Last Spring I impulsively bought a river peak POP STAR tenkara rod. The price on Amazon at the time was ridiculously inexpensive and I didn’t own a single-length tenkara rod quite this short (2.7m or approximately 9 feet).
Honestly, I think what really made me pull the trigger was its color, in this case lemon yellow. The world definitely needs more color these days. Before I bought it I also noticed there weren’t any reviews of the rod (except maybe this one), so I’m going to remedy that today, in full “Tom Davis” style. I hope you enjoy.
The river peak website doesn’t really do a great job of describing (in words) what the POP STAR is all about, but the imagery portrays it as a “fun” rod. One that kids and adults can pick up casually and confidently, easily adding fishing to their outdoor experience.
Here’s a snippet taken from their website: “A rod that allows anglers to enjoy tenkara fishing with ease and POP. In tenkara fishing, you use imitation fly, you don’t need to touch the live bait, so even if you don’t like to touch it, it’s okay! How about tenkara fishing in a beautiful river as another fun activity while camping or hiking?” Okay…
Unlike many Japanese tenkara rods, the POP STAR does not ship in a plastic retail carton. Rather it comes complete with color matched aluminum rod tube, and a black “velvety” rod sleeve. Those familiar with buying rods from American rod companies will be very familiar with the goodies that accompany the POP STAR.
This river peak POP STAR rod is yellow in coloration in 5 of the 6 sections. (The tip section is black). All sections are matte in finish. While the painted yellow sections are bright, I did notice some minor paint chipping at the end of each section exposing the darker blank beneath. The rod designation is handsomely done with the company and rod name in English with a fun trout (yamame?) cartoon. Otherwise, the boldly-colored rod is relatively plain, with only some decorative black wraps and thin gold accents to cleanly finish the transition from handle to blank.
The handle is black, camel shaped foam and is 20cm in length. The diameter of the handle is about 25mm at the humps and 19mm at the narrowest middle point. I found the handle to be a bit small, but considering kids are part of the target market of the POP STAR, it’s not surprising at all. I do not find it uncomfortable in hand, so overall the relatively diminutive handle is not that big of a concern.
The tip plug is plastic and fits snugly in the tip of the handle segment. The butt cap is round with knurled edges and a coin slot for easy removal. There are no rubber gaskets or hole for drainage. The hardware is a darker, gunmetal gray which neither adds, nor subtracts from the overall appearance.
The lillian is red and is glued directly onto a metal swivel at the end of the tip segment. For those who revel in fully disassembling the rod for cleaning and drying, I have bad news. The tip section does not slide through the second section. Perhaps with some real force I could push it through, but the tip is very delicate and not worth the risk. The lillian is 5.5cm, plenty of length if you are a “knot in the lillian” person.
Here are my measurements:
(Yes, I even broke out the baggie and pennies to calculate CCS!)
- Fully extended: 272cm (107.25 inches / 8 feet, 11.25 inches)
- Nested (with tip plug): 54.3cm (21.375 inches / 1 foot, 9.375 inches)
- Weight (without tip plug): 44g (1.55 ounces)
- CCS: 10 pennies
- RFI: 3.7
Casting the river peak POP STAR is enjoyable. The rod is advertised as a 5:5 flex profile, and the RFI of 3.7 backs that up. I’ve casted this rod with both 300cm and 360cm #3 fluorocarbon level line and it handles both lengths quite well with unweighted kebari. (The river peak website mentions that lines up to 400cm can be used). The rod feels a bit wiggly, but the end of cast dampening is respectable and there is zero tip heaviness. You can tell the action is fairly full flex.
One of the things that drew me to the POP STAR was the advertised use of Japanese Toray carbon fiber. While this is a so-called “fun” rod, Toray (a manufacturer) is known to produce some of the highest quality carbon fiber, so I’m not particularly afraid of failure on an errant large fish. Additionally, the tip section is solid (as opposed to hollow), which is a plus for me as I’ve had some issues with breakage on hollow tipped rods. I don’t know the maximum tippet rating, but I used 5x and it was fine.
Conclusion: I like this rod. I think that river peak has created a “fun” rod for anglers of all ages, just like what they advertise. It casts surprisingly well, is very lightweight, and scratches that full flex itch that many advanced tenkara anglers seek. Plus, the multiple colors offered (blue, red, yellow, or turquoise) are just visually interesting. While it’s not going to be perfect for all waters, this is an incredibly effective headwaters rod for adults, and is sized where it can be fished pretty much anywhere by kids. Believe me when I say bluegill put a bend in it!
The river peak POP STAR is relatively inexpensive with an MSRP of ¥10,230 at the time of this writing. This rod can occasionally be found on Amazon, however a far better solution for American customers would be to visit Tenkara Adventure Outfitters. TAO currently offers the royal blue coloration of the POP STAR for $110.
To close, here is an additional product video of Shoji Oshima fishing the POP STAR in the headwaters of Japan:
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