Fixed-Line Fly Fishing Rods Tenkara

Almost Tenkara Rods

The story of two prototypes that never saw market…

Matt Sment - Almost Tenkara Rods - Prototypes

I found a tote full of old Badger Tenkara parts that I’d completely forgotten about. As I picked through the contents, I was excited to find two rod prototypes that we had tested along the way. Designs that didn’t end up being released.

One makes a lot of sense but was a single characteristic short of what we wanted. One probably wasn’t such a good idea, but played with some ideas that I think have merit.

Two-Position Adjustable SCOUT

The from the start of designing the SCOUT rod was to produce something that any child or adult could pick up and use effectively. We did significant testing with the Boy Scouts of America fishing committee to iron out what might work best for such a model. This prototype took the 10.5 foot overall length and added a second, shorter lock position at around 9 feet. It featured a durable EVA foam grip cut to the same “comfortable in any size hand” contour we selected for the cork version.

This resulted in a very versatile and well balanced design that was just about perfect for small/medium streams. The blank for the scout has proven it’s dynamic enough to make smaller fish enjoyable and stout enough to have a fighting chance against the occasional surprisingly big fish. It’s main drawback – like the “Bad Axe” two-position we designed to have a longer adjustment section than most, it required an overall longer collapsed length.

In the end, we didn’t select this model for two reasons. The increased length/footprint reduced the design’s portability. We also felt that including an adjustment for a design intended to see hard use with younger anglers was an invitation for increased maintenance demands. While I feel confident that many would have liked the design, it just didn’t quite the project’s goals.

Matt Sment - Almost Tenkara Rods - Scout

The Split Grip

Matt Sment - Almost Tenkara Rods - Split Grip

This one… it’s a little out there. The idea was to offer multiple hand positions – and therefore fishing at multiple lengths, without using an adjustment section. As you can see below, the idea was that an angler could use any of several combinations of being “on cork” or “on blank” with palm and finger. Moving one’s hand up or down the grip either shortens or elongates the effective length of the rod. We also hoped to see a decrease in overall weight by ditching some of the grip section.

The idea was sound on paper but didn’t translate well – at least in the initial dimensions we chose. There was no weight reduction in grip, and fishing the top grip positions left a clumsy amount of rod sticking out from behind one’s elbow. While we never attempted a second test model, I think the idea has merit and could look really slick if done well. Three 3-inch sections with an inch of space in between them would have been my next step.

Do you have an idea for a rod model that breaks the mold? What kind of rods would experiment with if you could? What would like to see offered that you can’t seem to find today?

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  1. The split grip is pretty much exactly how my small child fishes with his ungripped cheap uxcell rod. I think the idea actually works well for two handed fishing for small kids to be able to use a longer rod. Then the adult could use the lower grip as normal. Probably not a huge market, but interesting! Thanks for showing us the prototypes.

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