February 10, 2015

Tenkara Tuesday - Big Rods & Saltwater Tenkara

Welcome to Tenkara Tuesday...

I receive a lot of emails asking me for a recommendation on which tenkara rod one should use to target saltwater fish. I think the assumption is that since I live in Florida, I use tenkara tackle on larger "Florida" species like redfish, snook, speckled trout, cobia...who knows, maybe even jacks and tarpon. Heck, there was even a comment on yesterday's shad post about if tenkara could be used to combat a shad run.

I want to snap your tenkara rod in half...maybe thirds...

Personally, I don't intentionally use tenkara on larger fish. Never have. And it's not because I don't think you can. Rather, it's just not what I'm looking for when I fish tenkara. To me, tenkara rods are for trout, or trout sized fish...bass, bluegill, etc...in small streams or creeks. Yes, you can catch BIG trout with them, but for me, that's been the exception and not the rule. I'd rather use a reel on the big guys. I like reels, especially the sound they make when there is a substantial fish on the other end.

(I'm not defining your tenkara, I'm defining mine. At least at this instant in time...which is always subject to change).

However, if you do want to use a fixed line rod to try and catch larger and/or more salty species, I think that's awesome! As such, I compiled a few rod recommendations over time to possibly answer your rod choice question. Many of them have been supplied by people with some first-hand experience with mostly big fish tenkara.  So in no particular order...

Tenkara USA Yamame
While not the longest rod in Tenkara USA's lineup, the Yamame is advertised as having the most "backbone" which is a pretty important trait when it comes to muscling around heavy fighting fish.  I've also heard of anglers that opt for the Amago, which is slightly longer, although perhaps not as stout.

Image courtesy: Tenkara USA

Zen Fly Fishing Kyojin
This rod is a pig, pure and simple.  I had the pleasure of handling a Kyojin last Fall in Colorado and this is one stout rod.  With an 8:2 flex rating and an extended 40" handle, this is a two handed beast of a spey-kara rod. The diameter of the graphite blank alone will make any other tenkara (or fly rod) look like a toy in comparison.

Note: The Kyojin rod has been updated since this original post and is now a 6:4 flex.

Image courtesy: Zen Fly Fishing Gear

Riverworks Tenkara Monster Series
I've only seen this rod in pictures.  I don't even know if you can buy one yet. The Monster Series is a 14' split grip two hander...perhaps one of the most unique tenkara rods I've ever laid eyes on. That's really the only reason why I posted it...this thing could be killer in the right hands. 

Note: The Riverworks Monster rod has changed dramatically since this original post.

Image courtesy: Riverworks Tenkara

All Fishing Buy UNAGI Series
You may not be familiar with All Fishing Buy, but they've been offering fixed line fishing rods for quite some time. They were actually one of the first resources to sell tenkara rods domestically. They advertise their Unagi rods as able to "land big fish such as Steelhead, Atlantic Salmon, or even Striped Bass."  I selected these rods from their many offerings as they are advertised as tenkara rods, even though the site also offers other larger fixed line rods intended for other forms of big fish fishing.

Image courtesy: All Fishing Buy

Daiwa Kiyose 
The Daiwa Kiyose comes in a couple different flavors, but the two I'm going to mention here are the 43M and the 53M.  The 43M is a very versatile zoom rod, with fishable lengths at approximately 12.5 and 14 feet.  For those who have handled a tenkara rod before, it's probably the model you'd be most comfortable with in hand.  The 53M is the next size up, and it is a substantial zoom rod that fishes at approximately 15.5 and 17 feet.  And when I say substantial I mean it, check out the grip...

Image courtesy: TenkaraBum

Please note, these are only suggestions. A few rod options to perhaps point you in the right direction. Other than the Yamame, I've never fished any of them, but they all appear to have specs that line up to be able to handle themselves in on big fish, even in the salt.

At the end of day, the only thing I'd really recommend is that if you are going to take tenkara "BIG" do your research and choose a rod that you can easily obtain replacement sections for should it happen to break. It's also good form to always follow the manufacturer's recommendation for tippet size. It's only fair should you plan on using their warranty service.

Heck, the tenkara community is a pretty small one, if you find a rod you think might work, try emailing the retailer directly, I'd bet they'd give you their honest opinion if it's the right rod for you and your target species.

Are you a big fish tenkara angler? What rod do you use and prefer? 
Would love to hear your first-hand recommendations in the comments below...


  1. Tenkara on a Tarpon, now that would be funny.

  2. I believe Carlos Blatt, a tenkara/kayak angler from Brazil, catches tarpon on fixed line rods. I think he calls them baby tarpon, but tarpon, non the less. He fishes for them among mangrove forests.

    1. http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/flytalk/2012/05/tarpon-might-be-ideal-tenkara-fish

    2. Thanks for including that Tom. I've read that article in the past and almost included the link in the post myself. They are definitely little tarpon...but I'm sure a blast on tenkara!

  3. Tarpon, carp, and fish that can gain some size, I'm certain would be one heck of a battle on a Tenkara rod. While not too familiar with the performance of these rods, I would think they would be out gunned by the big fish, unless you're in a kayak and able to go for a sleigh ride to tire the fish enough to get them under control.

    1. I don't believe a tenkara rod could handle a tarpon. At least not a tarpon of size, like what you're talking about. Other fish...I think these mega tenkara rods could at least give it a go. There are anglers pushing the limits, particularly on carp.

      Here's a video of some carp tenkara. http://youtu.be/IWSVd2kDm4Y

    2. That was pretty wild! Those were some big carp. I did not think a Tenkara rod could handle something like that.

  4. The Kyojin has been updated several years ago. It is a 6:4 flex and has a FRAE Rating of an 8wt. The Zen Taka is also a huge contender as it has FRAE Rating of a 7/8wt (we sometimes say a 7.5wt), has an extra long fight handle and is a zoom rod fishable at 13ft and 15ft. Paired with a Zen Performance Tip this rod can almost go head to head with the Kyojin but is long, sleber and graceful to boot. Zen is the original big fish tenkara rod designer for sure.

    1. This post is almost 7 years old. Thanks for giving any new readers the updated specs.

  5. I'm going after Rooster fish on my 17'6" Rodzilla from wasatch tenkara. Pike, Drum, steelhead, carp, flathead catfish, muskies have been caught on Rodzilla so dar.