The Nissin Pro Square 6:4 tenkara rods are modest rods. They are modestly appointed - not fancy in any way. They are modestly priced for rods actually made in Japan - under $150. They are for modest fish - up to 18 inches or so I would guess. However, still waters run deep. These are surprisingly good rods.
I had mentioned in the 11-22-20 trip report that I would introduce a rod on Black Friday. That was a poor choice of words, as the rod I had in mind, the Nissin Pro Square 6:4 360, is not a new rod by any means, and not even new to TenkaraBum. I imported them from 2013 through 2018. "Re-introduce" would have been more accurate. To be really accurate, though, I should call the rods the Nissin Pro Square Super Tenkara rods, but that's just too long for a name so I have always called them the Pro Square rods.
Early this year, I decided to import the Nissin Pro Square 6:4 320 as a Kids' Rod. Over the years, I've offered several different rods as kids' rods but was never really satisfied with any of them. I decided to offer the Pro Square 6:4 320 because it is light enough for a kid to handle, it is inexpensive enough to buy for a kid (especially when you consider that the kid will never outgrow it!) and it has the perfect action to teach tenkara casting.
The decision was based on my memory of the rod. I hadn't actually fished with one for quite a few years. In September, I took one out again and was more than a little surprised at how well it casts and fishes. It's definitely not just a "Kid's Rod!" It actually is a surprisingly nice rod for the price, and that sparked the idea to bring back the Nissin Pro Square 6:4 360.
I'll offer the Nissin Pro Square 6:4 360 as a starter rod but it, too, is a surprisingly nice rod for the price. It is a much better rod than the cheapo Chinese rods beginners often turn to solely because they're less expensive than the well-known brands.
One serious disadvantage of the cheapo rods is that they are
uniformly on the stiff side. They tend to be sold with furled lines,
because the heavier furled lines are necessary to get the rods to cast
even reasonably well. Anyone who owns one, especially if it is the only one, would benefit from upgrading.
The Pro Square 6:4 rods will cast a wide range of line weights - seriously, anything from a size 2 to a size 4. They are extremely soft for a tenkara rod, just 1 penny firmer than the softest tenkara rod I have ever measured.
That is not a bad thing. It ensures that when casting you let the rod do the work. Rather than muscling a stiff rod to cast a heavy line, the soft rods will teach you that tenkara casting is all in the timing. You do need a little force, but very little, and at the right time. Tenkara casting is about finesse, not force.
Although the the 6:4 360 will cast very nicely with a size 2 line, which is lighter than almost anyone uses, I think I would recommend that absolute beginners start with a size 4 line. A size 4 line will load the Nissin Pro Square 6:4 360 so well that the line almost casts itself.
For years now, I have always used a tenkara rod stiffer than the Pro Square 6:4 and have always used a line lighter than size 4 (other than on one particularly windy day in Utah). On my 11-22-20 trip I was surprised at how easy it was to get a perfect cast with the softer rod and heavier line. ("Heavier" is relative. The size 4 fluorocarbon line is still much lighter than nearly all available furled lines!).
The combination of the rod being soft enough to cast a size 4 line effortlessly and the line still being light enough to hold off the water's surface makes the Nissin Pro Square 6:4 360 the best "beginner" rod I have ever come across. It wasn't until I had to cast into a breeze and put on a line heavier than I would normally use that I realized how great the Pro Square 6:4 - size 4 combination would be for beginners.
To keep the end of a size 4 line off the surface (which is important for not alerting the fish to your presence) you will have to keep the rod tip high and you may have to adjust the length of the line and the length of the tippet. For years I have recommended that a beginner start with a line equal to the length of the rod, to which about 3.5 feet of tippet is attached. I know think the tippet should be at least 4 feet to start with, and 5 feet would be better, once you get to the point where you can consistently cast with the fly landing before the line does.
If you still have trouble keeping the end of the hi-vis line off the surface, stop your forward cast with the rod tip higher, and shorten your hi-vis line a little. Experiment. Line length and tippet length are not written in stone.
Experienced tenkara anglers might truly enjoy the rod for its ability to cast lines that are lighter than their current rods can cast well. The Nissin Pro Square 6:4 casts a size 2 line surprisingly well, and will cast a 1.5 on a still day if the fly has any weight at all (whether a yarn body that gets heavier when wet, a 2X heavy hook or a small bead head). I think the rod's a bit too soft to get good hook sets with heavy beads, though.
The brookie above was caught with a Pro Square 6:4 320 in a very small stream with heavily wooded banks and lots of overhead branches - fishing conditions in which the little 320 just excels. You can bet it put a bend in the rod!
The Nissin Pro Square 6:4 320 makes a great Kids' Rod. It's short enough and light enough for a kid to use and it has the perfect action to teach tenkara casting. Even adults will love it for small streams and its ability to cast light lines (truly, your kid will never outgrow it). It is too short to be an all-around rod, but for smaller anglers and smaller streams it is just ideal.
I recently received an email from a long-time customer who told me I should not market the Nissin Pro Square 6:4 320 as a Kid's Rod, but instead should describe it as a "learner's rod." He specifically said learner rather than beginner, because A) he is not a beginner, and B) he recognizes he still has much to learn. He said the rod has helped him correct several bad habits and has underscored some of the subtle differences between tenkara and fly fishing.
Whether you want a learner's rod, a kid's rod, a shorter, small-stream/headwaters rod or a longer all-around rod, if you are looking for a light, responsive tenkara rod that can cast a wide range of line weights, you will not find a better one for under $150.
I have decided to import only the 6:4 rods and not the 7:3 (or the 8:2!). Personally, I think the big advantage of the 6:4 rods is their low penny ratings, giving them outstanding light line capability (and outstanding ease of casting size 3.5 or 4 lines). The 7:3 rods have penny ratings that are high enough that they have no particular advantage over other Japanese rods.
Nissin also makes a Level Line version of the Pro Square. It is even more full flex than the 6:4. I have a hunch that the 10 1/2 penny 6:4 rod is already far enough outside the box for most people. Not all, though, which is why the Level Line rod still exists. If you want the ultimate light, soft, full flex tenkara rod let me know and I'll order one for you.
Like many Nissin rods, the tip plug is rubber and is fluted to allow you to insert the plug while the line is still attached to the rod. That is a safety feature that could save a rod tip. I know at least one angler whose collapsed rod was broken when a tree branch snagged the line as he was walking past. Because the rod was on his backpack and out of his vision, he didn't notice that it had gotten caught until it was too late. Nissin's rubber plugs fit quite snugly and very definitely will not fall out by themselves. They are snug enough that they go in much better if you screw them in rather than try to just push them in.
The grip screw cap is metal and is aggressively knurled for good grip, even with cold, wet hands. There is a ventilation hole, but I would still urge people to disassemble a tenkara rod after use so that it can dry thoroughly. I have seen one rod and heard of others whose finishes were damaged by putting them away wet. The ventilation hole is actually just so you don't have to overcome air pressure when collapsing the rod at the end of a hot day, not to allow a wet rod to dry out.
The rod blank has blue accents at the section ends, which fade to a deep black over most of the blank. The overall scheme is not nearly as fancy as on the Nissin Royal Stages or Zerosums but also not as spartan as the Daiwa Enshou rods. They look nice and your money goes for the blank, not the paint job.
On balance, the Nissin Pro Square tenkara rods offer a fine choice for anglers who want lighter rods or softer rods than they can get from the competition.
Nissin builds tenkara rods in Japan for Japanese anglers. These are "home market" rods and as such were designed for the conditions Japanese anglers face and the fish they catch. They are not intended to be big fish rods. Still, these are some of the lightest, smoothest casting rods you'll find. And for tenkara rods that are actually made in Japan, you'll find they are very competitively priced.
*without tip plug