Tenkara Rod Review: Daiwa LL36SF

Daiwa Tenkara Rod
A little while back I posted a Q&A with Christopher Stewart about the Daiwa Tenkara rods that are now available from TenkaraBum.  Well I finally got out to do a little fishing with one.  So I thought I’d share my initial thoughts.

The model that I used was the LL 36 SF which is a full flex 5:5 rod intended for level line fishing.  It is 11′ 8″ long when extended and about 24″ when collapsed.  It weighs in (without the tip plug) at 2.8 oz.

I fished the Daiwa LL 36 SF  with the TenkaraBum Hi-Viz #3 level line.  I cast both 18′ and 12′ lines with approx 5′ of 5x tippet.  The rod easily cast the 18′ level line very nicely.  I didn’t try it with a longer line because I never really fish with any more than 18′ and actually usually fish with closer to 12′ of line.

The casting stroke with this rod is much slower than that required on any of my other tenkara rods, which are all 6:4 or 7:3 rods.  I wondered if the difference would be noticeable and it is very noticeable.  I’d say the relaxed casting stroke makes for a less fatiguing easier day of fishing.

Also, the loading of the rod was very noticeable and I could feel it well.  This tactile feedback is wonderful.  It actually reminded me of casting a slow three weight western rod.  I have to agree with what Chris Stewart said in my Q&A with him:

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.
-Chris Stewart

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I liked the grip on this rod – it was nicely contoured.  I am not a fan of tenkara grips that have a flat profile – they tend to fatigue my hand.  This one fit nicely and I didn’t notice any nagging hand fatigue. This is not something I hear people talk about too much; although tenkara rods are very light, I find that they can tend to feel unbalanced and heavy in the hand due to the fact that there is nothing (i.e. no reel)to counter-balance the rod. For me a nicely contoured grip really helps to off-set this effect.  And this rod felt light in the hand and well balanced.

The rod’s appearance is subdued. It looks gloss black – but in fact has a subtle (almost unnoticeable)metallic-sparkle finish. The fit and finish are very nice. And there are some nice details. One being a 360-degree rotating tip, to avoid line-twist. And another is the “v-joint”. Basically there are groves machined into the rod at the joints to help prevent sticking. This is a nice feature,as many experienced tenkara anglers will tell you.

It is hard to fully evaluate a rod in just one outing – but since this is a loaner I have to try. The Daiwa LL 36 SF is a nice quality tenkara rod. The thing which seems to set it apart from other rods that I’ve fished is the “feel”. The way that you can feel the rod loading and the relaxed easy casting stroke make for a very enjoyable fishing experience. Is it worth the extra $ when compared to some of the other less-expensive tenkara rods available in the US? Well I haven’t tried them all so I can’t make a definitive statement there. And also it is a personal question that is hard to answer. Based on the rods that I’ve fished I’d say you’re paying more for the Daiwa and I think you’re getting more. How much more? and what is that worth to you? I can’t say for sure.

What I can say for sure is that I liked it quite a bit. I really liked the way it cast a level line – it has a smooth, easy cast with a lot of tactile feedback, and it was noticeably different than my other tenkara rods. If you prefer a slower, full-flex rod that casts a level line with ease then I don’t think you’d be disappointed at all with this rod.

disclosure: The rod evaluated in this post was on temporary loan from the seller, but I was in no way compensated for the review, financial or otherwise.

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