Rods Tenkara Video

What’s Your Approach to Using Zoom Tenkara Rods?

I’ve got a question. What’s your take on zoom tenkara rods? Do you like them? Do you hate them? Are they part of your rod quiver, and if so, how do you prefer to use them?

I find “zoom” or multi-length rods helpful in two scenarios. The first is on small, tightly canopied creeks and streams. Since I use a short line on these waters, I find that a rod with variable lengths can help me adjust my presentation in areas where I can’t change my body position (trees or shrubs being in the way). Lengthening or shortening the rod can be useful in this situation. This is how I use the DRAGONtail Mizuchi on small streams and creeks.

The second scenario is on larger rivers when I desire more leverage to fight a fish. With longer multi-length rods, I find that I prefer casting the rod at a shorter length, but if I hook a large fish, and feel the need for more leverage, I lengthen the rod to aid the fight. I also find it helpful to extend the rod to its maximum length when bringing the large fish into the net. This is how I use the Gamakatsu Suimu 4.5 and 5.0 rods on larger streams and rivers.

Zoom Tenkara Rods - Tom Davis - Tenkara Angler - Gamakatsu Suimu
Gamakatsu Suimu

Personally, I prefer fixed length tenkara rods in most all of my fishing situations, but in tight creeks I do find a “zoom” rod handy. Likewise, since I don’t have as much skill fighting large trout, a longer rod length and more leverage often helps me overcome my lack of skill.

All of that said, I don’t use multi-length rods as a “one rod tenkara multi-tool”. For example, if I can get away with using a fixed length 390 cm rod on a certain water, then I will. I’d rather not use a 330-360-390 cm multi-length rod in its 390 cm length, just because I have a “zoom” rod. With the exception of a few specific rods, most multi-length rods don’t feel optimally balanced in my hands, particularly when extended to their maximum length. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like to battle the rod when casting. 

So, that’s my approach to “zoom” rods. 😊 What’s yours?

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  1. Tom,
    Great question. I have two zoom rods and one fixed. I, like you, find that if I can get away with it I prefer the fixed rod (12′ Iwana from TenkaraUSA). On my favorite freestone creeks in the Shenandoah VA mountains I do appreciate my Foxfire from Dragontail (bought after reading your review). Being able to dramatically shorten the length of the rod is necessary there.

  2. I never fished seriously until almost 3 years ago, started with a western beginner’s fly rod set up, but had heard of tenkara and had the sense that it was for me. Not really knowing what I was doing, I figured a zoom (as opposed to Zoom) rod gave me the most options, and happened on the Teton Zoom by Tenkara Rod Co, and between videos, blog posts, a book or 2 and some emails, figured out how to catch fish tenkara-style, some of them trout. I love it. The zoom rod allowed me to keep my gear simple while I learned and gave me options to adapt to different waters with some confidence. My second rod is another zoom, the Foxfire, given that alot of the waters I am on or want to be on are small and it sounded like a beautiful rod to fish with. It is. And it catches fish too. Now that I know how it feels to catch fish with different length rods of different flexes and softnesses, I feel confident to lay out the $ for a single length rod or rods and experiment with which are the most satisfying, fun and effective for me. But I am glad to know that I can fish successfully and with some finesse with a single zoom rod that gives me the ability to quickly adapt to alot of different waters.

    1. Tom, zoom rods can be quite successfully used, and they do allow a lot of options. For sure! From one Tom to another, Cheers!

  3. I prefer the fixed length for longer rods – I rarely using the zoom feature on my TUSA Ito. I recently upgraded to the Oni Zerosum 450 and the lack to tip heaviness of the Ito is quite noticeable. The Ito really feels like a clunker compared to the Zerosum 450. The only situation in which I like a zoom rod is for very small streams where is an advantage to be able to collapse the rod to fit into tight spots but still be able to open it up when space affords (I have your Mizuchi for that). Thanks

    1. Hi August, I sold my Oni Zerosum 450, and I shouldn’t have! That’s one nice nice rod! I’ll try to get another one, when Nissin finally does their 2023 production run.

  4. I prefer carry multiple lengths of rods in my Zimmer Guide slingback. Zoom rods always have at least one length that is unpleasant to fish.

    1. Jeff, if you’ve got room, and you don’t mind the weight, carry the rods you like. That works for me too!

    1. Hi Roger, for most of my zoom rods, the longest length is the least pleasing length to use. You sir, must have your rods dialed into your casting style. Congrats! That’s an achievement!

  5. I’m not a huge fan of zoom rods, but I like this conversation!

    All that said, I think my preferred length tends to be the middle one (and set my line length based on this rod length) and I’ll zoom in or out where needed or can use that advantage. Not sure I’d ever really choose a zoom rod for big water, but for smaller water, I’ve seen the advantages first hand.

    I think it’s interesting that most zoom rods have ended up being 3-way, rather than 2-way. I tend to prefer the few 2-way zoom rods I’ve fished. Pack Tenkara, Confluence, etc… I think the two lengths are generally more enjoyable to fish because they tend to have a more consistent feel (given you like the general feel of that rod in the first place). Otherwise it seems like 3-way zoom rods go from being really stiff to really soft.

  6. Here in the Iowa Driftless it is common to find spring-fed limestone creeks that alternate between faster moving sections with tight vegetation cover to slower open pools with plenty of casting room and easily spooked trout. These changes can occur often and over a relatively short distance. Scouting reports give some advance knowledge of the expected conditions but not nearly enough to determine in advance what rod is best suited to the task.

    Slight less than half of my small stable of tenkara rods are zoom rods (the Mizuchi being used much more than the other two). They are well suited to the local environment. I plan for use of the shorter lengths in the field and extend them when the canopy opens up. I find this approach to be superior to going back and forth between two or three fixed-length rods.

    I confess I prefer casting with a fixed length rod and will make this choice when I know the creek’s characteristics in advance; however, I also enjoy and make a practice of fishing new locations whenever I can. The zoom rods offer a better degree of flexibility when venturing into the unknown.

  7. I appreciate using the zoom on small streams to be able to fish multiple spots without having to move positions. I can use the zoom like I’d use extra line from a reel to reach new spots. Like others, I likely wouldn’t use a zoom rod on a wide open stream where I didn’t need to shorten up from time to time.

  8. Hi all! I have a TenkaraUSA Sato and a Keison 330, I do appreciate the flexibility of the Sato, but I find it simpler to go with the fixed one. It force me to be more aware in the stream and to think more carefully my movements, I don’t need to think what zoom its better for one pool, but, how efficient must I be for that pool…
    Well, just my thought…

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