As you may know there’s a new tenkara gang in town, Badger Tenkara. Okay before I begin, I have a thought or two to express. I’ve heard some folks say that there may be too many tenkara rod sellers, or too many similar rods. That’s ok. I look at it this way – I’ve reviewed rods from different sources here on Casting Around, and as new companies arise I’m happy to see what they’ve got to offer too.
Whether there are too many companies or there is too much similarity between some rods is not really relevant to the person considering buying any particular rod. To somebody looking at buying a Badger Tenkara Classic the primary questions that they need to have answered are these: Is this rod going to work well for tenkara? And, is it a good option in its price range ?
Why all the lead in? Well – it’s just something I’ve been thinking about. I’m interested in the success of tenkara. I’m interested in the success of the tenkara businesses with which I’ve had happy dealings and that offer good products at good prices – and there are numerous businesses that fall into that category. What I’m not interested in is a bad product that turns people off from tenkara. Luckily I haven’t really come across too many bad products. There are only a few rods that I’ve fished, which I don’t like much, and would not recommend. One of the rods that I didn’t care for very much was from a big name in Japanese tenkara rods – and that showed me that you can’t base decisions on reputation alone.
The $85 price tag of the Badger Tenkara Classic will likely appeal to beginners. So it better be a good tenkara rod for the beginner. If it is not then it is bad for everybody. So that brings me to the idea of what makes a good “beginner” tenkara rod. Firstly don’t get hung up on the word “beginner”. I don’t mean to imply that an angler will soon – or ever – outgrow what I call a “beginner” rod. I just mean that it is a good choice for a beginner – and that does not, in any way, rule out that it is a good choice for an experienced angler.
The reason I bring this up is that there are some rods that do not make good beginner rods – they are too specialized for one reason or another – those may be great rods – but they can be poor beginner rods.
To me, a rod that is best suited to a new tenkara angler (or someone interested in buying only one rod and not a whole basement full) ought to be a good all-around rod. Many starting out in tenkara, aren’t really sure where tenkara will fit into their fishing. Will it be only trout? Will it be just small mountain streams? Or bigger streams too? Will they try warm water? Will they want to fish furled or level lines? Wet flies only? Dry flies? Beadhead flies? Poppers? Anyway – you get the point. When I got my first tenkara rod, in an effort to wrap my head around what my tenkara was going to be – I used it for everything. I tried different line types; I fished it for trout, bass, sunfish; I fished it in ponds, big streams, small streams, rivers; I used small flies, big flies, streamers, poppers, bead head nymphs, everything and anything. Gradually I did specialize and find some rods for special situations. But that original 12′ rod served me pretty well, and still does.
So here goes. A good all-around rod should be about 12′ long. Subjective? Yes. If you fish only tiny brushy streams, or only wide open or big water, then you may disagree with a 12′ ft rod. But I find 12′ to be a sweet spot. I can fish a 12′ rod on most small streams, and I’m not at a horrible disadvantage on bigger water – it’s a happy balance for an all-around rod. I also find that once rods start getting over 12′ they can begin to get top-heavy (not true for all longer rods but fairly common). Also – it’s easy to forget if you’ve been doing tenkara for a while – but a 12′ rod is probably substantially longer than what most western anglers are used to. I remember my first outing – going from my 7′ small stream fly rod to a 12′ tenkara rod was quite a challenge, and I spent a lot of time getting tangled in the trees.
Also, a good all-around rod should not be too stiff, or too soft. This is important if you want to experiment with different line types, and with casting a broad range of fly sizes and weights. Also a rod with a bit of backbone will allow you to still have fun with the smaller fish while not being totally outgunned with bigger fish.
Cost may be a consideration for many folks. The guy or gal that wants to try out tenkara may not be interested in / or may not be in the position to spend a lot to get started.
Lastly, warranty and the availability of replacement parts is a consideration too. I have one inexpensive Japanese tenkara rod that fishes fine…errr did fish fine…until it was broken. But there’s no chance of getting parts. So there you have it.
So what about the Badger Tenkara Classic?
So after all of that lead-in (sorry) what’s the word on the Badger Tenkara Classic? Here’s some details for those that are interested. The price starts at $85 (for the rod with sock and rod tube). You can add on various lines, flies and rigging kits for additional cost. I weighed it at 3.25 oz (without tip cap) This is a little heavier than some more expensive 12′ rods, but in line with rods in this price range. Tenkara rod lengths (when extended) can vary a bit from rod to rod, the one I have measured out at 11’8.5″ when deployed and is 21″ when collapsed (with tip cap). The grip is approximately 10.5″ long and has a double-contour, and largish diameter. There is filler in the cork – but it’s in line with the grips on other rods in this price range and even higher priced rods. Folks will have different preferences for shape and diameter of rod grip – I happen to like the size and style of the Badger Tenkara Classic. Rod weight, rod length and grip size and shape, all lend to how balanced the rod feels in hand when fishing. If a rod grip doesn’t work well for the length and weight of a rod you’ll notice after fishing it for a while – and may find it uncomfortable. I did not notice that problem when fishing this rod. Is it as light as premium priced rods? No. Did I find it overly heavy? No.
I did the Common Cents testing on it and it came out to about 26 pennies. Without going into too much detail – the common cents system involves holding the rod in a position parallel to the ground with a bag of pennies attached to the tip. You then add pennies until the rod tip deflects to 1/3 of the rod length. It’s been adapted by some tenkara anglers as a way to help quantify rod flex characteristics. It is not a “be-all / end-all” measurement. Some folks like it and some don’t – but I figured I’d include it for those that are interested. To compare the Badger Tenkara result to other rods you can go to to Teton Tenkara’s quite extensive chart. If you normalize the CC rating by length you can get what Teton Tenkara calls rod flex index (RFI). So looking at his chart and comparing to other rods on the chart you’ll see that it falls into 7:3 range. This assessment is consistent with plain old visual evaluation of the rod under a load.
If you’re not interested in all that – suffice it to say that the Tenkara Badger classic is not a “soft” full-flex, rod but neither is it the stiffest tenkara rod out there. To me, it is in the range that I would definitely consider a good all around rod – trending to the stiffer end. When I fished it, I cast it with 12′ of #2.5 level line to test the low end of line weight that I might use on small streams, 18′ of #4.5 that I might go to on bigger water, and finally one of my custom 12′ hand-twisted fluorocarbon tapered lines (with a dry fly attached). It cast all of these nicely. Though I think many starting out in tenkara might prefer a heavier line than #2.5 (I like light line though). For level lines I’d recommend a #4 or #4.5 level line for the beginner. The 12′ hand-twist fluorocarbon line cast like a dream though – and if you want to fish dry flies I always recommend a floating furled line – they make casting bulky dry flies (or heavier nymphs) much easier than level lines. Badger Tenkara offers Mystic Creek furled leaders from Streamside as well as a Badger Line that incorporates a length of floating fly line.
The rod cosmetics are good. The rod is a glossy dark graphite color with metallic green trim bands and gold-tone butt-cap and winding check. It’s a good looking rod. I’d like to add that Badger Tenkara also offers some very nice looking custom rod grips and some other custom options for those that may want to trick the rod out a little.
Final Word: The Badger Tenkara Classic will make a great all-around tenkara rod to take from the mountain brook, to the meadow spring creek, to the smallmouth creek and then to the largemouth and bluegill pond. It will work well with a range of different lines and flies. The $85 price tag makes it a very nice option for those that want to get into tenkara – or for those already into tenkara that may need to expand their rod quiver to include a 12′ all-around rod.
I can’t speak to long term quality – but the up-front, out of the box quality is excellent, and I have no reason to be suspect of durability issues. And if you do break a section they offer low price replacements and even a rod replacement deal – Here’s the policy from the website:
“Despite your best efforts, sometimes accidents just happen. Those top 3 sections of the rod are at the greatest risk for misadventure, so we keep a small stock of replacement sets on hand just in case you need them.
$15 with Free Shipping.
If anything happens to the rest of the rod, or you’ve just plain fished your trusty Classic into the ground, we’ll hook you up with a one-time only full rod replacement. Available within 2 years of original rod purchase.
$35 with Free Shipping.”