Suntech has replaced the Field Master with a newer model, called the Field Master Suikei RC Attack. I have not seen it but from the description it sounds like it is both lighter and stiffer than the model it replaced. From the photo on the Suntech website it appears that the rod no longer has a lillian, but rather an attachment similar to the Suntech Kurenai PROSPEC, shown below.
It sounds like the rod would be a good choice for fishing weighted flies in streams where you would want a rod that you could fish at different lengths.
The description below is of the previous model.
The Suntech Field Master 39 was the first 3-position zoom rod sold in the US. When I first ordered the Field Master 39 (back in 2012) I had been looking for a rod that had all the sensitivity and feel you get from a rod that doesn't have a cork grip, but also had bend characteristics that placed it squarely in the middle of the "tenkara rod" range. The Field Master 39 did that, and did that at three different lengths! I couldn't have asked for more.
There is a big difference between what I knew then and what I know now. Other than the few Daiwa tenkara rods I also imported that year, all of the tenkara rods available in the US in 2012 were sourced in China. The Chinese had no history of tenkara fishing. They made rods for bait fishing. The earliest tenkara rods in the US had actions that put them squarely in the middle of the keiryu rod (bait fishing) range, so in retrospect, it was no surprise that the Suntech Field Master, which is a keiryu rod, had an action squarely in the middle of the "tenkara" rods available here at the time.
I would bet that all of the people who purchased Field Masters in the early years used them exclusively for tenkara fishing rather than keiryu fishing, though. Of course, many if not most also fished bead head flies, which the Field Master does quite well.
It fishes bead heads well because fishing bead heads, particularly heavy bead heads, is really pretty similar to keiryu fishing, which is done with split shot and dead drifts. And although the Field Masters do quite well with a size 4 tenkara line, they really are better at keiryu fishing than they are at tenkara fishing. However, they are still better at fishing bead head nymphs than the average tenkara rod.
I've only fished a Field Master 53 a few times, but if you are looking for a two-handed rod for either flies or bait, the Field Master 53 is a fine choice. It has the same fit and finish as the shorter Field Masters (as all the Suntech rods for that matter).
There seems to be a general consensus that zoom rods are more
pleasant to fish at their shorter lengths rather than fully
extended. When it comes to two handed rods, though, I think the opposite
is true. I believe the Suntech Field Master 53 is nicer at full
extension and much nicer fished as a two-handed rod.
Rods don't feel tip heavy when casting two handed, and the extra length provides substantially more inertia, making the rod slower and giving you a lot of tactile feedback. Whereas I fished the Field Master 39 and 44 at all three lengths, I have fished the 53 at full extension most of the time.
Not always, though. The last time I fished the Field Master 53 was on a fairly small stream that didn't have much in the way of overhead canopy. I fairly frequently switched between the shortest setting, 4.5m, and the longest, 5.3m, depending on the stream width and cover. At 4.5m I fished the rod as a one hander and at 5.3m as a two-handed rod.
I know a lot of tenkara anglers would fish the above stream with a 360 or even 320 rod. There is room for a 450, though, and the drifts will be much better. Where the stream opens up even a little, the full 530 length will give you better drifts than you can get with a 450, let alone a 360.
For a stream like the one shown above, the Suntech Field Master 53 would be ideal. The stream is wide enough that you would certainly appreciate the length, but it is not so wide that you'd need a 63 rather than a 53. There is little in the way of overhead branches so casting and landing fish would not be a problem.
Despite being a big, beefy rod, the Field Master 53 can protect a light tippet. The above rainbow was caught on a size 30 hook and 8X tippet.
In general, I would recommend light tippets - lighter tippets than most rod manufacturers recommend and lighter tippets than most anglers fish. Most tenkara anglers fish 5X tippets. I truly believe you will catch more fish with 6X than you will with 5X. I only know of one time when I lost fish to tippet breaks with 6X and then landed a similar size fish with 5X. Most of the fish most tenkara anglers hook will not break 6X tippet!
Like all Suntech rods, the Field Master is made in Japan - and it shows. The "fit and finish" are excellent. The finish is a metallic gray on the grip and zooming sections, and on the accents at the tip end of the black-painted smaller sections. The Field Master II grip is smooth to the touch, yet it is still an effective non-skid grip. Because your fingertips are right on the blank itself, it provides unmatched sensitivity so you can feel what's going on with your line and your fly. When keiryu fishing, I would urge you to use yarn markers, which are even more sensitive than your fingertips in detecting strikes.
After you have fished with corkless grips for a while, you will realize that cork grips on tenkara rods must have been copied from Western fly rods where you have yards of fly line laying on the water and lots of slack in your line - and thus no need for sensitivity. After fishing a light, tight line for a while, staying in contact with your fly, you will not feel any need for cork grips.
The Field Master grip screw is made of a plastic material, is beveled for comfort is knurled to provide a positive grip. The grip screw also holds the rear ends of the zooming sections when the rod is not fully zoomed. The plugs and O rings hold the sections securely, with no hint of rattling.
The fit is pretty snug, and I find it helpful to twist the sections as you are seating them. They almost snap into place. Be sure to twist them to the right (clockwise if you were looking directly at the grip screw cap). If you twist them to the left, it may loosen the grip screw cap, increasing the chance for it to get lost. Be sure to check the grip screw cap to see that it is tightly screwed in each time you extend the rod.
The Field Master 53 comes with a Fuji KTC-16 instead of the more common tip plug. The band is tight enough that it definitely is not going to come off unexpectedly.
The lillian is held on with the same swivel mechanism used in other Suntech rods. It is very small and unobtrusive but it does lessen line twist. It is thin enough to go through the #2 section so the rod can be fully disassembled for drying between uses.