How to Choose the Right Tenkara Rod

On July 9, 2012
Comments (17)

Written by Daniel & Jason 

The number one question we are asked by new tenkara anglers is, “which rod should I get?”  It certainly can be confusing since tenkara rods come in different lengths and actions. We always like to tell people that they really can’t go wrong, any rod will work just fine. But, in order to assist you with understanding what our rods are designed for, we have put together the video below with Daniel walking trough the entire lineup of Tenkara USA rods. We have also put together the chart below the video, which we hope will help with the decision making process and some pointers about the key aspects of tenkara rods.

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 preference. Further, we believe people will just grow into the rod they get anyways.

It was never our intent to make things more confusing, nor necessarily for people to buy multiple tenkara rods when we developed the 6 rods that are in our current lineup – as a small company things would be MUCH simpler if we only had to worry about managing inventory of one rod model. But, each of the rods in our lineup were developed to fill a specific niche or preference. However, there are certain applications where we believe each model shines and the following table attempts to simplify the rod selection process:

Tenkara Rod Chart - Choosing a tenkara rod

Three Easy Choices

If you wish we offered fewer options, you can easily narrow the choices down to 3 “all-arounder” rods: the 13ft-14ft7in Ito,  the 13ft Ayu, and the 12ft Iwana.

These rods are very easy for us to recommend, with the other rods in the lineup being considered more “specialty” tenkara rods.

The main difference between the Ito, Ayu and 12ft Iwana will be their length. So, if you fish wider streams and are looking for an excellent premium rod the Ito will be a great choice. If you’re fishing wider streams but don’t want to spend as much money on the rod, the 13ft Ayu is a great option. And, if you fish a mix of stream sizes, the 12ft Iwana is a great no-brainer.

If in doubt: just get the 12ft Iwana.

Bigger Fish – two more choices

We have developed two rods with more backbone if you’re always catching fish that are 17″ (43cm): the 12ft Yamame and the 13ft 6in Amago have more backbone and make landing the larger fish a bit easier. The main difference between the two is their length, with the Amago being a better rod for larger and more open streams, and the Yamame being the best tool for smaller streams.

Smaller Streams – one more choice (erhh, two actually)

The last choice in our lineup is if you’re fishing pretty small streams all the time. In that case we offer the 11ft version of the Iwana. You’ll have less reach, but if you’re fishing tighter streams that will be a good choice.

Actually, if you get the Iwana, you also have the option of purchasing a separate add-on handle to transform your rod into its shorter cousin. We only recommend you take advantage of this option after you have been fishing with tenkara for sometime and REALLY wish you had a shorter rod. In our experience it just takes a little getting used to the longer rods, but once you’re used to them they will likely work well.

Some further thoughts on what how we make our recommendations

Length, start here

The first question you should ask yourself is which length is right for the majority of fishing you plan to do.  Generally speaking, we always recommend using the longest 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).

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 11ft / 330cm) might let you cast more easily under the canopy.

In either case, you should target your rod choice toward 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 line is a very effective combination in smaller streams. Both Jason and I usually fish a 13ft tenkara rod (even on small streams) and you might be surprised how well it fishes in pretty tight quarters.

Action, this is more subjective

Action is primarily a personal preference.  Some people prefer stiffer rods, while others prefer softer actions.  There is no right or wrong here.

We tend to prefer softer rods (5:5 or soft 6:4) because they load easily, making for very effortless casting. Softer rods will also protect tippet well. Our rods will lean towards the softer end of the scale as we believe they are the best tool for tenkara. Two of our 6 rods are  stiffer. The stiffer rods will often have more backbone to put pressure on large fish and will be better at precise casting at short distances (though this can be made up for with technique and practice). The Yamame and the Amago, are both stiffer and also have a good deal of backbone and were designed with larger fish in mind.

Tenkara rods are relatively soft compared to western fly rods, and all our rods have soft tips to assist in casting very light lines.  So if you’re used to a fast-action western-style fly rod, you might prefer a slightly stiffer action tenkara rod like the Iwana 6:4, the Yamame 7:3 or the Amago 6:4.


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 fish that are over 17 inches (43cm), then we have two tenkara rods that have more backbone (stiffer and with more mass): the Yamame and the Amago. We consider those more specialty rods and they sell very well in places like Montana and Idaho.


With each rod being so versatile, it would be hard to make the “wrong” choice. Hopefully, the chart and video above will help.  If you’re still struggling with which rod is right for you, feel free to post here, or email Jason at He will be happy to help you make the best decision on your first tenkara rod.

Facebook Comments


» Tenkara Gear, Tenkara Rods » How to Choose the Right...
, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

17 Responses to How to Choose the Right Tenkara Rod

  1. […] you’re in the market for a new Tenkara rod (or your first), Daniel Galhardo and Jason Klass share some things to look for. But in the end, “With each rod being so versatile, it would be hard to make the “wrong” […]

  2. I’m from Germany,can i get them over here?

  3. […] enough rods? Need to know which rod works best for the type of fishing you do? Then check out  How to Choose the Right Tenkara Rod from the Tenkara USA Blog. Remember you can order Tenkara USA rods from Mossy Creek Fly Fishing […]

  4. MASSON says:

    bonjour est ce que je peux commander sur votre site pour recevoir la commande en FRANCE et quel moyen de paiement sans problème et pour les casses éventuelles….. merci

  5. […] So I just listened to this, watched this, then got really excited about Tenkara! (For some reason I think that Tenkara! should always have an exclamation point next to it) Maybe it’s the telescoping rod, the backwards flies, the simplicity or the fact that it is a deadly way to go fishing, but I need to try it. I don’t know what got me so fired up about it, but even as I write this there is a sense of wonder and adventure swirling around my head. I equate it to the feeling I get when talking about Steelhead. The people that really get Tenkara are very much like those who understand the zen of Steelhead fishing: the joy of fishing Tenkara or for Steelhead comes from the journey not the result. Also, check out what Daniel Galhardo and his crew are doing over at Tenkara USA and on their Blog, I especially like this post about Lefty Kreh’s take on Tenkara. Here is another great post on How to Choose the Right Tenkara Rod.  […]

  6. Glenda says:

    This site certainly has all the info I wanted about this
    subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  7. Daryl says:

    Do you ship to Taiwan? Also, what’s the difference between the Ayu and Ito 13 ft rods? What makes the Ito a premium rod? Is it just quality of materials and engineering? I’m trying to decide between the two and I’m not sure what makes the Ito worth the extra bucks. Cheers!

    • Daryl, yes, we do ship to Taiwan. Most orders cost $30.50 to ship there.
      The Ito has the feature where you can fish it at both 13ft or 14ft 7 inches, while the Ayu is designed to fish at 13ft only. Also, we did use higher grade carbon fiber and cork on the Ito, which made it more expensive.

  8. Very good information. Lucky me I found your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have book-marked iit for later!

  9. Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some
    help from an established blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog?
    I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick.

    I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start.
    Do you have any points or suggestions? Many thanks

  10. bill regan says:

    i am newbe what length of line should i use on different poles

  11. bill regan says:

    i am asking what length of line to use on different fishing poles. i am new be. thanks bill

  12. great post, very informative. I ponder why the other specialists of this sector don’t notice this.

    You must continue your writing. I am sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

  13. Bradley Christofer says:

    Just want to say thank you for all the soul you’ve put into this website. It’s been a respite from a weary Arizona summer reading through these articles and watching your videos. Cheers.

  14. Melvin says:

    Great, this problem always make me confused. Finally I can find the way to choose the most suitable fishing rod thanks to this article. Thank you for sharing experience!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

« »