishing rod choice based on the waters you’ll fish the most. AND, keep in mind a longer rod will have the added versatility of giving you reach in more open sections of a stream while having the ability to be “fished shorter” by holding the rod above the handle and potentially even collapsing one segment. Further, pairing a long rod with a short level line is a very effective combination in smaller streams. 


Fish size, last consideration

  • All tenkara rods are made for the average trout and other smaller species of fish: 8″ – 18″ (20 – 45cm).
  • All tenkara rods will handle the occasional 20+ incher (50cm +). So, if your targeted fish size is within those ranges, fish size should have little bearing on the rod choice: ANY ROD WILL WORK FINE.
  • If you’re constantly catching big fish that are over 17 inches (43cm), then look at the big fish tenkara rods like the Ito and Amago more seriously. 
  • As it is such a versatile rod, it is hard to make the “wrong” choice, and we guarantee you will enjoy whichever tenkara rod you purchase. 

 Read about the most popular tenkara rods here

Tenkara’s broken rod trade-in program.

Tenkara Rod Trade-in Program

If you have purchased a non-Tenkara USA rod but are interested in upgrading, please take a look at our.
We offer a 30% discount on any tenkara rod toward the purchase of one of our rods. 

tenkara rod trade-in program

For more information on choosing a tenkara rod, here are some articles on how to buy a tenkara rod for a specific location: