Reader Gear Review by Ana Echenique MD
I wanted to publish my personal assessment of three small water rods.
To give you some sort of background, I am relatively new to tenkara. Most of my background has been in saltwater fishing which I began at a very early age. Freshwater fishing has come over the past couple of years and tenkara over the last twelve months.
I have been fortunate to have found fishing guides in my area that have embraced this technique and have imparted some of their knowledge my way. I have fished in big water and small bushy streams, urban streams and isolated thin blue lines in the mountains.
I have most recently assessed and compared the Tenkara USA Rhodo and Zen Tenkara Suzume rods. I sent that assessment as a personal communication to Karin Miller from Zen Tenkara who shared it on Facebook (with my permission).
What I presented to her and what I present to you today is my personal evaluation, my “feel” for the rods and my assessment as to how they would fit into my world. With that said I do not have financial relationships with any of the companies that I am evaluating products of and neither have I received any compensation. I purchased these items myself.
What I say below is my personal assessment, trying to be as fair as possible. With that let’s dive in.
I own Japanese rods but wanted to evaluate rods from USA companies as there have been supply chain issues with the Japanese rods and so some folks may be looking to these companies for their rods.
I ordered and received the Ranger backcountry rod from Red Brook Tenkara. It is a single length 8 foot carbon fiber rod and came nicely packaged with a free extra tip when I requested it. It was in a rod sock and carbon fiber tube.
Another rod I evaluated is the Wasatch Tenkara Rods Maruki Sharp Shooter. This is a triple zoom rod with lengths including 6 feet/7’6”feet/9 feet. This rod also came nicely packaged in a rod sock and tube and with an extra tip as I had purchased this on a pre-order.
Last but not least is the Suzume triple zoom rod from Zen Tenkara, which came in a similar sock and tube arrangement and came with an extra tip included. This rod can be finished at 7’7”feet/9’3” feet/10.8 feet.
All three rods were extremely light, perhaps the Ranger ever so slightly lighter but nothing significant.
All three had nice finishes. The Ranger and Zen rods are classic black in color. The Maruki Sharp Shooter stands out in baby blue (blending in with the sky… maybe?). The Ranger had a brown lillian that was a bit longer than the other two rods, which sported the classic red.
The Ranger retails at $134.99 . The Maruki Sharp Shooter sells for $165.00 and the Zen Suzume is $240.00. Importantly, replacement parts are readily available in case of “accidents”.
Before attaching the line I “wobble tested” the rods. All had good recovery and were well-balanced. None were tip heavy. The Maruki Sharp Shooter seemed a tad stiffer than the other 2 which demonstrated more medium action. The Sharpshooter states a 7:3 flex on the rod shaft.
I tried out casting all rods at the same approximate length; 8 foot for the Red Brook Ranger, 7’6″ feet for the Wasatch Maruki Sharp Shooter and 7’7” for the Zen Suzume. I utilized the exact same line for each rod to try to compare apples to apples as much as possible. I used an 8 foot level line with arm’s length of 5x tippet and a Parachute Adams fly.
The Ranger and Suzume demonstrated similar flex and casting. The Maruki Sharp Shooter required a more “flick-flick” style cast but all three produced a nice fly first cast with good distance. All performed well with bow and arrow casting as well. The Suzume and Ranger needed a bit more bend than the Maruki Sharp Shooter to get the fly in the same spot.
As a bonus, at one point the fly caught on the ground and I looked at rod flex. The Ranger and Zen were pretty similar in flex ratio. Pretty much 6:4 action, medium flex. I liked them both. The Maruki Sharp Shooter demonstrated the advertised 7:3 flex when fighting my grounded fly. Its action was just a bit more firm than the other two.
So, bottom line, all three are nice rods. There are some differences. The Maruki Sharp Shooter and Suzume are triple zoom rods, allowing you to be as short as you need to but then extend when the opportunity arises. I find that to be an advantage in my world as I am always hiking up the next tiny stream and you never know what you are going to find.
(Why not just stay super duper short? The longer the rod the longer line you can manage, keeping you further from the fish, and allowing for better drifts with less drag.)
The Ranger and Suzume had similar flex profile but were not “noodly “. I do not anticipate an issue with hookset. Actually, I have already fished the Suzume in close quarters and it performed well. The Maruki Sharp Shooter is a little bit stiffer as mentioned, but its not a broomstick by any means. It has good flex and perhaps that little bit of stiffness may come in handy in very close quarters. I will keep you posted.
You can’t go wrong here. You just have to find a rod that fits your style. The Ranger is an excellent single length rod. If I had to choose one length to be my “close quarters” go to length it would be 8 feet. These two triple zoom rods offer the option of different lengths and fish well which is an advantage in my opinion.
I hope you find this evaluation useful and hopefully you will give one of the above mentioned rods a try.
Ana Echenique MD, has embraced tenkara fishing, focusing on mountain stream fishing. She has a long fishing history and enjoys the simplicity and challenge of tenkara.
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