The Nissin Royal Stage Tenkara rods are very reminiscent of the premium Nissin Zerosum rods, which may be the most popular rods in Japan right now. The Royal Stages are mid-priced rods, though, making them accessible to a lot more people.
The most obvious difference between the Royal Stage rods and the Zerosum rods is the longer grip on the Royal Stage rods. Personally, I like the longer grips. On smaller streams I like to hold the rod at the very front of the grip, with my index finger on the blank. With a longer grip you can choke up a bit more, effectively shortening the rod.
The 7:3 320 is a wonderful small stream rod. It will give you the precision and feel that up until now was available only in a Zerosum.
Beside the longer grip, the other obvious difference is the much plainer graphic design of the Royal Stage rods compared to the Zerosums. The Zerosum rods are really sharp looking with bright crimson paint at the ends of the sections and the bold, gold Zerosum logo. The graphics on the Royal Stage rods are still attractive, but are much more subdued.
In the middle of the grip section, the rod name, action
and length are on a section that is a fairly subtle blue. Subtle to the
point that it is fairly easy to see but difficult to photograph (at
least with my modest skills). The blue color is from very minute blue
specks in the clear coat. You can easily see the weave of the carbon
fibers, which I think adds to the attractiveness of the rod.
There is band with the blue specks at the end of the grip section. The ends of the other sections have just a thin gold band. It's not as fancy as the Zerosum, but it is a classy look.
The tip plug and the grip screw cap are exactly the same as those on the Zerosum rods. The grips are very good quality cork.
I've spent so much time on the cosmetics because that might in fact be the biggest difference between the Zerosum Tenkara rods and the Royal Stage Tenkara rods. When you wiggle the Royal Stage rods they feel a lot like their Zerosum counterparts. They are close enough that if you were blindfolded and someone handed you one of the rods, you might not be able to tell which it was.
The first time I had a chance to fish with the Royal Stage Tenkara
rods I brought along the comparable Zerosums so I could fish them back
to back. They are not quite the same, but they are close. The penny
ratings of the rods are very similar to those of the Zerosums with the
same length and action.
A Royal Stage Tenkara rod doesn't look like a Zerosum but feels very much the same. That is in stark contrast to the rods that copied the look of the Zerosum but feel very different.
I think these are the best rods rods you can buy at this price point.
Rod made in Japan.