Nissin SP

When I first got in the Nissin SP I called it a Special Panfish rod. That was a mistake. At the time, a new panfish forum had just started and the guy who started it wanted to do a joint promotion.

The Nissin SP is a soft rod and the casting is just as smooth as silk. I thought it would be a dandy rod for bluegills and crappies so I went along.

What I found out is that people don't buy panfish rods. They certainly do use tenkara rods and seiryu rods for panfish, but they don't buy panfish rods.

People also seem to think that a softer rod is only good for smaller fish. That is absolutely incorrect! A couple years ago, I got an email from a customer telling me of a trip he had taken on which he used the Nissin SP exclusively. Not only did he catch a bunch of fish, a couple of them were 19-20" rainbows.

That of course was a bit of a wake-up call, signifying that the rod was a lot more capable than I had realized. Coach, who I fish with a lot, tells me I always underestimate the capability of the rods I offer - and of course he is right. It seems that after the wake-up call I again dozed off, though - barely mentioning the good sized trout in the write-up.

Well, I just got another email from a customer who said he was out with a Nissin SP 390 and caught over 30 rainbows. A few he said were about 12" but the majority were 16-18" with a couple that went 20 inches.

That is not a panfish rod!

Unfortunately, where I fish I don't catch 16-18" trout with any degree of regularity, but I have come to realize that a soft rod will handle much larger trout than I once believed. Much of that realization has come from fishing zero tension keiryu rods, which are rated for tippets of 8X or less.

The zero-tension rods are extremely soft but what the softness does is protect a light tippet from sharp jerks, which will break it much more easily than a gradual increase in tension. The softness of the rod cushions the jerk from the initial take and from subsequent headshakes. As a trout pulls, however, the resistance it feels gradually increases as the bend in the rod gets to the thicker mid and butt sections. That progressive increase in resistance will turn a surprisingly large fish if you hold your rod to the side rather than straight up.

My customer said he was amazed at the rod's ability to control the fish, feeling that the fish ran almost to the breaking point but could run no further, and that there was "enough rod left" for him to get it back.

He was using 5X and 6X tippets, which are above the manufacturer's recommendation (7X), but I suspect most of the people who have the Nissin SP here in the US use 5X tippets and to date the only broken rod I'm aware of was not broken fighting a fish.

The last time I fished with a Nissin SP, I was trying for either blue spotted or black banded sunfish, neither of which I caught, but I did catch a pretty feisty pickerel. The rod handled it with absolutely no problem. The rod really is silky smooth, but it has more muscle down deep than you think.

Another comment my customer made also reminded me of fishing zero-tension keiryu rods. He said that although he tried lots of different flies, from woolly buggers to tiny bead head midges to size 20 dries on greased tippets, his best luck came tight line nymphing. He said the Nissin SP 390 was sensitive enough that he could generally feel the strikes. That is exactly what I came to realize when fishing the "miracle pool" at the Midwest Tenkara Fest.

If you want a light, smooth casting rod that is indeed fun with smaller fish but can handle 18-20 inchers (and really, who doesn't want that?) please consider the Nissin SP 390.

Nissin SP 390 Features

These are not flashy rods. They are basic black with red accents - which to my eye looks a lot classier than some other rods.

The grip is not cork but instead is textured, which provides a very effective non-skid surface. You may find, as I have, that you actually prefer corkless grips. With rods that weigh only 1.5 ounces, you're not going to get blisters. You will definitely appreciate the extreme sensitivity you get with your hand right on the blank.

The grip screw is knurled and has a foam insert so the rod sections do not make the clickety clack sound some rods do when they are collapsed. The plastic screw fits into an aluminum insert. The plastic/aluminum junction eliminates the need for an "O" ring to prevent unexpected loosening.

The tip plug is rubber and is a very snug fit. I find it much easier to screw it in rather than just trying to push it in. The snug fit means it will never slide out by accident when you tip the rod, as some plugs can. The  plug is also fluted so you can keep your line attached and still insert the plug into the collapsed rod for extra security when walking (or paddling) to your next spot.

I have fished the rods with a number of different lines, although I have generally used either size 3 fluorocarbon or the Fujino Midi or Soft tenkara tapered nylon lines. I have not yet tried it but I am sure the rods would do extremely well with the new Nissin Oni size 2.5 fluorocarbon lne.

Nissin SP 390

Length Extended - 12'11"
Length Collapsed 22 3/8"
Weight - 1.5 oz
Pennies - 8

The rods do not come with a hard case or a rod sock. They are nice rods, though, and are made in Japan by a company that has been making rods for a long time.

Don't think of them as panfish rods, but a good sized bluegill does put up a wonderful fight.

Nissin SP 390 - $129

Please note: this rod has been discontinued by Nissin. Replacement parts are still available but I don't know how long they will remain available.


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Speak softly and carry a long stick. - Teddy Roosevelt (almost)

Tenkara has no strict rules. Enjoy tenkara in your own way.
- Eiji Yamakawa


Tenkara Midi Tapered Line

Nissin Oni size 2.5 Line

Love the soft flexible tip......I sort of "jigged" the fly a bit and as it got closer, a quick wrist flip to that long lever put the fly right back at the beginning again. Nice. One falls into it automatically.

Caught one nice largemouth that was at first reluctant to co-operate but we came to an agreement before he hit the weeds.

Stephen M, Massachusetts

Just the right size bass for the SP. Lots of fun!

Peter L, Texas

The rod did very well. Caught many small bass and sunnies. I did hook a small sunny (3") that was then taken twice by a 15" large mouth (I saw the fish take the sunny on the surface right at my feet). The rod held it very well each time for 3-4 minutes. I think that if the bass was actually hooked it could have been landed.

John N, New Jersey