Nissin SP
(Special Panfish)

I'm not sure what the SP stands for in the Nissin SP 390. What it ought to stand for is Special Panfish. These are really sweet panfish rods. They are for people who like long, soft, smooth-casting rods. The SP might actually stand for Special Purchase, as I did get the rods under a special deal. I wasn't able to get very many of the rods and when they're gone they're gone. I will not be able to get more.

When I first got in a couple rods for evaluation I first fished them on a trout stream, my conclusion that day was that they would make great panfish rods and I decided to get them in specifically for panfish.

When I first wrote about tenkara fishing for bluegills three or four years ago, I had recommended a relatively beefy rod, thinking that the next cast could always yield a 3 or 4 pound largemouth instead of a bluegill. I've since changed my mind. A friend and I fish together from his canoe. He with a spinning rod and Senkos for bass, me with a tenkara rod and a Sakasa Kebari or Killer Buggers for bluegills.

He catches an occasional bluegill and I catch an occasional bass but I have never felt I was risking the rod. That being the case, I decided there was no need for a heavy rod. Bluegills are just so much more fun on light tackle and I'd much rather enjoy the fish I was catching than gear up with heavier tackle for the fish I might catch - but never did. I should state right there, though, that I was not yanking crappies out of brush piles. These rods do not have the backbone for that. Crappies in open water are a different story. 

I generally fish Sakasa Kebari or Killer Buggers for bluegills and crappies. (A Killer Bugger is a cross between a Killer Bug and a Woolly Bugger - a Killer Bug with a marabou tail). The Nissin SP 390 handles those flies beautifully. The rods will cast poppers, but they really shine with unweighted or lightly weighted wet flies. By lightly weighted I mean an underbody of copper wire or a body consisting solely of copper wire, which stands up to bluegill teeth better than thread does.

If you like stiff, fast rods, these are not for you. If, however, you like a rod that will give you smooth as silk casts, and that even a modest bluegill can put a serious bend in, these are right up your alley.

I have been told repeatedly that I underestimate the capability of rods. I received an email from a customer whose experience is more evidence of that. He recently caught 19" and 20" rainbows with a Nissin SP 390. I had thought these rods were better suited to sunfish. He said there is enough muscle in the butt section to stop the runs and bring the fish back in.

The last time I fished for sunfish with the Nissin SP 390 I ended up catching a pickerel. It's nice to know the rod can handle an unexpected fish.

When you first receive the rod you will be surprised a rod that soft and whippy can handle trout and pickerel. When you actually catch trout and pickerel you will be surprised at how well a rod that soft and whippy can handle them.

Lately, I've written a bit about the "zero tension" concept in keiryu fishing, which suggests that a very soft rod and very light line (down to 1# test or less) will let you see the strike but the fish will not feel any tension on the line. These are seiryu rods rather than keiryu rods, and are intended for more modest fish, but if you wanted to try fishing with extremely light lines, these rods will protect an 8X or 10X tippet better than just about any other rod you'll find anywhere.

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 or 1.9 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, and for bluegill fishing I really like the new Tenkara Midi Tapered lines with these rods. The 4 meter line pairs nicely with the SP 390. The lines are nylon mono, so they won't sink nearly as much as a fluorocarbon line. They are tapered, though, so they will cast better than a level 14# or 17# mono line. Plus they are really hi-vis, so it is easy to see the slightest tap when a bluegill sucks in your fly. The rods are very soft, and I think that helps tremendously in casting a nylon line. Of course, wind is still an issue with any nylon line. For a level fluorocarbon line I would choose a size 3.

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.

Nissin SP 390 - $158


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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

Hi-Vis Fluorocarbon Level Line

Killer Bugger Tying Kit

Fish two flies, catch two fish.

Fished the Nissin 390 SP today on a pond near home which is full of stunted 4"-6" black crappie.

Wow! Nice rod! Perfect for that type of fishing.

Daryl M, British Columbia

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