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 Roddownloadable PDF
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.
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.
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.
For more information on choosing a tenkara rod, here are some articles on how to buy a tenkara rod for a specific location:
- Choosing a tenkara rod for the Sierra Nevada
- Best tenkara rod for Sawtooth mountain range
- Tenkara rods for Colorado, Front Range and Boulder
Frequently Asked Questions
When deciding on the right size tenkara rod, you need to consider the type of water you plan to fish in as well as your location and fishing conditions. At Tenkara USA, we usually recommend choosing the longest tenkara rod possible for the fishing conditions as this will give you more reach and help you keep more line off the water. However, if you plan to fish in very small streams with low overhanging branches, we recommend a shorter tenkara fishing rod.
Tenkara is generally considered easier than traditional fly-fishing. Unlike a normal fly rod, there is no reel or additional line. In tenkara, your line is a fixed length and is directly attached to your rod tip. As the line is attached, casting is quite simple as you only need to concentrate on the motion of the rod and line, and don’t need to handle the complexities of managing your line.
Yes, you can definitely catch big fish with tenkara rods. Although the fishing method was initially developed for catching smaller fish in mountain streams, tenkara rods are sturdy and capable of landing larger trout and other fish. If you’re looking to catch big fish, then most rods will do, but consider the Ito or Amago, the big fish tenkara rods by Tenkara USA, for the best results.
Tenkara is a great method of fishing for beginners to learn. When you’re just starting out, a furled line is a heavier line and is generally the easiest to learn casting for tenkara.
Choosing the best tenkara rod depends on a few factors, including your experience level, the type of water you plan to fish in, the conditions, your location, the size of fish you plan to catch, and of course, your budget. For guidance on choosing the best tenkara rod, read our guide to choosing a tenkara rod above.