Tenkara USA Ito Rod Review
The Tenkara USA Ito Rod Review may have taken me twice as long to write as it should have but I have a good excuse. The Ito is really two rods, albeit cleverly packaged into one. It is designed to be fished at two lengths - 13' and 14'7" and if you have this rod, you will definitely use both lengths.
Daniel Galhardo has often said that he designs and builds the rods he wants to fish with. That is clearly apparent in the Ito. Prior to the Ito, the 13' Ayu had been his personal favorite. I'd have to say it had been mine as well (of course that was before I'd gotten a
) The early comments written by people who had a chance to fish with the final Ito prototype said that if you liked the Ayu you'd like the Ito. Looking at the bend profile of the final production model, it is pretty easy to see why one would say that. It is almost identical to the Ayu.
If you are wondering how the Ito, which is a 6:4, can have a bend just like an Ayu, which is a 5:5, all I can say is that my Ayu is an older 6:4 model, since discontinued. I suspect a 5:5 Ayu would have a slightly different profile but I have never fished with one.
In any event, I will echo the early comments, if you like the Tenkara USA Ayu you'll like the Tenkara USA Ito.
When the rod is fished at the 13' length it feels a bit like a cross between the 12' Iwana and the 13' Ayu, although much more like the Ayu than the Iwana. It is definitely a much softer rod than the Iwana, but it doesn't feel exactly like an Ayu. Although it doesn't really show in the photo, the Ito feels like it has a bit more backbone.
It definitely has a different center of gravity than the Ayu. The additional section, when collapsed into the grip section moves the center of gravity towards the butt, making the rod feel lighter when casting. Of course, when the rod is fully extended the center of gravity moves towards the tip, and when casting you can really tell you have a very long rod in your hand.
However, and this is a bit surprising, at its fully extended 14'7" length, the center of gravity of the Ito is in almost the same place as the 13' Ayu (in terms of inches up from the butt cap). The rod does not feel tip heavy. The overall rod is a bit heavier, at 3.8 ounces vs 3.4 for the Ayu (measured on my postal scale, without the tip plugs). Some of that extra weight must be towards the butt to keep the center of gravity so close to the grip.
At its 14'7" length, the Tenkara USA Ito really doesn't feel like any other rod I've fished, but it's still closer to the Ayu than anything else. I was able to do a back to back comparison with the Shimano Mainstream ZE, and even though they are very similar in length and in their "zoom" function, the TenkaraUSA Ito and the Shimano ZE are two very different rods. I've commented a bit more on that in my review of the
When fully extended, the added length does make the rod feel a bit heavier, but what you notice the most is that it feels much softer. This is not a rod that you can make snappy, forceful casts with. You must load the rod and then let the rod do the work. (And that also means stopping both the back cast and the forward cast while the rod tip is still relatively high, and waiting for the line to straighten.)
The length of the Tenkara USA Ito will make people think it is an ideal big water rod, and when people think big water they inevitably think big fish. The Ito is not a big fish rod. I know that people have caught 20" fish with it. I also know that people have broken Itos on fish smaller than that. I think perhaps Erik Ostrander of the Tenkara Guides in Salt Lake City put it best when he said "If there's any chance I might catch big fish I use the Amago. Any chance."
I would say, though, that if you are looking for a big fish rod, in addition to a big water rod, the
is the rod you are looking for. It has more backbone than the Amago and all the length of the Ito. I would be very curious to learn if Erik would change his comment after fishing with an LT44SF for a while.
This small brown was fun on the Tenkara USA Ito. (Its spots remind me of an Amago.)
The Tenkara USA Ito was designed to be the ideal rod for typical tenkara fishing whenever the stream is open enough for a longer rod. Tenkara is one area of life in which length really does matter, and longer is better. I've often written that I'll use the longest rod I can get away with, and fishing with the Tenkara USA Ito has shown me that in at least some places I can get away with a longer rod than I had previously believed. I found that in some of the places where I had thought I needed a shorter rod, it turned out that I only needed a shorter line, and that a
long rod, short line
approach can be a very effective technique.
The first time I took the Ito to the stream I know the best, I had the best day I've ever had there. In a way it reminds me of the first time I fished my
hi-vis fluorocarbon line.
On each of those days, it was truly an "Aha!" moment, the kind you get when you've just discovered a better way of doing things.
Many if not most people will use the longer rod to fish a longer line - following Charles Cotton's advice to fish "far and fine." I've tried the longer line, and I will take the road less traveled by. To me, and on the streams I fish, the biggest advantage of the longer rod is not at all that I can fish a longer line. It is that I can fish at the same distance I normally fish, but can do it with a shorter line. That means even less line on the water and better (to significantly better) drifts. And given a stealthy approach (Fish Close, Fish Camo™), significantly better drifts means significantly more fish.
This stream is not too small for the Tenkara USA Ito - even at its full 14' 7" length.
Although I have concentrated on the length of the line, I did try several line weights as well. At the shorter, 13' length, I much preferred the size 3 level line. Similarly, when fishing the rod at 14'7", but with a short line, I preferred the size 3. When fishing the fully extended rod with a longer line, I gave a slight nod to the size 4. The size 4 casts a bit easier, but the size 3 is much easier to keep off the water. I did not try a 20+ foot line in size 3, but I suspect that I would not like it as well as the size 4. However, I seriously doubt if I will often fish a line of that length. Similarly, I tried a size 5 line, but the size 5 is heavy enough that you can't really keep it off the water, so I wouldn't fish it unless I had to because of the wind, and then I would fish the rod at the shorter length with a line no longer than the rod.
The next best thing about the Tenkara USA Ito, besides its longer length and the advantages that gives you, is that if you are fishing with the rod at its 13' length, you can extend it after hooking a fish, which gives you more control over the fish.
If you have any questions about tenkara rods in general, or which rods might be good choices for where you fish, please go to the
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