Tenkara Tuesday - Got Wood?

With the recent testing of a non-tenkara rod going on, it got me thinking about alternative rod handles (or grips), especially as it relates to tenkara rods.

Once upon a time, Tenkara USA used to sell a rod called the Ebisu.  Some of you that have been around the tenkara scene for a while probably remember it, if not own it.   But for the newer folks, it was a 5:5 flex, 12 foot tenkara rod that was a pretty nice "do it all" rod.  

But that wasn't what made it unique among rods widely available in the US.  Rather, what set it apart (literally) was the wooden handle that accompanied it.  Some folks loved it for the extra sensitivity, others hated it for the feel in hand, but you couldn't deny that among the initial offering of domestic tenkara rods, this sucker was unique.

Woody goodness of the Tenkara USA Ebisu

Unfortunately, for those with an affinity for wooden handled rods, there really hasn't been a readily available alternative on the market since.  Now that's not to say they aren't out there...I've personally fished a Sakura Seki Rei, and have seen others write about their Nissin rods with wooden handles...but they're typically pricey and harder to find, although there's nothing wrong with spending a little bit extra and waiting a little bit longer for premium equipment.

A photo from my test drive of the Sakura Seki Rei

So when I saw an Ebisu available the other week on a used rod page, I snatched it up, well, just because...

Lightly used Ebisu in a new home

But heck, wood isn't the only alternative out there.  There's also been a rash of foam grip handles lately, and I'm not talking on cheapo rods, these are premium rods, like the Tenkara ZL from Shimano....

EVA foam grip on Shimano Tenkara ZL

Anyway, the real point to this post is to propose the question that if a wooden handled rod was brought back out on the market again by say a Tenkara USA, Tenkara-Fishing, or someone along those lines, would you buy it?  

Or if it's not wood (or cork), what's your ideal handle made of...foam, rattan wrap, tennis racket grip-tape...or perhaps you'd prefer to feel the graphite in hand without covering?  

Just curious...I like options, and I bet many of you do too...
(Although I honestly don't expect very many comments/answers on this topic)


  1. Lunkerhunt Industries has recently entered the import-export business, a natural compliment to their strong foothold in latex.

    Anyway, I'm now accepting orders for my second of four trips to Japan.

    1. Ah, may we discuss the handling of duties Mr. Vandelay?

    2. A guy like you gets a special price.

  2. The Ebisu is a great rod - perhaps my favorite. So if you ever want to get rid of it let me know.

    I will always prefer a cork or wood grip. Natural materials have character. they develop patina - they get better with age - they have heart and soul. I have the ZL and the foam grip isn't bad - it just isn't anything...it just doesn't have any character at all. I really doubt it will develop a nice patina with age - it seems sturdy enough and I think it will last but it just won't get better.

    I don't really like to tie with foam all that much - i use it occasionally but it is only utilitarian - I never enjoy using it. It works sure - but I'd much rather work with natural materials.

    I have used the keiryu and tanago rods that have no grip at all - and in fact I would prefer that to a foam handle. If you're not going to have a nice wood or cork grip then just do away with it all together. The rods without a grip fish very nicely and offer feel that you don't get with a grip.

    I know that cork grips are on their way out - it's hard to find a rod with a nice cork grip these days anyway. Most cork that you see is all full of filler. So as good cork gets more and more expensive - we'll be stuck with crappy cork and foam. Or maybe more rods will take advantage of wood as an alternative (though i doubt that).

    1. Nice, now those are some opinions. I wonder if people would like foam more if they made it look like cork... Like the picture of wood that used to show up on 1970s & 80s cars? I'm sure it could be done.

  3. Have to say I really prefer my cork grips, I also own the ZL but for the price of premium rods I really love the cork and the way it feels in hand.

    1. You'd have to think for a premium rod, cork would always remain an option as long as people pay for it.

  4. There's a reason cork became the "go to" material for rod makers over the last three decades or so - it's light - it's cheap - it's grippy - it looks great. This new "foam" fad is one thing - a marketing ploy. Am I against marketing ploys? Oh heck no. Marketing is the only thing keeping some companies afloat right now - but I am against dishonest marketing, and any company that tries to say there's some kind of "cork shortage" is just lying to move product. That said, the review the other day of that red-foam-handled rod was pretty compelling and I kinda think the red grid pattern is growing on me. In the end, does it really matter if you use a $800 Orvis/Sage/St.Croix or a snapped off willow branch? Kinda - but for me at least, the fishing is the draw - not the gear. Maybe 15 years ago it was 50/50 with the gear being important - but now I guess I feel lucky to just get out there with whatever rod I have. I almost wrote "in my hand" and thought better of it. PS - I am so glad to see Troutrageous continue, even with the move to Florida - but what was the URL of that new blog you started for Jax fishing?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Well Owl, thanks for the comment...I was looking forward to a differing opinion or something to start conversation, can always count on you. And try www.jacksonvilleflyfishing.com...it sucks, and the URL doesn't work without the www. but I'll do something with it someday.

      Anthony - Why delete your comment? I saw it, didn't think you said anything crazy.

  5. I am very curious about the "comfort" of wooden handle, I will probably try one soon.

    1. Thanks for the comment Christophe, I think you'd like it for the sensitivity...but it's all personal preference.

  6. My favorite rod to fish with was my Sagiri that I stupidly sold....there was no cork or foam....it was awesome....

    Other than that.....cork....never fished with a wood handled rod.

  7. I would like to know if there is any Tenkara rod with a bamboo handle. I remember fishing when kid with bamboo rods that we used to cut and dry. You can get a good grip with bamboo.
    Just wondering,


  8. I have an Ebisu and like the wood handle but it is too short in my opinion. Like many, I prefer cork but wood is nice too.

    What I would really like to see is a tenkara rod with a grip made out of the same material as the Vapen rods. I felt it in a fly shop and it was very comfortable. I'm sure it's extremely durable too.


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