Quality Counts: A Review of the Tenryu Furaibo TF39
by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)
The Tenryu Furaibo TF39 is a Beautifully-Crafted Rod
Is the Tenryu Furaibo worth its price tag and worth having? I think all tenkara fishermen have enjoyed the photos of these beautiful rods, but then we’re a little surprised by the price. Can a rod with no reel seat and no line guides really be worth that many American greenbacks? Is it a good value, and — once you have it — will you be glad you bought it?
Eight months ago, when I first saw the glossy beauty of the Tenryu, I started saving my pennies. My wife and I operate on a careful budget, so this was no small decision in our household. But, I really wanted to test the non-zooming, less-expensive, version of this rod, so I started saving. I even told Chris Stewart at one point that I hoped he was keeping the TF39 in stock because it would be a shame to save for those months and then find that it’s no longer available! And, as expensive as these rods are, Chris has them cheaper than any of the auction sites I’ve visited. If I was going to buy one, it would have to be from Chris.
So, the day finally arrived, TenkaraBum still had them in stock, and I placed my order. Then I anxiously watched my doorstep. Sure enough, in a few days, it arrived; and I was like that kid at Christmas opening his favorite toy.
In tenkara rods, the carbon fiber blanks are the heart of performance, and the Tenryu Furaibo tubes are exceptional. You can feel that difference in the ultra-smooth bend profile, in the precise manner the sections slide together, and even when you disassemble the rod to dry it out. My guess is that the higher price tag is a reflection of these high-quality blanks, plus their fit and finish. I know there’s even a video where a Japanese expert says that Tenryu is known for having the highest-quality blanks. I believe it. There are other fine Japanese tenkara rods, but the smoothness of the Furaibo is a step above.
The Furaibo is also strikingly beautiful. In fact, I’ve had several people stop me streamside just because they admired the red-laquered appearance of the pole. If you prefer camouflage rods, this is not the one for you! (The bright color doesn’t seem to affect its fish-catching ability.) The TF39 looks good at a distance AND up close.
I have other tenkara rods, made by different companies, that claim to be super-nice, ultra-premium, and all that. It’s easy for companies to make such claims. The Tenryu Furaibo backs it up, and you’ll know the difference as soon as you handle one.
I should mention that the Furaibo says on the rod that it’s designed for level lines, but I use ultralight furled lines. They work just fine and cast as smoothly as the whisper of a butterfly’s wing.
No item made by human hands is perfect, and there will always be room for improvement. I don’t own any perfect rods. In the case of the Tenryu Furaibo TF39, there are three changes I’d make. One change is definitely a matter of opinion, one is a slight aggravation, and one is a design improvement I’d suggest.
First, I’d like a small change in the cylindrical shape of the Furaibo’s cork handle. For my extra-large mitts, a gourd-shaped grip is more comfortable for a long day of fishing. The straight cylinder of the Furaibo does allow you to grasp it anywhere for the same feel, but I still slightly prefer a curved handle. I should mention, however, that the Furaibo has the highest-quality cork that I’ve seen on any rod.
The second point is a small aggravation. The cushioned red rod case comes with a hook-and-loop type closure, but the “hook” part of the system is on the flap. That means that when you draw out the stretchy sock that actually holds the rod, the sock wants to drag, or catch, on the hooks. This, in turn, frays or fuzzes up the stretchy material. It would be an easy matter for Tenryu to reverse the hook-and-loop set up so that you can smoothly draw the rod from the cushioned rod case.
The third item deals with the grip screw cap. Right now, on the non-zooming TF39, there’s no O-ring or gasket to help secure the screw cap into the butt of the rod. This could allow the grip screw cap to loosen and fall into the water. The easy way for the owner to address the problem is to make sure that the grip screw cap is tightened at the beginning of each fishing trip. (I do that on all my rods anyway.) I also wrapped two turns of plumber’s thread tape around the threads on the cap, which helped.
So, in a perfect world, I’d reverse the hook-and-loop arrangement on the rod case, put a gourd-shaped cork handle on the TF39, and equip the grip screw cap with an O-ring. Perhaps TenkaraBum can pass along a couple of these suggestions to the good folks at Tenryu. These are minor concerns, however, compared with how the rod performs.
What’s the Tenryu Furaibo like? It’s wonderfully smooth, carefully crafted, and aesthetically pleasing. It’s a delight in the hand and on the water. This rod comes alive when you hook and play a fish. To date, I’ve caught panfish, largemouth bass, and Guadalupe bass with the TF39, and it’s handled all of them with style. Rated at 14 pennies, the Furaibo is not a big fish rod, but it’s more capable than one might imagine. It casts beautifully, and its manufacturing tolerances are precise. At 12’ 10” and 2.4 oz., the extended rod has excellent balance. It’s not “just another nice pole with a pretty paint job.” It’s a pleasure to own and a joy to use. Check out the video on the TenkaraBum website of Yuzo Sebata fishing with the zoom version of the Tenryu Furaibo, and you’ll see what I mean.
There are other good rods out there, but the Tenryu Furaibo TF39 is near the top of the list, where quality counts.