The Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special rods are indeed special. They had been discontinued by the time I was first introduced to Suntech. I was able to purchase some of the last few Keiryu Special 39 rods and immediately fell in love with them. They were just exactly what I was looking for. Although they are keiryu rods, I thought their action made them excellent for tenkara fishing. They have a nice progressive bend profile and a slightly faster action than most tenkara rods. The tip sections are a bit softer than most tenkara rods, while their midsection is just a bit firmer.
Their light weight, three position zoom function and
the ability to fish bead head nymphs better than most tenkara rods makes
them perhaps the most versatile rods in the US for tenkara fishing.
slowly building a close working relationship with Suntech, I was able
to convince them to bring back the Keiryu Special 39. The following
year, they offered to bring back the Keiru Special 44 for me. This year,
I asked them to bring back the Keiryu Special 53 and they agreed. They
also agreed to make a new rod, the GM Suikei Keiryu Special 27.
There is now a whole family of Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special rods, ranging from the 27 for small overgrown streams to the 53 for large open rivers.
The Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39 could be someone's favorite rod. For that matter, it could be someone's only rod. I recently spent a day exploring. Coach and I were planning to fish three "thin blue lines," as small streams are shown on topographic maps. Since I had never fished any of them, and thus did not know if they were wide or narrow, open or overgrown, rod choice could have been a problem. I took the Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39. Problem solved.
At first glance, the rod is very similar to the Suntech Field Master. Like the Field Master, the Suikei Keiryu Special 39 is a three position rod that can be fished at 3.2m, 3.6m and 3.9m, making it extremely versatile for fishing smaller streams and larger streams, rivers and lakes.
The rod is softer than the Field Master, measuring 18.5, 21 and 21.5 pennies at the 3.2, 3.6 and 3.9m lengths, respectively, compared to 24, 26 and 28 for the Field Master. It thus may not be quite as good as the Field Master for fishing heavy nymphs or for wrestling 20" trout, but for fishing the unweighted wets that are traditional to tenkara, the dries that everyone loves and the modestly weighted nymphs that work well in all but deep, fast runs, it is a wonderful rod.
Which to choose? To a large extent, it depends on whether you prefer slightly softer or slightly firmer rods. At first glance, one would think that the softer rod would be more fun with smaller fish - and I'd have to agree. I really like it for smaller streams where some spots are tight and technical and others are quite a bit more open. Most of the small streams I fish are home to smaller fish and for them the Keiryu Special 39 is an excellent choice.
Photo courtesy Teton Tenkara
It's not limited to small fish, though. Tom Davis feels it is a great rod for the high gradient mountain streams he fishes. Trying to keep 12-14" fish out of the snags and pulling them back upstream when they get below him takes some backbone. In his words "it has never let me down."
As you can see from Adam K's brown (below) and Kyle Q's rainbow (to the right) they can handle fish larger than 12-14 inches!
In comparing the Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39 with the Tenkara USA Sato, which has almost identical penny ratings (18, 21, and 21.5 for the Sato compared to 18.5, 21, 21.5 for the Suikei), he felt the Suikei was less expensive, lighter weight and more of an all around rod.
You know, sometimes I'm a little dense. OK, sometimes I'm really dense. I got an email from a guy asking for a replacement part for his GM Keiryu Special. It took me a while to realize what rod he was asking about. Then it dawned on me it was what I had always called the Suikei 39. In the future, I'll just call the rod the Keiryu Special 39 instead of the Suikei 39. After all, that's what it says, in English, right on the rod. In my defense, it does say Suikei also, but only in Japanese.
Early on, I thought the
"Keiryu Special" name might have been a bit misleading. By now, though, I suspect most people know that the word "keiryu" means "mountain stream" in Japanese. Think of the rod as being the Mountain Stream Special.
The Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 44 is a bit softer than the Field Master 44 and it has a wider grip, which were the only two things about the Field Master 44 that I felt could be considered drawbacks. The grip is significantly wider than on the GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39.
I think the Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 44 will turn out to be a very nice rod for tenkara fishing - and I expect most buyers will have tenkara in mind rather than keiryu fishing. That said, this will also be a truly excellent small stream keiryu (bait fishing) rod. The tip sections are soft enough that the rod will cast a light line with ease but there is enough backbone in the midsection to get good hook sets and to handle good sized fish.
Suikei Keiryu Special 44 has a penny rating at full extension just
slightly greater than the new Nissin Zerosum Oni Tenkara Honryu 450. The
bend profile is similar as well. Perhaps the biggest difference (beyond
the cork grip on the Oni rod) is that Suntech rates the Keiryu Speical 44 for
6X tippet while Nissin rates the Oni rod for 3X. Of course, the Oni rod is $100 more expensive. That is a pretty big difference, too. Of course, you can still catch some mighty nice fish with 6X tippet, as Colin S proved (the photo above is one of five fish ranging from 22 to 26 inches - not a bad day!).
The Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 53 is the next longer version of the Keiryu Special 39 and 44. I have known for quite some time that Suntech used to have a 53 and I have been curious about it.
Two factors prompted me to ask Suntech to bring it back into production. Interest in two handed rods has picked up, and Suntech discontinued their Suikei ZPRO 54. The Suikei ZPRO 54 was a three position zoom rod, with essentially the same three lengths as the Keiryu Special 53 and the Field Master 53. It was wonderfully light and I liked the rod a lot, but its maximum tippet recommendation was 8x, which many people felt was just too light.
The Keiryu Special 53 is rated for 6X, which will be adequate for the size fish most people catch. It is significantly lighter and softer than the Field Master 53, and actually feels a bit more like the Suntech Fine Power NP56. The Fine Power is a little longer (and a lot more expensive), but the Keiryu Special penny ratings of 26, 26.5 and 26.5 are closer to the Fine Power NP56 than they are to the Field Master 53.
The Keiryu Special 53 pretty effectively bridges the gap between one-handed and two-handed rods. At the shortest length, 4.5m, it is a nice one-handed rod that is not as tip heavy as the Tenkara USA Ito, while being substantially more capable (26 pennies compared to 15).
Somewhat surprisingly, it is still a very reasonable one-hander at the 4.9m middle length. That pretty much blows away all the 4.5m honryu tenkara rods. Some people will cast it one handed even at the 5.3m full extension but I think most will prefer to use two hands.
longer rods, the rod's own inertia loads the rod, so they can cast
ligher lines than you would expect. A lot of people fish the Keiryu
Special 39 with size 3.5 line. The 53 casts a size 2.5 line nicely, and I
really don't think you need to go over size 3, even if you are new to
two handed rods. Of course, the Keiryu Special works quite nicely for keiryu fishing as well.
I haven't caught any large fish with the Keiryu Special 53 yet, but given the penny ratings, it should handle fish over 20 inches. The limitation will be the tippet strength, but the rod is rated for tippets down to 9x, so it should protect a 6x tippet nicely.
The Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 27 is the latest in the series, and the only one that Suntech did not bring back from having been discontinued some time ago. The 27 is a brand new rod, developed at my request.
Ever since Daiwa discontinued the Soyokaze, I have wanted a rod that was light weight, could cast a light line, was fun with small fish and yet could handle pretty good sized fish. After several false starts I finally asked Suntech to make one for me. Wow! What a great little rod. I think it deserves its own page. Read about it here.
As with all other keiryu rods I know of, the grip is a widened section of the rod blank. The Keiryu Special 39 grip is thinner than the Field Master grip, and thinner than the cork grips on tenkara rods, but I have never felt it to be too thin. The grip on the Keiryu Special 44 pleasantly fills the hand.
When Suntech brought back the rod, they made two changes from what you can see in Tom's review.
Most important, they replaced the two-part grip
screw plug with a one-part plug similar to that used on the Field
Master. This completely eliminates the problem that Tom had with the
two-part plug coming apart. The new plug is knurled for easy removal and beveled for comfort. The two "O" rings hold the two zooming sections securely. Twist the zooming sections to seat them over the plug. They almost snap into place. It is a very secure fit and the parts won't rattle.
The second change is an upgrade from the
cloth rod sock to a stretchy knit "Suntech" rod sock. I like the stretchy knit rod socks much better than the cloth ones where you have to fold over a flap and tie down the drawstring.
Rather than a tip plug, which can fall out and is remarkably easy to lose, the Suntech Suikei Keiryu Special 39 comes with a KTC-12 rod cap. The Keiryu Special 44 and 53 come with a KTC-16. It really is a much more secure solution.
As with all of the other Suntech rods I've seen, the lillian is attached by a swivel that is thin enough to easily pass through the second section.
On balance, the Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special rods are tremendously versatile rods that can handle a wide range of stream widths and a wide range of flies. Of course they are just as good for small stream keiryu fishing.
Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39
Length (extended) - 10'4", 11'8", 12'10"
Length (collapsed) - 21"
Weight (with Fuji cap) - 2.3 oz
Weight (without Fuji cap) - 2.1 oz
Sections - 9
Tip Diameter - .6mm
Butt Diameter - 19.5 mm
Tippet recommendation - 9X - 6X
Pennies 18.5, 21, 21.5
Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 44
Length (extended) - 11'10", 13'2", 14'4"
Length (collapsed) - 21"
Weight (with Fuji cap) - 3.0 oz
Weight (without Fuji cap) - 2.5 oz
Sections - 10
Tip Diameter - .6mm
Butt Diameter - 21.5 mm
Tippet recommendation - 9X - 6X
Pennies 18.5, 20, 21
Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 53
Length (extended) - 14'10", 16'1", 17'2"
Length (collapsed) - 21 1/4"
Weight (with Fuji cap) - 4.0 oz
Weight (without Fuji cap) - 3.5 oz
Sections - 12
Tip Diameter - .6mm
Butt Diameter - 22.5 mm
Tippet recommendation - 9X - 6X
Pennies 26, 26.5, 26.5
The Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special rods are made in Japan.
Recommended for the 39 and 44 - Add a size 3.5 Nissin Oni Tenkara Line and two tenkara line holders - $27
Recommended for the 53 - Add a size 3 Nissin Oni Tenkara Line and two tenkara line holders - $27
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Let me make a bold statement. In my opinion, the Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special line of rods is the most complete rod line of high quality, multi-functional rods currently available. They are aesthetically beautiful, fit and finish are perfect, and functionally they are amazing. They can cast a lightweight level line with unweighted flies and yet also handle tungsten bead head nymphs. They are available in short lengths for headwaters (GM27), standard length of 310-360-390 cm (GM39) for most streams, and for larger waters there is the GM44 (360-400-440 cm). Now there is the GM53!
Tom D, Idaho
|I was very impressed with the Suikei's ability to cast both a weighted and unweighted fly, truly a great all-rounder. Thanks Chris
Mark B, Washington
|It is an awesome rod.
Jim G, Pennsylvania
|I had my uncle try casting the Suikei last night... A few casts in the backyard later and he said, "How do I get one of these?"
Just spoke to my friend Jim, he laughed when I told him about my uncle, because he's in a similar situation after his dad tried his Suikei.
Mark D, Pennsylvania
|What I like most about it is the overall versatility of being a 2 way zoom rod.
Karel L, Colorado
|Well, I fished Boulder Creek this AM. The one I landed was 18-20".
Adam K, New York
|Caught with my new Suntech GM Suikei 44. That rod is the ticket! I love my Sato don't get me wrong but for deep water nymphing this rod is where it's at!
Kyle Q. North Carolina
I have an used once Sato, it looks like new and I would like to sell it because I prefer my Suikei 39.
Roger H, W. Virginia
|I had my new Suikei 39 out today for the first time — the most fish I’ve caught in a day. I stopped counting at 6 and probably got into the high 20’s if not higher, and a lot where 12-inchers. I love the rod.
Jayson S, N. Carolina
|I just keep getting pulled back to the versatility of the suikei.
Adam K, New York
|I think my Suikei 44 is a pretty solid contender for fish in the 10-18" range.
Scott C, Alaska
|This thing seriously makes some other zoom rods I've used feel like Fisher-Price toys...
Glenn G, Oregon
|I really, really liked the Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39... there’s a good chance it’ll become my go-to rod for many situations.
Marginal Tenkara blog
|Kyle Q: I'm currently slaying plate sized Bluegill with the GM 44!
Chris S: Salad plate or dinner plate?
Kyle Q: Dinner! Love those rods!
Kyle Q, North Carolina
I was amazingly impressed with the rod's capabilities yesterday. I caught about 5 rainbows over 22 in all the way up to 3.5-4 lbs on 6x and netted them all.
Amazingly capable rod in the right hands with the right skill set.
And on 6x tippet!
Biggest was about 26 in.
Colin S, North Carolina
|This [Keiryu Special 44] is definitely my favorite rod.
Lloyd W, Maryland
|The rod hit my mailbox just before noon and I was on the water by 2:00...landed a nice 10" brookie that put up a good fight. The rod casts great and I'm a happy customer. Thanks for everything.
Mike K, Virginia
| I set the hook and up rose a large trout, which had taken my fly. It was larger than any fish I had ever taken or even seen in this stream.
It shot around the log jam and into the current. I was able to steer it out of the current into an area of slower water, then quickly get it into my net. The fish barely fit in my 30 cm net. It's head was in but the body and tail were hanging out. The Suntech Suikei 39 with 5X tippet had worked perfectly helping me control this fish despite the heavy water flow.
It was a beautiful cutthroat, 22 inches long, full bodied and very healthy. I left it in the water, took a few pictures, then watched it swim vigorously away. What a beautiful fish.
Tom D, Idaho
|Fished my GM Suikei 44 for the first time today and it is perfect for the streams I fish! I was using a short line/leader due to overhead cover and it worked great. The line/leader was only 9 feet, 6 feet of 5x and 3 feet of 8x, with a #10 David Southall style Killer Bug with a pink underbody. Used 1 marker on the line with 3/4" tags. Strike detection was fantastic, both visual and by feel.
Caught 20+ fish in about 2 hours, with 6 of those being 10-12".
Bryan T, North Carolina
|The rod is splendid.
Rob R, Texas
| I love the Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39 you sold me at the Jam, it is my favorite rod.
Ben G, Georgia
It was a pleasure meeting you at the Jam. You helped my son, William, choose his first Tenkara rod, a GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39, and I wanted to let you see his first Tenkara catch. He caught it on a size 14 killer kebari. He used that same fly the rest of the day and caught about a dozen more. He absolutely loves that rod. Needless to say, he's hooked (pun intended)!
Henry P, Georgia
| The new 44 Suntech is a joy.
Bill H, Georgia