I have decided to discontinue the Aoi ZPRO. If you want one, however, I can order one for you from Japan. In addition to the 58 and 63, for which the stats are provided below, the rod also comes in a 53 and a 68 length.
Replacement parts are not in stock but they are available.
The Suntech Aoi ZPRO replaced the Suntech Suikei ZPRO. In several trip reports I have written about how much I liked the Suikei ZPRO 54 and Suikei ZPRO 64, which were extremely light, superbly sensitive rods rated for 8X tippets or lighter. I rarely catch big fish, and 8X is fine for most of my fishing. For a lot of tenkara anglers, though, 8X just isn't enough.
The Suntech Aoi ZPRO is just as light,
just as sensitive and is rated for 6X tippets. For most of the fish that most people
actually catch, 6X will be fine - especially with a rod that protects tippets as well as this one does.
I took an Aoi ZPRO 63 with me on my
vacation to Maine for some smallmouth bass fishing. With the first cast I was a
bit surprised at the difference between the Aoi ZPRO 63 and the original Suikei ZPRO 64. The Aoi's
got muscle! The rod isn't stiff by any means, but the midsection of the rod is
noticeably stiffer than the Suikei ZPRO rods. The Aoi ZPRO has much more
capability to tame a smallmouth or steer a rainbow out of the current and into
the quiet water.
The first Aoi ZPRO I ordered was the 63. A customer then ordered the 58 and asked me to compare the two. I took both rods to the park alongside the Hudson River for some lawn casting. The 63 was a known quantity, as I had fished it in Maine and also a couple times since I've been back.
The 58 was a surprise, though. It is 18.5" shorter and .4 ounce lighter. That doesn't seem like much but it was just enough that the rod felt a lot lighter and had a lot less inertia when casting. I loved it. That night I ordered one for myself and another one for my customer (he had purchased the first as a gift for a friend).
The Aoi ZPRO 58 feels quite a bit like the Kurenai Long 61 (which I like a lot), with the added advantages of shorter collapsed length and lower price. It's actually a very nice length, too, and it is a bit surprising that more rods do not come in that length. A 5.3 or 5.4m rod, after you get used to two handed casting (and it won't take long), will start to seem pretty short. Before long, you'll want a 6.3m rod. The 5.8 is a good compromise. It is long enough to give you good reach, yet is noticeably lighter than any 6.3m rod.
When I had first taken the 58 and 63 out lawn casting, I was using a size 3 line. The second time, I used the Nissin size 2.5 level line. I am continually surprised at how well the long keiryu rods cast light tenkara lines. You really would think the rods were designed for them. I still like the extremely light keiryu lines for fishing heavier nymphs, but for unweighted wets or for dries or even for smaller beadhead nymphs, a size 2.5 Nissin Oni line and a long rod will give you the best drifts you're ever gotten.
If you are at all interested in Ultralight Worm Fishing, the Suntech
Aoi ZPRO 58 and a size 2.5 tenkara line will work surprisingly well.
Despite their light weight they are surprisingly capable rods. Fishing with a tungsten bead head black Killer Bugger, I caught several 10-12" fish in moderate current and the rod was not even close to being maxed out.
On my next trip out with the Suntech Aoi ZPRO 63, I caught a 16 incher and the rod also had no trouble subduing the fish. And that is the difference between the Aoi ZPRO and the original Suikei ZPRO. I probably couldn't have stopped that fish with 8X tippet, which is the maximum that was recommended for the Suikei ZPRO. With the Aoi ZPRO and 6X, I was able to maneuver the fish into quieter water before he even tried heading downstream.
The Suntech Aoi ZPRO is a keiryu rod, after all. I have mentioned the "zero" fishing concept several times. Basically, it is an attempt to add as little as possible (approaching zero) to the natural bait so that it achieves as close to a perfectly natural drift as possible. That means a small, light wire hook, the least amount of weight necessary to get the bait down to the fish, the lightest line possible and a rod with a very soft tip so the fish feels no resistance when it takes the bait. The rod has to be soft overall to protect the very light line.
The ZPRO series (the discontinued Suikei ZPRO, the Aoi ZPRO and the FMX Keiryu ZPRO) are Suntech's rods for the "zero" niche of keiryu fishing. The Aoi ZPRO in particular is a very nice rod indeed. The tip sections are quite soft, so you will see the markers dip before a fish feels any tension on the line. The midsection is firmer, though, which yields positive hook sets and better control over a fish than the extremely soft Suikei ZPRO or the full flex FMX Keiryu ZPRO. The Aoi ZPRO is also lighter weight than the FMX Keiryu ZPRO.
If you want to explore zero fishing, the Suntech Aoi ZPRO will take you as far as you want to go. The rod is rated for 10X tippet, which is just over 1# test and realistically, is lighter than you will ever NEED. Varivas 8X or 9X tippet is plenty thin and will still test your skill.
The 6X that the rod is rated for is strong enough to land fish in the mid to upper teens and is still thin enough that by far, most fish will be concentrating on the worm or salmon egg (or fly) and not the tippet.
As with other keiryu rods, the grip is a widened out section of the blank with a very effective nonskid finish. The grip screw cap is plastic, knurled for easy removal or tightening, and has a hole for ventilation. The rods have Fuji rod caps, KTC-16 for the Aoi ZPRO 58 and KTC-20 for the AOI ZPRO 63. All have micro swivels to attach the lillian.
Weight (with cap)
Weight (without cap)
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