Motsugo Rod Review
The 9' Motsugo from AllFishingBuy is one of their shortest and softest tenkara rods. All Fishing Buy is better known for it's carbon fiber poles or for its Hera rods (both are telescopic rods used for other types of fishing) and for its surf rods, but it has recently begun importing tenkara rods.
All Fishing Buy 9' Motsugo
I've been watching their line-up for a while and finally found a rod I wanted to try. I like the softer, 5:5 action in tenkara rods, and the Motsugo is All Fishing Buy's line of 5:5 rods. The rods are available in 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14' lengths. I bought the 9' model. All Fishing Buy also has a line of 6:4 rods, the Wakata, 7:3 rods, the Yokoshima, in the same lengths.
|This little guy lives just to the left of the big rock in the next photo|
There have been a number of comments on various forums asking about a shorter tenkara rod for fishing really small streams, particularly the rhododendron-choked streams in the Southeast. For those extremely tight fishing conditions, there was concern that even Tenkara USA's 11' Iwana might be a bit too long; and for the small wild trout one catches, the relatively stiff 10' Backpacking Light Hane is just overkill. I wanted to review the 9' Motsugo specifically to address the desire for a short rod for tight streams.
| If you fish for 6" wild fish in 6' wide streams|
the 9' Motsugo may be the rod for you.
I don't generally fish streams that are that tight or that small, but I was curious (well, skeptical might be a better word) about whether a very short tenkara rod would be a good solution. There are a number of 3 meter tenkara rods sold in Japan for fishing small headwaters, but a 2.7 meter rod (under 9') just seemed like it might be a bit too short.
To me, one of the biggest advantages of tenkara is the length of the rod, and I'll generally fish the longest rod I can get away with. The long rod allows you to keep nearly all your line off the water. Of course, you can do that with a shorter rod, but that just means you have to fish a shorter line. And that means you have to be extremely stealthy. Also, you can't fish across a current seam and into an eddy unless the eddy is pretty close - and that means fishing small to very small streams.
It turns out that the 9' Motsugo is not too short - at least for the small streams for which it is intended. The photo to the left is a small side channel off one of my favorite streams and I'd never it fished before. This review was just the excuse I needed. I only caught one fish there, but that's one fish I wouldn't have caught with a longer rod!
The main stream is just small enough that there were a number of spots I could fish with the 9' Motsugo that I couldn't easily fish with a longer rod, but there were a lot more spots that I normally fish with an 11' or 12' rod but couldn't reach with the 9 footer. Still, I caught a bunch of fish (not as many as the last time I was there with a longer rod, but a respectable number nonetheless). The fish ranged from a bit under 4" to a bit over 8" and the 9' Motsugo was perfectly suited. I would like to have caught a fish that really tested the Motsugo's potential, but that would have to wait for another trip.
On my second outing with the 9' Motsugo, I caught three 11 inchers, and the little Motsugo handled them with no problem.
Motsugo handled this 11 inch brown easily
The 9' Motsugo is almost unbelieveably light in the hand. Weighed on the scale at the neighborhood Post Office, it came in at 2.2 ounces, including the little wooden plug. By way of comparison, on the same scale the 11' Iwana weighed 2.4 ounces and the Hane weighed 2.7 ounces. (On a side note, AllFishingBuy lists the weight of the rod at .8 ounces, which is clearly incorrect. I believe that has been pointed out to them, yet the weight figure has not been changed. Similarly, the rod is described as 9' Tenkara Rod Telescopic Ultra-Light Action made of 98% Carbon Manufactured In Japan. In my opinion, that is misleading. The carbon was manufactured in Japan, not the rod.)
When the rods are extended, though, the weight difference seems much greater. I suspect it is because of the shorter length, or possibly just the weight distribution, but the Motsugo feels much lighter than the Iwana.
| Motsugo and Ayu with 10 pennies weight|
I tried to take photos of various rods under load, partially because I was a little surprised that the Motsugo doesn't bend in a smooth curve. Unfortunately, the photos really didn't turn out very well. Fortunately, the lack of a perfectly smooth curve had no noticeable effect on the rod's performance while fishing. I have subsequently learned that having a completely smooth bend in a rod is important to distribute the stress from the pull of a large fish.
All the photos show the amount that the rods bend under the weight of just 10 US pennies.
The photos show the Motsugo compared to the 11' Iwana with one segment collapsed, the Ebisu with two segments collapsed and the Ayu with three segments collapsed. The 9' Motsugo is quite a bit softer than the Iwana, and a bit softer than the Ebisu. The softness is mostly in the tip section rather than distributed along the blank as in the Ayu. (Shown for bending comparison only, I do not recommend fishing any of the rods with segments collapsed.)
|9' Motsugo and 11' Iwana||9' Motsugo and Ebisu|
Before actually fishing with the rod, I was a bit concerned that the very soft tip section might make it hard to get reliable hooksets. It didn't turn out to be a problem at all. I missed my share of strikes, but I always do. I also didn't fish woolly buggers or beadhead nymphs, and I really wouldn't recommend them for this rod. With a single unweighted wet fly, like the TenkaraBum
or a dry fly like the
CDC & Elk,
you'll have no problem.
I also thought the soft tip would allow me to cast a very light line - lighter even than with the 11' Iwana or the Ayu, but that was not the case. It seems the limitation on how light a line you can cast has much more to do with line density and wind resitance than with the rod. However, being a much shorter rod, it doesn't generate as much line speed as a longer rod unless you make a quicker casting stroke. The 10 1/2' tapered line seemed a bit long, making it harder to keep the line off the water. I would suggest a line a bit shorter than that, and the TenkaraBum light weight
Hand Tied Line
line would cast very nicely with this rod.
The rod comes with a rod sock but not a rod tube. That it doesn't come with a rod tube is not really a complaint. I'm a firm believer that you get what you pay for, or put more accurately, you pay for what you get. AllFishingBuy sells the 9' Motsugo for half the price of the Tenkara USA Iwana, and part of that price difference is certainly the rod tube. The plastic packaging it comes in, shown below, is intended to be the rod case. I'll store it in the original packaging when at home, but I won't be taking that case with me in my backpack. I'll just try to be careful. It is truly unfortunate that the rod, with it's little wooden plug, measures 24 11/16" when collapsed. That means it will not fit in a standard 24" mailing tube - which could have served as an inexpensive but adequate rod tube.
Motsugo Rod case
Further along the line of you pay for what you get, the butt cap is plastic instead of metal and the rod blank has a slightly rough surface. I really know very little about rod construction, but I wonder whether the rough blank and extremely light weight mean the blank walls are thinner than on the other tenkara rods I've fished. It also doesn't come with the same warranty (although if a rod happens to be clearly defective, I'm confident that All Fishing Buy would allow you to return it if it is in unused condition.) The grip is surprisingly nice cork, though, which may make up for the rough blank.
This is definitely a small stream rod. If you are on a stream that is large enough to accomodate a longer rod, you're going to want to use a longer rod. I had initially thought that it is also a small fish rod. A "motsugo" is a type of Japanese fish that doesn't get much bigger than about 4 inches long. My second trip with the rod proved to me that the All Fishing Buy Motsugo can handle fish quite a bit bigger than that. Still, I'm not sure I'd want to fish it in streams where catching 16 or 18 inch fish is a reasonable possibility. For the size fish you'll catch in the small streams where you want a rod this short, you shouldn't have any problem.
If you do happen to break the rod, though, All Fishing Buy does sell replacement rod tip sections. That is good to know, because the tip section of this rod can be hard to collapse. This is the rod that prompted me to introduce the
to help collapse a stuck tip.
Be careful, and do not extend the tip section any more than it takes to make it just snug. Go to extra effort to avoid having to beak off a snag by pulling back on the rod. That, more than anything else, will jam the tip section. As always, when collapsing the rod make sure that you are not putting any sideways pressure on the segments.
So, what's the bottom line? To be blunt, the Motsugo is not as nice a rod as the Tenkara USA rods, but at half the price you wouldn't (or at least shouldn't) expect it to be. At about the same price as a Motsugo you could also buy a Fountainhead rod, which I also prefer to the Motusgo. Fountainhead doesn't offer 9' rods, though, and the 9' grip for the Iwana results in a rod that is a bit stiff for my taste - certainly for the small fish that you are likely to catch in a stream so small that you need that short a rod.
If you are going to fish a stream on which an 11' rod would be too long, I would recommend reading the review of the
Daiwa Soyokaze Tanago
If you have questions about any of the 9' Motsugo or how it compares to the 9' Soyokaze, please go to the
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