I’ve owned a few Oni rods over the years. Some of them include Type-I, Type-II, Type-III, Itoshiro, and two original Sakakibara specials, one foam handled and one bamboo. In addition to these, I’ve also owned Nissin Oni Honryu 395 and 450 rods. All of them are amazing rods and have an almost mystical quality of being able to defy physics. They are lightweight, perfectly balanced, not tip heavy (with exception of the Honryu 450) and are able to cast and manipulate a light level line effortlessly. If you’ve ever held or fished with one, you know what I’m talking about.
So, when Masami Sakakibara recently announced he was introducing a new, shorter rod, well, I just knew that it had to be good. Colloquially speaking, Oni don’t make no junk!
The Oni Style Coco 290 rod looks different than other Oni rods. First of all, it doesn’t have a cork handle. Back in the early days of tenkara in the US, some might have argued this meant it wasn’t a tenkara rod. But let’s not digress. The second reason it doesn’t look like an Oni rod, is that is comes in two colors, blue and pink. I have a blue one.
The overall coloration is powder blue. The finish is glossy. There are a few, simple gold accents bands on the handle segment, otherwise there no adornment.
The handle segment has a couple of sections of non-slip coating, along with the rod’s designation. It’s all nicely done.
The tip plug is black nylon plastic. It fits snuggly into the handle section. The butt cap is also black nylon plastic, and has some knurling to aid with removal.
The lilian is red and is attached to the tip section with a perfectly executed glue joint. The entire rod can be disassembled for drying and cleaning.
|Nested (w/ tip plug)||59.5 cm (23.4″)|
|Extended||290 cm (9′ 6″)|
|Weight (w/o tip plug)||26.9 g (0.95 oz)|
|RFI||3.6/ Moderate Mid-Flex|
The Oni 290 is very lightweight and moves through the air with minimal resistance. It has wonderful balance, which of course it should have since it’s only 290 cm when extended. Its casting stroke is crisp, but not overly fast.
The handle is small in diameter. This makes the rod a little harder to hold for long periods of time, if you have extra large palms like I do. But because the rod is so lightweight, it is easily shifted in your hand from cast to cast, to reduce any grip fatigue.
Although the RFI is rather low, the rod is definitely tip flex in is bend profile. The soft, flexible tip sections artificially lower the CCS and RFI. When casting the rod, you can tell that it’s faster in action than the Oni Type-III, which is has an RFI of 3.5 but is more mid-flex in bend profile.
I fished the rod with a #3 fluorocarbon level line, which is my standard line used to test rods. The Coco handled this line beautifully. The casting arc was short and brisk, and the rod through a beautifully tight loop. Targeting was accurate and I could place the fly into very tight lies which was often rewarded with a fish.
I caught browns from 8 inches to 15 inches. The rod never felt overwhelmed and I could easily keep the fish out of underwater snags and tangles. Again the small diameter handle did made it more difficult to hold onto with the larger fish, but it wasn’t that big of a problem.
Here is a vlog of some of the fish I caught and some of my thoughts on the rod:
The Oni Style Coco 290 rod is a beautifully executed small stream rod that is feather light and casts like a dream. Its casting action is brisk, but not overly stiff or fast. The handle is small in diameter, which may not be to everyone’s liking, but it gets the job done and contributes to the overall streamlined and lightweight design. It is a fun rod to use on a small stream, or even on more open waters, with a longer line. True to its pedigree, the Oni Style Coco 290 stands proudly alongside it’s longer sibling rods and I’m convinced that time will prove it as one of the best small stream tenkara rods ever produced.
Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ. Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod then make up your own mind. I was sent the rod by Masami Sakakibara. I have no formal affiliation with Oni Style Rods and there was no expectation of a positive review.
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