We Jam Econo: A shorter Tenkara Rod – rod hack

finished collage

So, at present I have more tenkara rods than you can shake a cane pole at. I can cover just about any situation I want to. But that was not always the case. I remember when I had one tenkara rod. It was a 12′ rod. Which in some situations was plain-old too long. I was told by some that it wasn’t too long – but it flat out was. So I would collapse the rod and fish it like that – but that’s just not great. The collapsed segment rattles around in there – and it just doesn’t feel right. You can tape it – and that helps but you know…it’s tape. There are other more complicated things that you can do to convert a rod to a zoom-rod, but they’re mostly more permanent and involved – and I never got around to it.

The idea that I kept coming around to was that with a rod made of all these separate segments, that what I really had was numerous rods of various lengths – but what I was lacking was grips for the various rods. I debated making cork grips that could slide on and off, or just using foam sheets or something to build up a grip and then using duct tape, or tennis racket tape to hold it all in place. But I just never got around to trying the cork idea – and I just wanted something a little more elegant than the tape (not that there’s anything wrong with duct tape).

I also wanted something that wouldn’t mar or otherwise permanently alter the rod. Also it would be nice if whatever the solution was that it was pretty quick to implement and didn’t involve too much cost or too many supplies. And ideally you’d still be able to easily dissemble the rod for drying purposes.

I know others have probably had the same thoughts – and have probably come up with some great, and better, solutions than I did. Still I think it’s kind of a cool and elegant solution. And it fits my guidelines of being simple, cheap, repeatable, non-permanaent and non-damaging.

I’m presenting this as the very first in an ongoing series called “We Jam Econo”. I borrowed the phrase “We Jam Econo” from the innovative punk band the Minutemen and the documentary about them called “We Jam Econo”. I like the punk rock association of it and the idea of a simple, DIY attitude that it conjures.

Please take all of this in the spirit of fun that it is meant. Sometimes I think people get way too worked up about fishing (perhaps me too sometimes) – and they lose the childlike spirit at the heart of it. So have fun.

I chose to try this out on a 12′ rod (actually about 11’9″). I took the handle section off of the rod and used the normal second segment as my first. When done I ended up with a rod that was 10′ long. Now bear in mind that this will alter the rod flex characteristics. In my case, I’d alter a rod in this way for small brushy brook trout streams, and there is really no chance of a fish challenging the rod’s breaking point. But keep in mind that if you shorten a rod in this way – you are altering the rod in a way that will put a little more strain on the remaining segments.

The Pieces of the Puzzle


The materials are simple: the rod segment you’re using as the handle; 25′ of 1/8″ cord; and a universal tenkara rod cap. I’m using the second segment – but I imagine you could even use the third if you wanted the rod to be shorter yet. Depending on exactly how you make you make your handle, and what cord you choose, you may need a different length. The universal cap can be found with an internet search. You’ll find some slightly different options out there. The cap that I happened to have has two holes in the strap which is nice because it can be tightened to different diameters. The strap is flexible though and will stretch to fit. You can find caps that I have at Blue Ribbon Flies for $7.50 – also TenkaraBum has some options. Or you could easily eliminate the rod cap altogether and just use some duct tape. I like the idea of avoiding a disposal item like tape – and going for the reusable rod cap though.
rod cap

Step One

Step One

Make sure to remove the remaining rod segments from the handle section. Put the cap on the butt-end. I started my handle wrap at the top because I wanted to have three layers of cord for the grip (for the right thickness) and I wanted the cord wrapping to stop at the bottom end so that I could secure the tag-end of the cord with the cap.

Step Two

Step Two

Lay a short portion of the cord along the rod segment, with the working end of the cord above and then wrap over this as you wrap down the rod for the first layer – just like starting thread when tying a fly. This will secure the end of the cord.

Step Three

Step Three

Simply wrap the cord in touching wraps down the blank to the top of the rod cap forming the first layer of the grip.

Step Four

step 04 final

Step Five

step 05 final

Step Six

Step Six

Step Seven

step 07 final

Step Eight

step 08 final

So there you have it. Is it the only way, or even the best way to do this? No. But that’s okay with me. Really I just want to present this as a jumping off point for folks to think about how they might do something similar if they want to. It’s just a fun little hack that I hope folks can riff on.

Oh – and I did not fish on a stream with this set-up yet. But I did some extensive yard fishing and the rod cast 15′ of #3 level line quite nicely in it’s abbreviated state. It had a crisper, faster feel too.

4 Comments on We Jam Econo: A shorter Tenkara Rod – rod hack

  1. Anthony, Interesting experiment. Good on ya for making this available in
    English. I’ve also seen Japanese webpages where they retained the handle
    section, only removing the section or sections, above the handle section, to
    make a shorter rod. They may have also removed the original grip material.
    The section above the removed section would be wrapped with some light weight
    material to make it fit snugly inside the handle section. It would also be
    fixed such that the end would be even with the top of the handle section, or
    more often slightly protruding. Often the grip would be wrapped with line to
    make a new grip in the shape and length preferred, and also to adjust the
    balance of the rod, thereby controlling the center of gravity and moment of the
    rod. A small increase in weight toward the butt end, extra wraps of line, would
    be more effective at shortening the center of gravity length. This is probably
    easier to control with smaller line. The use of weighted fishing line at the
    butt end would aid the control of the balance. Afterwards the new line was
    glued then over wrapped with tennis racket tape, or cork sheet or other material
    of choice. I look forward to your next customized rod experiment. This ought to
    become a low cost activity for people who like to tinker with rods as more used
    rods become available at low cost. DW

  2. Great idea!
    I have some 12 footers I never fish that I could WeJam into nice backup short rods.

what say you?