February 17, 2017

The 5 Best Tenkara Rods?

There's a blog post out there that's been circulating for a little bit longer than a year with a very similar title to this one that I don't really care for. It's not so much the rods or companies that are recognized, it's the article's questionable evaluation of them, including calling them "American Made." Since that post seems to have good SEO qualities, it never quite fades into oblivion, resurfacing on social media every few months.

Rearing its head yet again on the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Facebook page last week, I decided to turn the tables and ask the group members what they think the five best tenkara rods are. You know, real feedback from real tenkara anglers. A few models (not exactly five) were mentioned, which I'll highlight below.

I would like to note that it appeared as if many people replied with a lean towards value or "beginner" rods. Not that there's anything wrong with that, just thought that context may be helpful.

Tenkara USA Rhodo & Sato

Image Courtesy: Tenkara USA

Multi-length zoom rods seem to be quite popular for their versatility. Many people commented not only on the utility of these brother & sister models (the Rhodo being the shorter of the two) but highly recommended purchasing a rod with good warranty service behind it.

Jeff noted: "I have had my TUSA Rhodo over 4 years now, almost always use it all the way out. Great customer service!"

Kyle added: "I'd most definitely get a warrantied rod with a good replacement part service. TUSA, Badger, Dragontail. All top notch prices with good company backing."

Oni Type III

Image Courtesy: Three Rivers Tenkara

A small stream legend, the Oni Type III packs premium performance into a camo-handled package. I hear you can't catch a brook trout and drink a beer at the same time without one.

Adam wrote: "The Oni Type III is basically the most amazing Tenkara rod in production for small to medium streams. I wish someone had told me to skip the bulls**t and the mediocre stuff and go straight to that rod early on."

JJ followed: "Oni III is an amazing rod for sunfish, I'll never use it for anything else." 

Nissin Fine Mode Kosansui 270

Image Courtesy: TenkaraBum

Referenced as part of a great "kids starter kit," this capable rod is far from a toy. The short length of just under 9 feet fully extended also makes it extremely attractive for those who favor tight, bushy streams.

Bruce said: "I picked up a "kids starter kit" for my daughter two years ago and she hasn't looked back since! The Nissin Fine Mode Kosansui 270 that was included with her kit is simply an awesome rod. It's a slightly heavier penny rating than I usually prefer, but the slightly thicker tip section, shorter length and ULTRA LIGHTWEIGHT really shine brightly in a rod that's so inexpensive"

Patrick added: "I have a Nissin Pro Spec360 7:3 and a Nissin Fine Mode 270. They cover 90% of the fishing I do."


Badger UNC  |  Image Courtesy: BadgerTenkara

A few additional rods were recognized in the Facebook post, however without much color as to their merits, so it's hard to single them out like the others. They were the Shimano Keiryu Tenkara ZLNissin Pro Spec360 7:3Badger (now TAO) UNC, and Badger (now TAO) Bad Axe. We'll call those honorable mentions worth researching yourself.

Actually, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that as a retailer, TenkaraBum was referred to several times as an excellent resource of quality tenkara rods.

Erik offered: "If you want a good rod, contact Chris Stewart (TenkaraBum). He can sell you many varieties of rods that will all be good."

In the end, while the models listed above may or may not actually be the best tenkara rods, at least I'm confident that when somebody reads this synopsis (and hopefully chooses to do further research) they won't be steered in a totally wrong direction.

Have a favorite tenkara rod not mentioned? Feel free to list it in the comments below. Give a good enough reason, and maybe I'll add it to the article. For those interested in my personal choices in rods, check out THIS post from last summer.


  1. My top 5 favorite rods as of 2/17/2017: Tanuki 425, DRAGONtail HELLbender, NISSIN Royal Stage 360 7:3, Tanuki 325, and Oni Type I. I am sure this will change in 6 months or so but that is my current 5 rods I will most likely use over the 25+ other rods models still own. I use these rods in Southeast Idaho, thought that might be helpful.

    1. I know, the list keeps on changing the more rods you fish, right? I love the Hellbender down here in Florida (but I think you know that already). You put together a nice rod there!

  2. I just ordered a $14 Tenkara rod on Amazon. We'll see how that goes and if it propels me to one of these you mentioned.

  3. The Rhodo is an awesome rod! I don't even own one but borrowed it off a buddy to take as something different/backup rod for a couple backcountry fly fishing trips I guided last summer. Without fail, the newbies favored the Rhodo for the smaller stream fishing we did...

  4. Badger UNC, affordable, good customer service, fits most fishing environments, a joy to cast and fight small to medium sized fish... Don't leave home without it!