If you’ve never heard of the revolution tenkara fishing has caused in the fishing world than you might need a quick breakdown of why so many anglers in the west are flocking to it as the next big change in the angling world.
Tenkara fishing strips fishing down to only the tip, fly, and line moving away from the excess of the sport towards a cleaner and simpler aesthetic. Tenkara relies on precision and tenkara rods are some of the most lightweight around, while also making themselves known as some of the most durable.
No wonder that so many small stream anglers and high altitude hikers are getting excited by this movement.
If you’ve decided to try tenkara out than you’re going to need a specialized rod to do it with. Tenkara rods are durable, lightweight and can easily collapse into a backpack or luggage.
You need to find the rod that best suits you, and it can be overwhelming at first when you look at the wide array of options available to you on the market right now. You need a rod that’s going to be flexible and strong, but also delicate and firm. A tall order for any rod and finding the best one for you can seem a bit tricky.
Luckily, you’ve come to this guide where we will take you through five of the best tenkara rods currently available on the market. We’ll also show you some of the features to look out for, and answer some of your questions on tenkara fishing and tenkara rods.
Top 5 Best Tenkara Rods
OUR TOP PICK
If you’re a beginner searching for the best tenkara starting rod available than look no further than this versatile light option from Tenkara USA.
This rod includes triple zoom technology developed by Tenkara USA which allows you to adjust up to three lengths, so you can make sure that your rod is best suited for whatever conditions you encounter.
It’s perfect for smaller and medium streams and the adjustability of this option lets you match your ability to length, making it a great option for beginners. The rod is capable of catching fish up to 15 inches, and you’ll find the casting smooth and effortless.
The rod is relatively short in length which is why it’s so good in smaller, tighter streams, but you will find it’s capable of holding its own in wider open streams too when set to its full length. The rod plug is designed to stop you from losing it thanks to the Keep You Plug system which lets you remove the plug from the top section and insert it into the bottom end.
The gear ratio is 6:4 which allows for very fast action, while the tenkara line holder lets you wind up the line very quickly once you’ve finished fishing, and this is an excellent model for holding flies in your hand thanks to the useful notches.
The rod includes a 20-meter tenkara line, which is great if you’re looking for visibility and offers perfect casting stiffness
- The telescoping feature really lends you more flexibility
- Perfect for tossing in the back of the car and traveling with
- Can still land large fish even with no reel
- Multiple lengths for different casting conditions
- A little heavy compared to other tenkara rods, but this is only very marginal
- Super lightweight design allows for a precise, versatile casting ability
- Triple-Zoom allows adjustment of rod length to 10'8", 11'10", and 12'9" for varying stream sizes
- Handy Tenkara rod plug comes in a set of two
- Comes with new Tenkara USA hard rod case
- Collapses down to a mere 22.75 inches (57.78cm) length
This American made rod is perfect for catching small or medium-sized fish up to 17-19 inches deep, stylish with soft action weighing in at only three ounces this rod is easy to transport and made from IM graphite which is responsible for its durable, strong build and its lightweight.
This is the perfect rods for anglers looking to embrace the minimalist ethos of tenkara fishing while netting some large fish.
This rod is perfect for slipping into your backpack thanks to the rod collapsing down to only 20.5 inched. With a hard storage tube you’ll find that you forget you're even carrying the rod it’s so easy to carry around.
Set up takes around 3 minutes as the rod has no reel which makes rigging incredibly efficient and easy, and you’ll be able to elongate your fishing time with such a short set up. This rod comes with a complete starter package which is great if you’re looking to get into tenkara fishing, even if you’re a complete angling novice.
One of the items included in your starter kit is an EVA foam holder which will reduce fatigue and keep you out on the water for even longer. There’s also a Moonlit line included, so you can go fishing at night which can be a magical experience for any angler, beginner, or advanced.
The rod can even go up against larger fish if you need it to, thanks to its nine segments offering an amazing range of versatility.
The inclusion of features like the thin swivel tip lillian of this rod allows it to be easily taken apart to perform maintenance or to clean the rod, as the tip allows for the rotation of your lillian and swiveling your line.
The grip has also been well designed in a classic hump-shape which gives you a nice range of comfortable grip options depending on your preference and need.
- Well-constructed and durable
- Very portable
- Capable of dealing with a large range of fish
- Full starter kit great for novices
- HIGH QUALITY ROD - The Shadowfire 12-ft Tenkara Rod is comparable to other mid-tier rods that are priced much higher. IM 10 graphite is strong yet lightweight and can handle medium sized fish.
- COMPLETE STARTER PACKAGE - Includes everything you need to start tenkara fly fishing: 3 soft hackle flies, ultra-premium American made furled Moonlit line, tippet, an EVA foam line holder, storage tube, and stylish rod sock.
- SET UP IN UNDER 3 MINUTES - Tenkara fly fishing is all about simplicity. With no reel, you can rig up quickly and hit the water. No need for tons of expensive fly fishing gear.
- CLASSIC TENKARA ROD - The Shadowfire is 12 ft long and 2.9 oz light. With 6:4 action and 8 segments, this fly fishing rod gives lots of play, but is strong enough to give an experienced angler a fighting chance against larger trout.
- BACKPACKER FISHING FRIENDLY - The Shadowfire Tenkara Rod collapses to 23.25 in, which makes it easy to fit into your backpack for fishing the backcountry, or as a general purpose travel fishing rod.
If you’re not looking to spend hundreds on your rod, but still want something that’s good quality and capable of doing the job than pay attention to this rod from Maxcatch.
A great one for those on a budget, this tenkara rod doesn’t break the bank but still performs at a high level. It’s made from carbon fiber making it strong and durable and with the proper care and maintenance could easily last you for years.
Incredibly light, this rod has options depending on size to either to divide into 9 segments in a telescoping body making it super easy to compress and pack, or simply fits neatly inside a backpack. The large range of options means you can choose the best option for you, your style, and your size so you can find the best rod for you.
The 12-inch cork model for example displays excellent casting and is very comfortable in the grip, so have a look at the individual lengths and what their specialties are.
The rod is made from carbon fiber which lends this rod its strength and lightweight, but the small tip also makes this a very sensitive rod which will help you detect even very small bites. The tip also makes this rod precise as even a small rotation could hook you a large trout.
This is a great option for a novice as the rod weighs 4.2 ounces, perfect to get you used to casting and the rod has the capability of keeping up with you as your skills improve. The AA handle is also extremely comfortable and can help you fish for longer.
- Great for beginners
- Excellently constructed and comfortable to use
- Can handle all sorts of sized fish
- Easily portable
- The telescopic design needs to be handled with care
- ONE-YEAR-WARRANTY and LifeTime Repairing Warranty – Maxcatch as a 13 years fly rod factory, offer “No Hassle” warranty for all our rods for one year. If you are not 100% satisfied with our rod, you can return it in any time. And we also offer lifetime repairing for Maxcatch rods.
- EXCLUSIAVE MAXSPIRAL II BLANK TECHNOLOGY – Pure IM8 30T carbon fiber. With mixed 5 layers of carbon including Horizontal reinforced UGG carbon layer for 20% improvement in presentation and strength.
- PROGRESSIVE TAPER and 7:3 ACTION – Ultra-light weight but strength is not compromised at all. Offering great battles when hooking smaller fish while staying strong enough to put up a fight for larger fish.
- COMFORTABLE HANDLE and SWIVEL TIP – Comfortably fit with hand Cork Handle for better casting control, Swivel tip on the rod keeps your line from getting tangled.
- BACKPACKER FRIENDLY - Collapses to 21.3", making it easy to fit in your backpack and take on the go. Also be a great option to be a backup fly rod for small water.
If you’re looking for a full starter package then this Wild Water rod might be just what you need. The rod measures at 12 foot and the starter package comes with basically everything you’ll need to get started including a storage case for your rod, flies, and custom box to carry your flies.
The rod is made with IM8 graphite material making this a very durable little number that can stay with you for a good few years at least. You can divide the rod down into 9 sections and weighing only 3.4 ounces you won’t even notice if this is in your backpack.
All the sections of the rod can be easily stored in the rod’s butt section and the whole thing collapses down to bout 20.5 inches. The rod is slow action and easy to handle, and the grip is in the western-style and provides excellent grip and the included rod sock makes storage incredibly easy.
Foam spool is included in your starter pack so there’s plenty of line storage with this one, the line is 10.5-inch line up to tenkara standards and it’s easily visible even in low light, giving you some real versatility to when and where you’re able to use this rod.
You’ll find set up times are around 10 minutes, and the rod handle has an aluminum cap that prevents you from losing any of your rod sections and contributes to easy set up when you need it. This is a very portable option, and if you like to be out on the go it’s worth considering.
Suitable for most skill sets, this rod offers a lot of fun for a good few years and any angler would be happy to have this in their kit.
- Very portable and lightweight
- Great starter package
- Easy setup
- Durable and strong
- Perfect for a variety of skill levels
- The instructions in the box may be a little confusing. If you get stuck, there are plenty of videos on YouTube that will help you set up for the first time!
- FLY ROD: 12', 9 sections, IM8 graphite, Tenkara rod. Has removable, laser etched butt cap to remove rod sections, 10” long cork handle. Includes plug to place in rod when sections are collapsed for storage. Collapsed length is 20.5” long. Rod weight is 3.2 ounces.
- TENKARA LINE: 10 ½’ chartreuse, furled nylon line with metal ring to attach tippet. FOAM LINE STORAGE SPOOL: qty1; LINE STORAGE CLIPS: with o-rings for mounting to rod, qty 2; TIPPET SPOOL: 5X, 4.4lb. test, 30 meters
- ROD CASE: 22.5” hard tube rod case. Case has a carry strap and hang ring. Rod Bag: Cloth rod bag with Velcro closure. Fly rod is placed in the bag before storing in the tube for the best protection.
- FLY BOX: Waterproof, Floating, 5.25" x 3.5" x 1.25", custom box design, custom foam design, holds up to 372 flies. FLIES: Total 12 flies; Black Sakasa Kebari, size 12 (qty2), Olive Sakasa Kebari, size 12 (qty2), Tan Killer Kebari, size 12 (qty2), Black Killer Kebari, size 12 (qty2), Hi-Vis Orange Indicator Kebari (qty2), size 12, and Tan Hen and Hound, size 12 (qty2) ACCESSORIES: retractable reel (qty1), line nipper with nail knot tying tool and hook eye cleaner (qty1) and instruction manual.
- WHERE USED: This package is best suited for trout, panfish, small to medium streams, ponds, and backpacking. CUSTOMER SERVICE: Wild Water has English speaking, USA customer service and product support. We design our own products. We fly fish with our own products. We are always happy to answer any questions about your order. We can answer any technical questions about your product or fix any issue you may encounter from our USA headquarters.
If you want a rod that’s built to last then look no further than this Sequest Tenkara Rod. If you want something you’re not going to have to replace in five minutes than this durable carbon fiber rod is strong enough to keep you out of the tackle shop for a good few years at least.
It’s also only aroun4 ounces in weight, and the carbon fiber build makes it a very good option for traveling with. A line holder is included with the rod, so you’ll be able to wind up your line safely before you move on or finish up.
This is an extremely durable rod that comes in a stylish dark green color and it would be suitable for most levels including beginners.
- Great action
- Easy to use
- Very light
- Comes with a line holder that simply clips onto the rod
- Suits most ability levels
- Any fish over 16 inches would be a real challenge
Best Tenkara Rods Buying Guide
You should now be a little more aware of the kind of options available to you in the world of tenkara fishing. As you can see there’s something to suit every level of ability, so don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. The right rod is out there, and you just need to know what to watch out for to make sure you find it.
This section is going to take you through some of the key features of tenkara rods, to help you work out what sort of thing you need and to help you spot the right rod when you find it.
The most important thing is that you make the choice based on what you want to get out of your tenkara fishing experience, so don’t feel pressured into making a snap decision.
First of all, let's take a look at the strength or ‘power’ of tenkara rods. As you may already know high strength rods or those with more power can lift big fish easily. The lower power rods struggle to lift the larger prizes and may snap if the fish is too large. Tenkara rods tend to be small and strong, as smaller rods have less flexibility.
With rods without a reel like tenkara rods mean that you can’t loosen the line to provide some slack with the larger fish. This is why when looking at tenkara rods keep in mind that for big fish you need a heavier power. If you only want to hook small fish like those found in mountain streams then a rod with a little power will work fine. As with any rod keep in mind what you want to catch, and how powerful you need your rod to be.
Length is another big factor with tenkara as with any rods. Tenkara rods tend to be longer than normal fishing rods coming it anywhere from 11 feet long to 15 feet long. There are a lot of telescopic options on the market though, so you can customize the length of your rod dependant on your situation. The longer your rod is, the more sensitive it tends to be.
Long rods also have more leverage which helps you hook the bigger fish more easily. Long rods are less compact or portable though and can be harder to cast properly in areas with a lot of trees or foliage. Most tenkara anglers go for something in the middle, and many choose telescopic models to increase their options.
Many anglers prefer the accuracy a shorter rod can give them, so think about your preferences and adjust accordingly.
Most tenkara rods are made from a carbon fiber composite to keep them strong and flexible, but also lightweight. These kinds of rods tend to have a long lifespan and are very durable, so most anglers stick with them. Carbon composite also means that tenkara rods which tend to be longer have the backbone to hook large fish without snapping.
The handle on a tenkara rod is more important than on normal rods because the material of the handle will determine how long it's useable. Going for high-quality materials that won’t chip or wear away increases the lifespan of your rod and tends to be more comfortable too.
Keep in mind that glossy handles will get slippery when wet, and your grip may weaken risking your catch and your equipment.
Best Tenkara Rods - FAQ's
How do tenkara rods work?
In tenkara fishing, you only use a rod, a line, and a fly. The line connects to the tip of the rod, and you simply cast where you think the fish are. Tenkara is the Japanese version of fly fishing and has spread in popularity in the west thanks to how easy it is to pick up the excitement, and its simplicity.
Are tenkara rods worth it?
Many anglers who try tenkara fishing love it, and many more end up using the tenkara style exclusively. If you’re looking to get into angling than it’s a great way to start because it’s so easy to pick up.
Rods also come in a range of budgets so there’s no reason why starting tenkara will prevent you from trying out another technique if it’s not for you.