Daiwa has three lines of tenkara rods: the lower priced entry level NEO series; the medium priced SF series; and the top of the line DSG rods. TenkaraBum is offering the mid-priced SF series. There are six rods in the SF series. Two are designed for level lines, the LL41SF (13.5′) and the LL36SF (11.8′). Also offered are four rods that are designed for level and tapered lines, these are the “LT” rods: LT33SF(10.7′ ), LT36SF( 12′), LT39SF(12.9′ ) and LT44SF(14.5′ ). At TenkaraBum the SF series rods range in price from $345 to $415. Certainly not an “entry-level” price for many of us – but still when compared to the cost of a premium western rod, reel and line – not too bad.
I have now fished with all but one of the SF rods, and I have to say I really like them. There are other brands that I haven’t fished with yet but the Daiwa tenkara rods are clearly the nicest ones I’ve come across. Dr. Ishigaki once told me that Shimano and Daiwa are seen in Japan as the two top rod companies. I have fished with the Shimanos and I’d have to say I like the Daiwa tenkara rods quite a bit better.
The Daiwa Tenkara rods are my new favorite rods – by far.
That last statement, “The Daiwa Tenkara rods are my new favorite rods – by far”, caught my attention. If you check out his rod reviews at TenkaraBum, you’ll see that Chris has fished with quite a few rods – so this had me intrigued. I had a few questions for Chris so I figured why not ask them here at CastingAround for everyone to hear. So that’s what I did. Also, I managed to get my hands on one of these rods – so in a soon to follow post I’m going to give some first impressions and then hopefully if the conditions cooperate I’ll get on the stream soon and see how it fishes.
It seems like importing these rods is a lot of trouble to go to – what is it about them that made you want to offer them for sale?
I like long rods and I like 5:5 rods. I spent some time looking at different Japanese websites just to see what’s out there and noticed that Daiwa had a 13 ½ foot 5:5 rod that was surprisingly light – only 3 ounces. I decided to get one to see what it was like. When I fished with it the first time I was just blown away. In the first place, it actually weighs less than 3 ounces. I get 2.8 ounces on my postal scale, (I always weigh rods without the tip plug because the plug isn’t in the rod when I’m fishing). Beyond the light weight, though, I really loved the action. It is clearly a full flex rod, but it isn’t nearly as whippy as the 5:5 rods (or even the soft 6:4s) that I’d fished before. I found that I was much better able to feel the rod loading, and being able to feel the loading better, it was much easier to make precise, tight loop casts. The tactile feedback is a lot more important than you realize. The difference in the feel was just really surprising. With the lighter weight and better feel, I thought it was a fabulous rod. I was sure that other people, or at least people who have fished a number of different rods, would feel the same way.
I had a couple dilemmas. Number one, I had to talk about the rod. I mean, my whole website kind of revolves around talking about rods. I couldn’t talk about this great rod that, oh, by the way, you can’t get. The second dilemma was that I expected that I would lose a good share of my line sales, which have been the core of my business, when the better known company out there comes out with their own hi-vis fluorocarbon line this spring. TenkaraBum is my full time business, I don’t have a job to fall back on, so I figured I would need something to make up for the lost line sales. Selling rods was the most logical choice.
These rods come in two designations LL (level-line) and LT (level and tapered line). Anglers might be confused by these designations, can you explain the differences between the two and why a person might choose one over the other or what fishing conditions might warrant using one over the other?
Well, trying to avoid getting too caught up in details, the rods designed specifically for casting level lines are more full flex and the rods designed to cast either level lines or tapered lines are more tip flex. Perhaps not in every case, but in general, tapered lines are heavier than level lines. To cast a heavier line, you want a stiffer rod. The rods designed to cast tapered lines as well as level lines tend to have stiffer mid sections to be able to handle the heavier tapered lines. However, the tips have to be pretty flexible to allow them to still cast the lighter level line. You get a rod with the tip being much more flexible in relation to the mid section. Being able to cast a range of line weights allows you to pick a heavier line if you are trying to cast into a breeze or if you are fishing with a more wind resistant fly. Also, if you are fishing a weighted fly, a heavier line will result in a smoother feeling cast. Some people feel that the LT rods give them more precise casts, possibly because of the stiffer mid section of the rod, but possibly also because the 5:5 or level line rods they are used to are really quite soft. I really prefer fishing with the lightest line I can get away with, so for me the LL rod is the better choice.
With fly rods, as with most else, there is a diminishing return on performance as the price goes up. Over a certain price-point it seems like one is paying for cosmetics or for high-end materials that don’t improve the actual useability very much (or at least not in ways noticeable to the average Joe). Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it can be nice to have a beautiful piece of equipment, and that can enhance your fishing experience in it’s own way. Where would you say these rods sit on that continuum?
If you read the rod reviews on my site, you’ll see several rods that I described as being cosmetically beautiful, with very detailed paint jobs. They’re expensive rods and I have to think that a lot of the cost went to pay for the paint job. I think the Daiwa rods are different. They look nice. They’re pretty rods. However, I think the biggest difference is in the rods’ actions. The rods don’t have the fanciest paint job. They don’t have the ultra top grade cork. They just have really nice actions – plus they are really light weight compared to most other rods on the market. High end materials actually do affect usability in a way that the average Joe will notice the first time he casts the rod. Now, maybe it doesn’t matter to him that the rod is a half ounce lighter, but a half ounce on a three ounce rod is a pretty large percentage. If he’s on a tight budget, he might decide the difference is a little too dear, but he’ll notice it.
There are rods more expensive than these in Japan. Daiwa has a more expensive line of rods. Shimano has a more expensive rod. These are premium rods at a premium price, but they’re not the top of the market.
What’s the warranty like and how about the availability of service and/or replacement parts?
There is a one year warranty. In order to make a claim, the broken part must be sent to Daiwa in Japan along with a payment of 2000 yen (roughly $27). I will handle warranty claims and shipping parts back and forth. I don’t know how long the warranty claim will take because I haven’t had to make any. Replacement parts are available, and I plan to stock replacement screw caps for the rod butt, tip plugs and tip sections.
I know you’ve got a lot of info on your site (http://www.tenkarabum.com/daiwa-tenkara-rods.html) about these rods that people can read, but is there anything in particular that you’d like to highlight?
Just a few points. First, I will write a separate review for each rod, although that will take some time because to do the rods justice, I need to spend a lot more stream time than I’ve been able to get recently. Second, if people have questions, by all means ask. There is a contact form at http://www.tenkarabum.com/contact-us.html. Finally, I’ve fished with a lot of rods now, and these are amazing rods. I’m very, very happy with them. If I wasn’t I never would have bought more than just that first one and I never would have decided to import them.
I’d like to thank Christopher Stewart for his time – go check out TenkaraBum for good info and good stuff.