The Nissin Zerosum tenkara rods are wonderfully light rods. I find that as I try more and more rods, ranging from short seiryu rods well suited to 4" brookies to long keiryu rods well suited to big browns, the ones I like the best are the lighter ones. It is a personal preference, but I just can't see fishing with a rod that weighs over 3.5 ounces when there are excellent rods that weigh so much less.
One of the biggest differences between the Japanese rods and any of the rods made in China is the weight. People who have never fished with a Nissin rod would be amazed at the difference. Other companies can copy the look of the rods but they just can't copy the feel.
The Zerosum rods come in four lengths - 320 (10'6"), 360 (11'11") and 400 (13'5"), and 450 (15'); and two ratings - 6:4 and 7:3. The 6:4 rods are a bit slower and also a bit lighter. The 6:4 400 weighs just 2.6 ounces without the tip plug - which is amazing for a 13'5" rod. The 360 weighs only 2.1 ounces and the 320 is a surprisingly light 1.9 ounces. And they're not just light - they feel well balanced and you can easily feel the rod load as you are casting.
I fully agree with Tom Davis at Teton Tenkara when he said "I think Nissin has a real winner with this rod." His very extensive rod review was of the 7:3 360. I saw the 360 in both the 6:4 and 7:3 ratings at the Osaka Fishing Show and I much preferred the 6:4 - so much so that my initial order was entirely of 6:4 rods. Partially as a result of Tom's review I quickly added the 7:3 rods as well.
The 320 6:4 is a 12 penny rod, which is right on the tenkara rod / seiryu rod border. The 360 6:4 is a 14 penny rod. I would fish a size 3 line with any of the Zerosum 6:4 rods. The 7:3 rods have substantially more backbone. They're still not what I would call big fish rods, but they will give you a bit more control over fish than the 6:4 rods will. I'd fish a size 3.5 line with the 7:3 rods.
Despite being light rods, they are quite capable of subduing good sized fish. On one of my trips to Maine for some smallmouth bass fishing, where I did most of my fishing fishing with big, beefy keiryu rods, my best fish of the trip was caught with a Nissin Zerosum tenkara rod.
I truly believe that most tenkara anglers do not realize the ability of a light rod to land a good fish. It will bend to the grip, but it will absorb every head shake and every attempt at a run. A heavier, stiffer rod will give you a bit more control, but only a bit, and not enough to offset the wonderful smooth casting and light line capability of the Zerosum rods.
The grip section of the Zerosums has what Nissin calls a "4-axis carbon" weave which you can see pretty easily in the photo above. This gives the lower section of the rod a bit more rigidity, which you can feel when casting (compared to the Nissin Royal Stage Tenkara rods which are the rods that are closest to the Zerosums).
The Zerosum 320 is one of the nicest small stream rods you will find. As with the other Nissin Zerosum tenkara rods, it is rated for a tippet of 5X - 3.6X (Japanese line size .8-1.2, roughly 4.5lb to 6 lb). With a 5X tippet and a well-set hook, you should be able to land any fish that lives in a stream small enough that you'd want to use a 10.5' rod (and personally, I would not use any tippet stronger than 5X). The fish in the photo in the upper right, a chunky 10 incher, did not come even close to pushing the limits of the rod.
The 9 inch brookie below got into a fast current and headed downstream. The 6:4 320 bent to the grip but the rod was able to maneuver the fish into quiet water and then bring it to net.
The 360 is only a bit beefier, but the feel of the rod is different. The 320 feels "light." The 360 feels "right." It is a delightful rod and if your fishing is concentrated on small to medium sized streams for fish in the 8-14" range (which to be honest, is the size trout that most anglers catch most of the time), this could be your "go to" rod - to the point where you may never want to fish any of your other rods again. They really are that nice. And if you happen to hook that unexpected 18 incher, don't worry, the rod can handle it.
The Zerosum 400 is a long rod and long rods are heavier. The 400 is definitely heavier than the 360, but it is so much lighter than the best known 13-13.5' rods. Comparing the Japanese made 6:4 Zerosum 400 at 2.6 ounces to the rods that weigh 3.6 ounces is eye opening to say the least. The 400 is a rod for where there is no overhead canopy and for where you would want the additional length for longer casts.
Nissin has released a Zerosum 450 for honryu tenkara, which in Japan is tenkara fishing on larger streams and rivers. In the US I am sure people will also use them in lakes, really anywhere you really want the reach you can get with a longer rod. The Nissin Zerosum 450 7:3 in particular would also do well for fishing a longer line.
I carry the Fujino Soft Tenkara Long Type lines, in 7m, 8m and 9m lengths. I think most people buy them for casting practice because once you learn how to cast a long line, casting a shorter line is a snap. However, the Zerosum 450 7:3 casts the long lines so well that they're not just for practice! For any stream that is a bit too wide and a bit too deep to reach the bank eddies on the far side with a shorter rod and shorter line, the Zerosum 450 with a long line makes a lot of sense.
I like the rods quite a bit and can enthusiastically recommend any one of them to tenkara anglers who want a light weight premium tenkara rod. On trip to Japan, John Vetterli noticed that the Zerosum was the rod he saw most Japanese tenkara anglers fishing with. I was surprised to learn that Hiromichi Fuji, the master who designed the wooden handled Nissin Fujiryu Tenkara rods, which I think are absolutely delightful to fish with, now fishes with a Zerosum!
Until you cast one of the Nissin Zerosum rods, you won't know what you are missing. With very, very few exceptions, the people who rave about other rods haven't experienced fishing with a Zerosum. It is no surprise that a well known American rod company copied the look of the Zerosum. They just couldn't copy the feel, though.
The following table is for the 6:4 rods.
The following table is for the 7:3 rods.
Rods made in Japan.
Nissin Zerosum Tenkara 6:4
Nissin Zerosum Tenkara 7:3
Tenkara rods are used in Japan to catch fish that are rarely larger
than 9-10". Japanese anglers do not break rods on 10" fish, so I am
convinced that tippet ratings are no more than a rough guide, explaining
what anglers generally use with a tenkara rod. I do not believe they are
meant to state the strength of tippet that will break before the rod
does. I would not use tippet any stronger than 5X (and that is not an assurance that 5X tippet will break before the rod does).
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