Nissin Zerosum Tenkara Rods

The Nissin Zerosum tenkara rods are wonderfully light rods. I find that as I try more and more rods, ranging from short seiryu rods well suited to 4" brookies to long keiryu rods well suited to big browns, the ones I like the best are the lighter ones. It is a personal preference, but I just can't see fishing with a rod that weighs over 3.5 ounces when there are excellent rods that weigh so much less.

One of the biggest differences between the Japanese rods and any of the rods made in China is the weight. People who have never fished with a Nissin rod would be amazed at the difference. Other companies can copy the look of the rods but they just can't copy the feel.

The Zerosum rods come in four lengths - 320 (10'6"), 360 (11'11") and 400 (13'5"), and 450; and two ratings - 6:4 and 7:3. The 6:4 rods are a bit slower and also a bit lighter. The 6:4 400 weighs just 2.6 ounces without the tip plug - which is amazing for a 13'5" rod. The 360 weighs only 2.1 ounces and the 320 is a surprisingly light 1.9 ounces. And they're not just light - they feel well balanced and you can easily feel the rod load as you are casting. I fully agree with Tom Davis at Teton Tenkara when he said "I think Nissin has a real winner with this rod."

His very extensive rod review was of the 7:3 360. I saw the 360 in both the 6:4 and 7:3 ratings at the Osaka Fishing Show and I much preferred the 6:4 - so much so that my initial order was entirely of 6:4 rods. Partially as a result of Tom's review I quickly added the 7:3 rods as well.

The 320 6:4 is a 12 penny rod, which is right on the tenkara rod / seiryu rod border (for comparison, the Oni Type I rod is a 13). The 360 is a 14 penny rod - right in between the Oni Type I at 13 and the Daiwa Enshou LL36SF at 15. The 400 is a 15.5, just a penny softer than the Daiwa LL41SF. At those ratings, I would fish a size 3 line with all of them.

The 7:3 rods have substantially more backbone. They're still not what I would call big fish rods, but they will give you more control over fish than the 6:4 rods will. The 7:3 Zerosum 320 is a 16 penny rod (the same as the 5:5 Daiwa NEO LL32SC - which illustrates what I've always said, the ratio tells you where the rod bends, not how stiff it is). I'd fish either a size 3 or 3.5 line with the 7:3 rods.

Despite being light rods, they are quite capable of subduing good sized fish. On one of my trips to Maine for some smallmouth bass fishing, where I did most of my fishing fishing with big, beefy keiryu rods, my best fish of the trip was caught with a Nissin Zerosum tenkara rod.

I truly believe that most tenkara anglers do not realize the ability of a light rod to land a good fish. It will bend to the grip, but it will absorb every head shake and every attempt at a run. A heavier, stiffer rod will give you a bit more control, but only a bit, and not enough to offset the wonderful smooth casting and light line capability of the Zerosum rods.

The grip section of the Zerosums has what Nissin calls a "4-axis carbon" weave which you can see pretty easily in the photo above. This gives the lower section of the rod a bit more rigidity, which you can feel when casting (compared to the Nissin Royal Stage Tenkara rods which are the rods that are closest to the Zerosums).

Nissin Zerosum and a Keeper Kebari

In my opinion, the Zerosum 320 is the nicest small stream rod you will find. As with the other Nissin Zerosum tenkara rods, it is rated for a tippet of 3# - 5# test (Japanese line size .8-1.2). With a 5# test tippet and a well-set hook, you should be able to land any fish that lives in a stream small enough that you'd want to use a 10.5' rod. The fish in the photo in the upper right, a chunky 10 incher, did not come even close to pushing the limits of the rod.

The 9 inch brookie below got into a fast current and headed downstream. The 6:4 320 bent to the grip but the rod was able to maneuver the fish into quiet water and then bring it to net.

The 360 is only a bit beefier, but the feel of the rod is different. The 320 feels "light." The 360 feels "right." It is a delightful rod and if your fishing is concentrated on small to medium sized streams for fish in the 8-14" range (which to be honest, is the size trout that most anglers catch most of the time), this could be your "go to" rod - to the point where you may never want to fish any of your other rods again. They really are that nice. And if you happen to hook that unexpected 18 incher, don't worry, the rod can handle it.

The Zerosum 400 is a long rod and long rods are heavier. The 400 is definitely heavier than the 360, but it is so much lighter than the best known 13-13.5' rods. Comparing the Japanese made 6:4 Zerosum 400 at 2.6 ounces to the rods that weigh 3.6 ounces is eye opening to say the least. The 400 is a rod for where there is no overhead canopy and for where you would want the additional length for longer casts.

Nissin has just released a Zerosum 450 for larger streams, rivers, lakes - anywhere you really want the reach you can get with a longer rod. The Nissin Zerosum 450 would also be an ideal rod for the "long rod short line" approach, which will give you dramatically better drifts than using a longer line with a shorter rod. 

I like the rods quite a bit and can enthusiastically recommend any one of them to tenkara anglers who want a light weight premium tenkara rod.  On his recent visit to Japan, John Vetterli noticed that the Zerosum was the rod he saw most Japanese tenkara anglers fishing with. I was surprised to learn that Hiromichi Fuji, the master who designed the wooden handled Nissin Fujiryu Tenkara rods, which I think are absolutely delightful to fish with, now fishes with a Zerosum!

Rock Bass are such scrappy fighters. Perfect for tenkara rods.
Sean R photo

Until you cast one of the Nissin Zerosum rods, you won't know what you are missing. With very, very few exceptions, the people who rave about other rods haven't experienced fishing with a Zerosum. It is no surprise that a well known American rod company copied the look of the Zerosum. They just couldn't copy the feel, though.

I have read in a number of places that the Nissin 6:4 and 7:3 rod ratings are too soft, or at least softer than most other rods. I think it is important to note that Nissin has been making tenkara rods for a long time and makes them for the discerning Japanese market. Most of the people who suggest Nissin ratings are a bit soft have only fished with rods designed (and rated) by people with limited experience in tenkara fishing or in rod design. Isn't it more likely that the ratings for the Nissin rods are accurate and the ratings from the American newcomers are the ones that are off?

The following table is for the 6:4 rods. 

Model Extended Sections Collapsed Weight Pennies
Number Length Length (ounces)
320 10'6" 7 22 1/8" 1.9 12
360 11'11" 8 22 1/8" 2.1 14
400 13'5" 9 22 1/8" 2.6 15.5
450 15'0" 10 22 1/8" 3.1 TBD


The following table is for the 7:3 rods.

Model Extended Sections Collapsed Weight Pennies
Number Length Length (ounces)
320 10'6" 7 22 1/8" 2.0 16
360 11'11" 8 22 1/8" 2.3 18
400 13'5" 9 22 1/8" 2.8 18
450 14'11" 10 22 1/8" 3.7 TBD


Rods made in Japan.

$10 from the sale of every rod will go to fisheries conservation.


Nissin Zerosum Tenkara 6:4

Nissin Zerosum Tenkara 7:3

320 - $235

320 - $245
360 - $255

360 - $265
400 - $275

400 - $285

450 - $295
450 - $305

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I took the Zerosum out fishing this morning. 20 fish in 3 hours. Not a bad day. All fish in the 10-12 inch range. The 6:4 4.0m rod is such an easy rod to cast and handled all the fish I caught today so easily. I really like the way it behaves casting and having fish on the line. Everything feels well balanced. Not too soft or stiff, never overpowered the fish, precise casting with 3.5 level line and my 16' line. I think this may just well be my holy grail 4m tenkara rod for Japanese tenkara methods. For bigger rivers or bigger fish I would leave this rod at home and take something beefier. But for actual tenkara, this thing rocks!

John V, Utah


I got a pair of these on Hoppers this AM. Love the ZeroSum.

Dave N, Minnesota

Got my Nissin Zerosum 360 6:4 out for the first time yesterday on a small river in Olympic National Park - what a blast! Caught more than 20 fish, including two that were 12 inches plus.

I've been fly fishing for 50 years, and Tenkara (and this rod!) has turned my world on its head.

Thanks for your advice!

Jack W, Washington

The Zerosum still rocks. Why buy a Ford when you can drive a BMW.

Dave N, Minnesota

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