Forget about baseball, America’s real pastime is fishing.
From bonding with your parents to reconnecting with nature, Americans have ingrained fishing so deeply into their culture that we’re practically blind to how much we really value it. Fishing is also one of the most reliable ways to trap fresh food while you’re out on the trail.
Anything that can make that process any easier and lighter is a welcome addition to our backpack. Tenkara fishing is a Japanese style of fishing that’s essentially the minimalist’s approach to the sport. There are so many Tenkara rods out there, though, so we’ve set aside a couple of hours and reviewed some of the best Tenkara fishing rods you can buy in 2021!
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
7 Best Tenkara Fishing Rods - Tested and Reviewed - Overview
Here are the top 5 picks (keep scrolling for more details and picks 6-7).
This fishing rod exemplifies everything Tenkara fishing rods are all about. This telescoping lightweight rod is sturdy enough to stand up to the rowdiest freshwater fish. It’s beautiful to behold, and it’s small enough to slip into your pack without taking up precious space and weight.
This rod from Hane comes with a durable case to keep your rod from taking on too much damage while it’s packed away. This case also vastly improves its ability to slip away into your backpack by acting as a rigid barrier with slick, beveled lines.
It’s about as portable as a good flashlight, and it’s going to last you an incredibly long time. The case also comes paired with a “sock”. The sock just protects the beautiful case from bumps and blemishes while you have it hidden away in your backpack full of tricks.
When this rod is fully collapsed it measures just over a foot (15” to be exact). Altogether, this rod and its spool weigh practically nothing, we’re talking less than 5 ounces. There really aren’t a lot of places this rod WON’T be able to call home in a pinch.
If you have the pockets for it, it honestly fits really well into those spaces as well. You’re never going to feel put out by this Tenkara rod and its hyper-portability. The rod may be small when it’s in its fully collapsed state, but it extends to almost 10 times its collapsed length.
Fully extended, this rod will reach a whopping 10 feet 10 inches, giving you total domination over any body of water you cast your line into.
- ✅Super lightweight design allows for a precise, versatile casting ability
A Tenkara rod offers you a great degree of versatility while you’re fishing. They’re so unlike traditional fishing rods in that aspect. The simple ability to store and retrieve your fishing rod with ease from an incredibly compact space should be enough to totally sell you on a Tenkara rod of your own, but if it’s not then Sato’s rods go the extra mile for you skeptics out there.
This rod is focused primarily on versatility. To that end, it’s incredibly compact in its fully collapsed form. The rod will telescope down into an incredibly manageable 22.75-inch package when it’s not in use. This is significantly longer than the Hane Tankara rod at 15 inches, but it’s hard to say that it’s not impressive, especially for all of the strength and functionality you’ll get out of Sato’s Tankara rod.
This rod, for all of its length, while collapsed, is still incredibly light and durable. The minimal weight and the excellent balance you get from the slightly more hefty handle give you amazing control over the rod when it’s time to cast into your preferred body of water.
This superior degree of control makes it that much easier when you’re working on the perfect fly fishing cast. We’d be sorely mistaken if we neglected to mention what Sato calls their “triple-zoom” feature. Triple-zoom is quite simple when you boil it down to its essence.
This feature is just three distinct length settings on the rod. This allows you to quickly and confidently set the rod to the perfect setting when casting off to fish no matter what body of water you’re towering over. This triple-zoom can also be considered one of the reasons the rod doesn’t collapse down to the same length as some of its competitors.
Using the Hane rod as a comparison point again, you’ll see that you’re getting 2 full feet of length out of the Sato rod. What you lose in hyper-compact transportation, you get back in additional versatility, distance, and strength.
- HIGH QUALITY ROD - The Shadowfire 12-ft Tenkara Rod is comparable to other mid-tier rods that are priced much higher. IM 10 graphite is strong yet lightweight and can handle medium sized fish.
This is the perfect Tenkara set if you’re totally unfamiliar with collapsable fishing rods or fly fishing in general. This rod from Dragontail is designed to be a solid starting place and it’s meant to stay in your collection for a long time.
It’s the rare sort of beginner’s set in that’s not made to break after you’ve mastered the craft, and there aren’t any glaring cut corners that will force you to replace this rod within six months of taking up the hobby. This is a 12-foot Tenkara rod, so it’s perfect for larger bodies of water.
You can make it work for smaller streams or baby-sized ponds if you really need to. All it takes is a little mental recalibration and a few steps back. The rod is made from IM10 graphite, so it’s strong and supple without becoming heavy or uncomfortable.
Dragontail says this rod can handle medium-sized fish, and during our tests, that claim seemed to hold up pretty well. The rod collapses down into a 25-inch compact package. The included storage tube will keep it safe from the elements and makes it simple to slide into your pack without issue.
As long as you keep your rod clean in between uses, you’re going to be getting a long and prosperous life out of this rod. The starter package comes with 3 soft hackle flies, an ultra-premium American-made furled Moonlit line, a fresh tippet, an EVA foam line holder, a storage tube, and a rod sock.
It’s truly everything you need to get started short of bait. If you’re unsure of what you should be bringing along on your Tenkara fishing trips or you’re just ready to offload the mental heavy lifting, then you’re going to get a lot out of this set.
- ONE-YEAR-WARRANTY and LifeTime Repairing Warranty – Maxcatch as a 13 years fly rod factory, offer “No Hassle” warranty for all our rods for one year. If you are not 100% satisfied with our rod,...
This is another Tenkara rod that’s ready to give you options when you’re facing down a body of water. You can set this rod to three different lengths and there are several different base models to choose from if you’re particular about your Tenkara rod length.
We focused on the 11 to 13 foot model for our research. This is another set that’s ready to go straight out of the box. You’re going to be getting the rod (obviously), fresh fishing line, Tenkara flies, and some other more specialized accessories like hook keepers and line nippers.
This Tenkara rod promises a streamlined experience, and it delivers well on its claims with the combination of a sturdy rod and all of the bells and whistles you need to create a fishing trip that’ll go off without a single hitch. The rod itself is made from IM8+10 carbon fiber material.
This gives this Tenkara rod its characteristic flexibility without immediately descending into a nightmare of cracked poles and splintered fishing trips. The flexibility granted by the carbon fiber layering imparts enough give to ease the pressure from aggressive catches without exhausting you or taxing the rod until it shatters.
If you’re looking for a Tenkara rod set that gives you everything you need while sticking to the minimalist nature of Tenkara fishing, then consider this rod from the Tenkara Rod Company. Tenkara Rod Co.’s poles adhere pretty closely to the spirit of Tenkara fishing.
Their rods are supple and sturdy so you can handle some surprisingly large fish, but they close down to a pretty manageable size and don’t throw a dozen extra features your way when all you’re trying to do is fish without obstacles. Closed, this rod measures a decent 20-inches.
That’s only a little more than a foot and a half. That’s perfect for travel and right in the middle of most Tenkara rod lengths, so there are no surprises in this department. You might end up shying away from this one if you’re looking for a sturdy carrying case that will protect your rod during transport, especially since it’s not particularly compact compared to some of its competitors.
The softshell case this rod comes with is perfect for strapping to a bag with some MOLLE straps or just carrying on your side, but if you’re going to be encountering inclement weather or you’re worried about drops or strikes damaging your rod, you’re going to have to invest in a carrying case separate from this kit.
When you extend this Tenkara pole to its full length you’ll be looking at a pretty sizable 12-foot rod. It’s great for fly fishing in larger bodies of water, but it’ll be tough to work it into smaller spaces, so keep an eye out for that. All around this is an excellent rod, but if you’re looking for something that will solve your problems before they arise, you might look elsewhere.
Most Tenkara rods will lean into their classic Japanese roots, so you’re often looking at wooden handles and rustic-looking design. This rod branches out and takes a more modern and sleek approach to the Tenkara rod. Those modern sensibilities seem more aesthetic than anything, but this rod still gets the job done without any fuss.
This rod collapses down into an 18-inch form which is on the smaller side of Tenkara rods, making this the perfect candidate for longer treks. If you’re the backpacking type, you’d get a lot of mileage out of the Seaquest rod. The set comes with a fresh fishing line, nippers, and tippet, but beyond that and a beautiful case, you’re not getting much else.
This is fine if you’re a seasoned fly fisher, but if you’re looking for a cheap starter kit, this isn’t the move.
This is a medium-action fishing rod from Tenkara USA. It’s similar to the Sato, but it’s a little more rigid, so if you’re not a fan of the higher action rods out on the market, then the rod would be an excellent choice for you. The carbon fiber of this rod is constructed to keep things nice and tight.
The telescoping action of the rod is snappy and satisfying while being sturdy enough to handle the rocking and rolling of some of the stronger fish you’ll encounter while you’re out there hunting for your next catch. This rod is fairly standard. The case it comes with has a nice glossy finish to snazz things up and keep your rod in one piece, but other than that it’s a little bland.
This rod from Hane really has it all. It’s strong enough to reel in the friskiest opponents, it’s compact enough to slip into almost any pack no matter how tightly you’ve jammed it full of equipment, and it’s just a joy to use. The weight and structure of this rod together create a high-quality product that’s just as fun to use the 50th time as it is the first time.
The case and sock that come packaged with this fishing rod are a massive saving grace as well. They make caring for this rod as easy as regular cleanings and careful storage. The hard case protects the rod from the shock of rattling around inside of your bag along with any incidental drops or impacts you might make along the way.
This is the perfect rod for fly fishing beginners or Tenkara pros. Since Tenkara rods are minimalist at heart, you’re never going to be overwhelmed by this rod, but seasoned pros will recognize all of the minute quality of life aspects of this rod, like its overall length, its sturdy construction, or how compact its capable of telescoping in on itself.
Speaking of the telescoping mechanism, this is another aspect of the rod that simply cannon be overstated. The ease with which you can set up and break down this Tenkra rod is astonishing. You’re never going to be more than a few moments away from casting your first line with ease.
Everything about this Tenkara rod is simple and straightforward without sacrificing quality or strength in any aspect. If you’re in search of a convenient rod that’s capable of easily accommodating an impromptu fishing trip or a planned family trip, then this rod from Hane is going to delight you to no end.
Bonus tip: If you’re totally unfamiliar with Tenkara fishing and you like a visual aid, this video is perfect for you. They break down the basics of Tenkara without dumbing down the subject too much!