Micro Fishing Gear

Micro fishing gear encompasses the rod, line, hooks, bait (or flies) and accessories you need for catching smaller fish. It can be as simple as a willow shoot, a bit of light fishing line and any small hook. On the other end of the spectrum is specialty equipment imported from Japan, where catching small fish is big, and where the anglers who pursue them are as fanatical as any bass, trout or salmon fisherman.

As with any other type of fishing, there is equipment that was designed for the purpose - catching small fish. To some extent, micro fishing may be where tenkara fishing was just a couple years ago. People are still asking if they can do it with cheap crappie poles. And of course, the answer is yes, you can, but you might find the specialty equipment to be more enjoyable.

I think in time people will realize that there really is an advantage to using hooks that are specifically designed for fish with small mouths, floats that are designed to be sensitive to the bite of a very small fish, shot that is small enough to work with the floats, and rods that are actually designed for catching small (or very small) fish.


Small Fallfish with Suntech Kurenai rod

Micro fishing rods run the gamut. Some people use ultra light spinning rods, some use crappie rods, some use the Tanago rods or seiryu rods like the Air Stage Hakubai 240 or Kurenai HM30R sold here on Tenkarabum.com.

Because "micro fish" encompasses so many different species, which live in a wide range of habitats, there is a wide range of rods that are appropriate for at least some of the fishing conditions you will face.

Two of the things I look for in a micro fishing rod are the same as I look for in a tenkara rod: light weight and portability. Another attribute that is very important to me is that I want the rod to be sensitive enough and soft enough that even a small fish will put up a fight. Granted, a mosquitofish isn't going to put a bend in the rod, but there are lots of chubs and shiners and small sunfish that could if you chose a rod that is actually designed for catching small fish. 

Micro Fishing Rigs


The Owner Micro Fishing Rigs provide the line, float, markers, weight and hook  to get you started. The line has markers attached, which allow you to see if a fish has taken your hook and is swimming to the side rather than down. The float included in the kit is quite sensitive, but the markers will show movement before the float does. The rig comes on a foam line winder.


Package of Owner Smallest snelled Tanago Hooks

By all means, start with the hooks. If you want to catch a small fish, you need to use a hook that will fit in its mouth. For small sunnies in the neighborhood stream or the pond at the edge of town, there is no need to go really small, but for some of the micros, you really will do better with the tanago hooks from Japan.

The biggest difference between tanago hooks and the hooks we are all familiar with in the US is that the tanago hooks are designed so the fish only takes the hook point into its mouth, not the whole hook. That is why the shape of the hook is so different, and why even very small fish can be caught.

For some micros, though, not only can you use small fly hooks, you can use small flies!


Owner Tanago Float with ruler for scale. The float is 1 1/4 inch long.

If you are not going to be sight fishing you may want a float to keep your bait suspended off the bottom.  You will want to use a float that is small enough and sensitive enough that a micro can move it. I would recommend the tanago floats that are used in Japan.


Markers are placed on the line below the float. They are much more sensitive than the float itself in showing when a fish takes the bait and swims to the side rather than down. If the bait is near the bottom, that is the most likely case. Actually, the main purpose of the float is to keep the bait off the bottom and to suspend the markers where you can see them move.

If you watch Japanese tanago fishing videos on YouTube (cut and paste タナゴ釣り as a search term) you will see that the angler often reacts when his float has not even twitched. In some of the videos, you can see the markers move slightly to one side, which is a sure indication that a fish has taken the bait.

Markers can be as simple as knots of the Owner Pro Marker yarn with the tag ends cut short. If you also enjoy keiryu fishing, I would suggest using the Owner Pro Marker yarn.


Dinsmore #10 shot

If you use the tanago floats, you will definitely want to have some micro sized split shot to make the float cock properly. With the right amount of weight, it will float with just the tip exposed above the surface and will take virtually no effort for a micro to take under. With no weight underneath, it will float on its side.

The Dinsmores No. 10 shot is the smallest shot I've found in a single size dispenser. It will cock the tanago floats and will not be too heavy for the Unibobber floats.

Gluten Bait

Gluten is the standard bait used by tanago fishermen in Japan. It comes as a shelf-stable powder, which when mixed 1:1 with water, produces a sticky paste that will stay on your hook.

Micro Fishing Line

Varivas 9X tippet package

Micro fishing line is line geared to the size of the fish. There is no point fishing for two inch fish with four pound test line. The flies or baits used are so small, and the hooks are so small that anything other than a very thin line is going to look like a rope in comparison.

Bamboo Line Winders

Package of Owner Bamboo Line Winders

Micro Fishing Line Winders allow you to store rigged micro fishing lines. Since the hooks are small and the lines are very thin, it is easier to make up your lines at home.

If you have several of the Micro Fishing Line Winders, you could rig lines of different lengths. You could also rig lines with floats for fishing at mid depths and lines without floats and with heavier shot for fishing on the bottom.

Tippet Connectors

Package of Owner Tippet Connectors

A tippet connector is one of those things that you might not actually need but will certainly appreciate. It makes tying the very light line used to snell the tanago hooks to your main line a snap.

Tie your main line to the eye of the tippet connector. Pull the snell line into the tight hook part of the tippet connector. Then wrap it around the connector once and pull it into the hook again. If you use the lightest of the Japanese micro fishing lines, you will have to wrap it around the connector twice to hold it securely.

The line won't slip and you don't have to tie a knot it the very fine line.

Tanago Tackle Box

Micro fishing gear is small. It makes sense to have a small box to hold it. The Tanago Tackle Box will hold your hooks, floats, weights and two line winders. Each compartment has its own lid to securely hold your gear.

Tanago Tackle box holding micro fishing gear.

Micro Photo Tank

Creek Chub in a Micro Photo Tank

The Micro Photo Tank allows you to examine and photograph your catch while keeping it in the water. One of the most interesting aspects of micro fishing is trying to determine just what you've caught. Having the fish in a photo tank allows you to look for key identifying characteristics.

Lots of small fish have pretty much the same dark stripe down their side. For the fish in the photo, the small black spot on the dorsal fin clearly identifies it as a creek chub. If you just hold a creek chub in your palm the dorsal fin is not erect and you can't see the spot. That is a very easy and obvious example, but some are very tricky and having detailed photos of the fins or the mouth or even the top of the head can be critical.

Several minnows in a 3x5 Photo Tank

The 3x5 Photo Tank holds larger fish than the Micro Photo Tank (like sunfish) and also holds several micros at once. That makes it much easier to compare several similar looking fish. Also, with more than one fish in the tank, they seem to settle down more quickly so you can get better photos. Molded from a single piece of plexiglass, it has no seems to leak. The hinged lid will keep fish from jumping out. Inside dimensions roughly 3.5" x 5.5" (3" front to back).

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662

As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.


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The fish are slippery when wet.

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