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 these rods and the Zerosum rods is the longer grips on the Royal Stages. 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 Royal Stage Tenkara rods weigh 5 grams more than their Zerosum counterparts. I suspect that 5 grams is the weight of the additional cork. For the 400 length rods in particular, having the additional 5 grams near the butt of the rod, plus the ability to choke up a few more inches definitely changes the perceived swing weight. It makes longer rods feel less tip heavy.
The Royal Stage 7:3 400 is also just a little bit firmer than the Zerosum 7:3 400 at 20 pennies compared to 18 for the Zerosum. It is very nearly equal to the Air Stage Honryu 450, which measures 20.5. The rod really does feel like a "main stream" rod, basically a rod for larger streams or small rivers. I am sure it will handle the longer line you would use and larger fish you would catch. A couple years ago at the Oni School in Utah, Tenkara no Oni demonstrated casting a 10 meter line with a Royal Stage 7:3 360, and with his coaching many of the students did it as well. The Royal Stage Tenkara 7:3 400 would do it more easily (and would cast a 7 or 8m line more easily also.
The 13 incher above didn't even come close to taking the rod to its limits. The rod does very nicely with a size 3.5 line.
The Royal Stage 6:4 400 is a relatively soft (14 pennies), smooth casting rod that is ideal for light lines and delicate presentations. The rod isn't quite as firm as the Zerosum 6:4 400. I would fish it with a size 3 line.
The 6:4 360 weighs just 2.3 ounces, and feels surprisingly light when you fish with it. The 7:3
is almost as light, but has significantly more backbone. The brown trout
shown above, between 12 and 13", put a very deep bend in the 6:4 rod
but I was able to guide it into quiet water without incident. Just as the 7:3 400 above easily handled a fish just a bit bigger, I am sure the 7:3 360 would have made short work of this fish and could put significantly larger ones in the net.
The 320 rods are both so very light that after fishing with the 400s and then the 360s, it felt like the 320s weren't even there. They are wonderful small stream rods. I took the Royal Stage Tenkara 320 6:4 rod to a couple wild trout streams in New Jersey and managed to catch a few. The rod is a soft, full flex rod and the 10 incher above put a good bend in it but I am sure the rod can handle larger fish. Both the 6:4 and the 7:3 rods will give you the precision and feel that up until now was available only in the Zerosums.
Beside the longer grips, 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.
10' 7 1/2"
All rods are 22 1/4" collapsed.
Nissin Royal Stage
Nissin Royal Stage
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 the 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).
Rods, line and line holders made in Japan.
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|The Royal Stage has the same feel as the Zerosums just a little less expensive and about a 1.5" longer grip. The emerald green color is gorgeous. This rod is going to be a slam dunk winner for Nissin this upcoming year.
John V, Utah
| I really like this rod. It has a wonderfully shaped handle that allows multiple grip positions. The tip heaviness is very respectable for such a long rod (410 cm). The casting stroke is relaxed yet accurate. It handles tenkara sized trout very easily, even in fast gradient streams. Finally, it has wonderful aesthetics. What more can you ask of a 400+ cm tenkara rod!
Tom D, Idaho
Teton Tenkara blog
| I just received the Nissin Royal Stage and I am at a lost for words what a beautiful rod. I honestly have never felt a tenkara rod that nice before. It blows my other rods [Rhodo and Sato] out of the water.
Luke B, Pennsylvania
|Chris, I put the rod to good use the same week it arrived. Please see attached from last week in eastern Idaho. This is a really effective way to fish small water. Thanks again.
Matt B, Idaho