Wakata 9' 6:4 Rod Initial Impressions

by Tim Nitz
(Joseph, Oregon)

I want to be very clear about this. I received my Wakata rod on Monday and it's now Wednesday. My only other tenkara-based rod is an 11' Tenkara USA Iwana that I received about a month ago and have been fishing nearly exclusively since receipt. My initial impressions might be of some limited use to those considering purchase of the Wakata 9' rod.

I did not compare the two rods side by side using the same line, etc. I have been using the Tenkara USA furled lines with the Iwana and mostly TenkaraBum Artificial Horsehair line with the Wakata.

1) Quality of Build and Finish: I like the quality of the Wakata rod very much. Whereas the Iwana has a smooth exterior, the Wakata has a more pronounced scrim resulting in ridges. In terms of quality of finish I find them comparable. On my Wakata I can see some spots where the painted rings have minor paint "pooling" spots. However, the "marbled" pattern of the paint hides these well. I guess I would compare the difference between the appearance of a handpainted paint job verses a paint job sprayed. I am not speaking to the actual process which I have no knowledge of, simply suggesting that both are nicely done, just different. Mention is made of the plastic butt cap used on the Wakata. I feared what that would look like and had already started thinking about what I could do to replace it, but upon receipt it actually looks quite nice and is quality plastic. The butt cap is of two-piece construction with a thin hard plastic threaded sleeve and a softer butt insert. This insert is decorated with a flower (I don't know what kind, not a cherry anyway) and has a drain hole in one petal. The lillian is attached the same as the Iwana, and what might look like a metal retaining ring in some photos is actually a spot of gold paint or epoxy. Mine was not pre-knotted. The ONLY issue I have with the appearance of the Wakata is the label which I find unattractive. It is some kind of decal covered with the rod finish. It's not ugly, just not what I would call attractive and I would remove it if I could. You can decide for yourself, the pictures online are quite clear. The rod sack is good and there is no tube. The rod cap is wood, fairly well matched to the painted rod rings, and uses a slot to provide friction inside the rod tube.

2) Cork and Grip: Before buying I read comments about the quality of the cork and the grip. In truth, it's exactly as I would expect of a $100 rod - which is good. Like my Iwana, there is a gap between the cork and the winding ring and a gap at the butt. Both have similar grips, but the Iwana central bulb is more comfortable for me as it tapers down to a smaller grip both are equally comfortable held by the butt bulb. The grip on the Wakata is longer than the Iwana, but I didn't find a preference for one over the other based on length.

3) Value: Before getting into performance, I just want to say that I find the two equivalent in price and value. The slight difference in cost isn't all that significant and the extra you pay for the Iwana covers the nice rod tube and nicer badging. I think they are fairly comparable in value, both great values.

4) Length considerations: My primary reason for getting both was to be able to fish a section of the Wallowa River in NE Oregon that is basically blocks from home and on the way home from work. Water flows and size change somewhat over the local stretch, but few people fish it and the fish are relatively wild as a result. Except for spots, the river here is heavily overgrown and overhead branches and branches extending over the water from banks is typical. The river is about 20' wide in spots, but more typically about 6-8' wide and from a few inches to 3 feet deep. Trout range from parrs to a few 12" with 4-6 inch fish most common. Rainbows, brookies, and bull trout, in that order and this section does hold some Chinook spawning sites. Thus my reasoning for the 11' Iwana and later, the 9' Wakata. What I've found is that the Wakata honestly only gives me a few more feet of fishable area. Overhead vegetation is simply that and going to a shorter rod hasn't really appreciably increased my range. Still, that's some short sections I could not have fished with the Iwana. On the other hand, fishing the same places with both, the Iwana does let me reach and control the line better in areas I simply cannot reach with "rod-length" line on both and I don't think simply using a longer line on the short rod would actually help since it's the angle of the line that is at issue. As everyone has said, fish the longest rod you can get away with and in my case on this one river, that means the 11' Iwana. Given the limitations in fishing densely vegetated sections of river that both have, I would say they are comparable in tight sections with only slight advantage to the 9' but very different in those areas where the river does open up.

5) Sensitivity: I've had 1 1/2" mighty fish on both and both acted similarly, which is to say great. Both bent and transmitted the movement of the fish up the line and rod equally. I didn't really look at the rod on the larger fish, but I didn't feel a difference there either. But there is a difference I feel and can't quite pinpoint. I do think the Iwana is slightly more sensitive. My guts tell me that I can better feel what the fly itself is doing with the Iwana (bumping rocks, feeling slight differences in current speed) than with the Wakata. I can't quantify it and I may be full of hooey, but that's my impression. And this sense is extremely important to me. However, in terms of feeling strikes I don't notice a difference. And to be clear, I am happy with both in terms of sensitivity, I just slightly prefer and trust the Iwana.

6) Casting: Again, I haven't used comparable lines with both yet. I have enjoyed using the TenkaraBum artificial horsehair line with the Wakata and it's a great match. I have only tried level line with the Wakata and that was in the dark and I admit I made a mess of it. But I don't have the experience to judge and didn't practice it at all. But for me, with my limited experience, so far I find the casting of the Iwana to be smoother and more fluid. I also think it is slightly less demanding. With the Iwana I can do all kinds of crazy casting things (like swirling the line around my head "whip" style) and it always straightens out and lays flat. I don't really even think about casting anymore with the Iwana. I'm not to that point with the Wakata and part of me thinks that the difference really is in rod length itself. I may be wrong and I am sure that part of it is I am not used to the timing of the Wakata, but today, for me, the Iwana is slightly smoother to cast. That said, flexing both without line suggests that the rods should perform about the same or very similarly. So it's probably either the length itself or my casting ability. Both worked quite well, however, and I would have been happy with either as my first rod.

The question it appears most have is will the 9' rod let you get into places you can't with the 11' rod. On my test stream with overhead obstacles and dense vegetation the answer is that the increased coverage is pretty minimal. At this point in my angling I would not recommend that someone choose a 9' rod over the 11' rod for that reason. In other words, so far the 11' rod, being noticeably better in those areas where the river does widen slightly, seems better suited even for this tight area. I may change my mind about this with more experience with both, but right now I don't really see a need for both rods. What you gain with one in some spots you lose in others. And a rough guess on this one section of water suggests that what I gain is equal to what I lose (except that the largest fish seem to hold in the larger water spots).

That said, I am pleased with both and consider both purchases a great value. For myself, with an 11' foot rod to start, I now feel I would have been better served to have bought a 13' rod as my second to cover areas not best covered with the 11' but I would guess I would have been delighted with either of these as my first rod. Also, unless I discover differently, I am currently seeing the two as rather comparable and so having one of each provides a backup or one to lend to a partner while angling and I really wouldn't mind which of them I got to use.

Comments for Wakata 9' 6:4 Rod Initial Impressions

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Sep 23, 2010
My thoughts
by: Randy Knapp

Tim, I thought this was a great review and my own thoughts mirror yours to a large extent. The primary type of stream in which I use my 9' Wakata is really smaller and brushier than the one you describe. On this stream, bow and arrow casts are often necessary with both rods. The areas that I find the shorter rod gives me an edge both concern landing fish: 1)lifting the fish up with the longer rod means hitting more overhead obstacles, and 2)it is easier to grab the line with the shorter rod and this is sometimes necessary when landing a fish. I too consider one rod the back-up for the other but I prefer the Wakata slightly over the Iwana. I have two 13' tenkara rods and they are my primary fishing tools. I have the 13' Ayu and a new 13' Wakata. I feel I could get by fine with a 9 footer and a 13 footer. Two feet isn't that much of a difference as you point out but 4 feet is significant.

Sep 23, 2010
question on 13' rod
by: jleal

Randy Knapp,
I am interested in your thoughts on the use of the 13' rods that you own. I am the owner of a new 12' Iwana rod, new to tenkara also, and my mind races to the idea of a 13' or 13.5' rod for my trout fishing instead. The advantages of the long rod became obvious to me immediately and I was wondering what a longer rod would be like. My streams are not closed in and overhanging, but more open mountain streams.

Sep 27, 2010
by: Tim Nitz

Excellent Point that I completely overlooked. Landing fish with both is different. I will try to keep track of that and see how I come up for comparison. It didn't even occur to me!


Oct 07, 2010
by: tnitz

I haven't had alot more use of the rod since I got it, but based on three additional fishing sessions, I wanted to update my original impressions:

1) Fishing was poor on both occasions due to storms coming in. So I can't comment more on rod performance while landing. The fish I landed were in open spots. I can say that small fish are still easily felt and bend the rod, though.

2) Chris tied me a slightly heavier artificial horsehair line. It casts very much like the TenkaraUSA furled line on my 11' Iwana. I also have gotten better with the level line, having realized that I really need to straighten it out as well as I can before fishing. For where I am at with casting, the heavier artificial horsehair line is easier to handle for me but I can definately see the tradeoff - the lighter line floats to the surface and presents VERY delicately. It was breezy on Monday when I first tried the heavier line and that extra weight did help alot. With more experience, I hope to become more adept with the lighter line.


Oct 08, 2010
13' Wakata for jleal
by: Randy Knapp

My opinion of the Wakata 13 footer so far is that it is an excellent rod. My first impressions are that is similar to my 11 foot Iwana only longer and stronger. It is faster than my Ayu and probably stronger yet it is still flexible enough to protect fine tippets and keep from breaking off fish. I love the rod and feel it is agreat complement to my 9 foot Wakata.

I still love my Ayu, as the softer action just has a special feel to it especially using very light lines like those offered here at TenkaraBum. I have tried the traditional fly line running lines offered by Igor at Allfishingbuy and I like them a lot although they load the rod and cast more like a traditional fly line. They are especially nice for lake and pond fishing and will be my choice on any big stream water.

The 13 foot Wakata will cast either in 20 to 25 foot line lengths with additional tippet. This means you have to land the fish by hand lining it in at the end but it is much easier with a thicker softer line than with mono or fluoro and there are times you really do want to make a long cast. So my quick assessment is that you want the 13 foot Wakata, especially at the price.

Nov 12, 2010
Thanks for reply
by: jleal

Thanks for your quick reply to my question. Several of my favorite rivers are the much more open canyon type and I can see many reasons to use a longer Tenkara rod there. I am very happy with my 12' Iwana rod, but my mind goes to the longer rod(s) and the increased possibilities. The line control at those rod lengths must be exciting!!! I was also thinking about the 13.5' Amago rod. Hopefully by this spring I will be the proud owner of a new 13-13.5' rod. I will continue my research. Thanks again.

Nov 20, 2011
Wakata's stiffer brother
by: Blatt

Hi Tim, veeery nice review!
I do have an iwana and also an yamame plus a bunch of homemade tenkara rods...
I live by the shore with many winds and use clousers, streamers and others flies not related to traitional tenkara.
Thus, perhaps not desirabele, using a faster taper is better in my conditions.
Well, i always wanted to buy a 13' rod like the Ayu but its 5:5 action made me quit. Then the Stonefly fountaihead 390, 7:3 action appeared and i wanted it very bad but they don't ship it outside US... So now i'm left with the All fishing buy tenkara rods option, and the one that calls my attention is the Yokoshima 13' 7:3, but i can't find a single line, good or bad, written about it!
Do you have any experience with them?!

Dec 21, 2012
by: Tim Nitz

Given the broad range of rods now available in US not available when this was written, I felt it time to update my review.

1) I still own the Wakata, but haven't fished it since shortly after this was written. In fairness, I think it was more that it never "grabbed" me aesthetically, than anything else. If I were set on a 9' rod from AllFishingBuy, I would buy the Kasugo 2706 instead - they have similar action but the Kasugo comes in a nicer package and has a pleasant matte finish.

2) The points about the rod are still valid. Being smaller all around, the cork grip isn't as uncomfortable as the larger versions on Kasugo or Unagi.

3) I spent nearly all of this past season, once the runoff had settled down, with a 3.1m rod (the Daiwa Soyokase 31SR). I also own and have fished the Daiwa Soyokase 27SR, a 2.7m rod. These rods reminded me just how practical rods of 11' and under are and how perfectly suited to my typical angling they are. This past season I did fish "the big river" a few times with the 31SR and once had a No. 4.5 flouro line of 23' on so I know it can be done. I don't recommend it, I personally favor a steep line to water angle, but it can be done so these shorter rods can be used on big water. The opposite isn't quite as true. Last year I spend a fair amount of time experimenting with using a 3.9m rod on tight streams with very short lines and while it worked, there were still alot of places I just couldn't get into because of overhanging vegetation. For small mountain water in the Pacific NW, I think that a rod 9-11' is a better choice to start with than the longer rods.

4) Since this was written I have confirmed for myself that 9-11' rods belong to a class. I'm not saying there isn't a difference between a 9' rod and an 11' rod. There is and its noticeable. But in use I think all the rods in this size fit about the same water. At least they do for me. There are shorter rods that are very usable - but for me they lack some of the flexibility for larger or more open water that this class has.

5) There are shorter (collapsed) and lighter rods that have a similar action that I find much better for backpacking. The lack of a cork grip not only aids in sensing vibrations but allows for a smaller profile to be packed and eliminates concern over abrasion or tearing of the cork while in transit. Myself, I can't imagine ever going back.

Today this would not be my first choice of tenkara rod, whether I wanted a cork grip or not. I think there are much better options for the price. If you find a used one or one on sale, there's really nothing wrong with the rod, mine has performed as advertised.

In the end, though, it can never compare to the simple delight I get from fishing with my Daiwa Soyokase rods. And that's why it never gets fished anymore.

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