Daiwa is a Japanese tenkara rod company that doesn’t seem to get as much press in the United States as it deserves. I bet that if you did a poll of Japanese tenkara rods that US anglers have bought, Nissin and Shimano would lead the way, with Daiwa being far behind. That’s a shame, as Daiwa tenkara rods are highly respected in Japan. Daiwa is known for quality, precision and innovation. In a nutshell, Daiwa rods are excellent.
But to be honest, there was one Daiwa tenkara rod I didn’t like, the Daiwa Tenkara RT. It had some nice features but it was way too stiff for my liking. However, other Daiwa rods I have owned have been excellent. These include the Enshou series both LL and LT, as well as the Expert Tenkara series. My favorite Daiwa tenkara rod is the Master Tenkara L LL36, an altogether amazing rod to fish. But for model year 2023, Daiwa did something radical to the Expert Tenkara line of rods. They dramatically changed the handle.
The Daiwa Expert Tenkara LT36 comes in a classic plastic carton and includes a rod sleeve. The rod’s coloration is dark charcoal or black, and the finish is glossy. Like most Daiwa tenkara rods, there is very little adornment. Only a few gold accent rings are present on the tip end of the lower sections . The rod designation is adorned with a gold colored carbon fiber cross-hatch. Anti-stiction rings are present on all of the sections.
The handle is non-traditional. The rod has a split-grip handle, which consists of two cork sections separated by a section of exposed rod blank, adorned with a carbon fiber weave. The upper grip section is 13.5 cm (5.3 inches) long, and is torpedo-shaped. The lower grip section is 5.5 cm (2.2 inches) long and is slightly cone shaped. From the top of the first grip section to the butt is 27.5 cm (10.8 inches). The lower section has a small cork composite ring adjacent to the butt cap. The cork quality appears to be excellent.
The tip plug is fluted and fits snugly into the handle section. The butt cap is gold anodized metal. Like most Daiwa tenkara rods, it is quite thin in profile and has a coin slot to aid removal.
The lilian is brown, short, and relatively thick. This is common with Daiwa rods. It is attached to the tip section via a micro-swivel. The entire rod can be disassembled for cleaning and drying.
|Nested (with tip plug)||53.5 cm (21 inches)|
|Extended||357 cm (11 feet, 8.5 inches)|
|Weight (without tip plug)||83 g (2.9 oz)|
|RFI||5.6/ 6:4 Moderately Fast, Upper Mid Flex|
Casting the rod is very nice. The action is pleasingly powerful, particularly when compared to the level line rods in the series. The Daiwa Expert Tenkara LT36 is designed to be used with either a level line or a heavier, tapered line, and the action of the rod shows it. I cast the rod with a #3 fluorocarbon level line equal to the length of the rod, and found that it handled it very well. However, I could see that using a heavier weight level line or even a furled or PVC line would be just fine for this rod.
I couldn’t detect any end of cast rod oscillation, but I wouldn’t expect any in such a high quality Japanese rod. The rod dampens very quickly, both in linear and rotational directions. But again, these are characteristics that one would expect from a modern carbon fiber Japanese tenkara rod.
I fished the rod on a moderately high gradient mountain freestone stream. I used both bead head and unweighted kebari and found the rod handled these without any complaints. Hook sets were quick, but not overly aggressive. Fighting fish, even in heavy currents, was easy. The rod handily controlled fish in and out of pockets in the current making the fight a pleasurable experience.
Now to the handle, I’m not sure that I fully understand, and I definitely don’t fully appreciate the split grip design. Daiwa states, “By providing a separate part in the grip, the gripping points are greatly increased compared to the conventional grip.” Personally I’m not so sure about this claim, but it’s part of their marketing statement.
Many fixed line anglers feel that having a portion of their hand in contact with the rod blank gives them extra sensitivity to fish strikes. As for myself, I’m not convinced of this. I’ve fished a lot of rods with cork or foam handles, as well as bare blank handles. I don’t think there’s any difference in sensitivity, at least in my approach to tenkara. I think to get the benefit of extra tactile sensitivity, the angler must keep an absolute direct line of tension with the fly at all times, having no slack in the line at all, such as when fishing downstream presentations. However, I fish upstream presentations 99% of the time. I know that for myself, even when I am trying my best to keep direct contact with the fly as it floats back towards me, inevitably some slack gets introduced into the line.
Because of this, I am much more a visual angler than I am of a tactile angler, and therefore, I don’t feel that the split grip actually benefits me. In fact, I didn’t really care for it. I prefer to hold rods more near the butt section of the handle than near the top, and with the split grip, I found my usually preferred hand position to be rather uncomfortable. But I know there are anglers out there who have this rod, who really like the handle, so I must accept the fact that I might be missing the point of this unconventional design.
Overall, I like the Daiwa Expert Tenkara LT36. I like its flex profile and action, its balance, and its carbon fiber dynamics. I like the Daiwa’s approach to rod cosmetics, being minimalistic (I don’t care for heavily painted rods). I also really like the anti-stiction rings on each section. I wish more rod makers incorporated these into their rods. I think they really help keep the sections from getting stuck. So far only Daiwa and ESZ Tenkara Fly Fishing have them on their rods. I don’t like the split handle, however. Daiwa rods are high quality, and they are known for innovation, but the split grip doesn’t work for me. I much prefer a traditional cork tenkara handle, but I’m sure there will be anglers out there who will see an advantage to the split grip. However, I am not one of those tenkara anglers! Sorry, Daiwa.
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 purchased the rod at retail price. I have no formal affiliation with Daiwa.
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