Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori

The Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori 53 is an excellent dual use (keiryu/tenkara) rod. It is just barely light enough to be fished one handed, which is really astounding for a 17' rod. I fish it one handed because my other hand is glued to my wading staff. I suspect most anglers will find it much more comfortable to fish as a two-handed rod, through.

The first time I got a chance to fish with a Keiryu Sawanobori was when I was in Colorado for a presentation several years ago. I was on the Poudre River and happened to see a trout rise in the middle of the large eddy on the far bank. With the Keiryu Sawanobori I was able to make a cast completely over the intervening current and drop a CDC & Elk into the center of the eddy - and hold the line off the water's surface so there was no drag.

Rainbow trout with Keiryu Sawanobori 72

And here's the fish that rose in the middle of the eddy on the far bank just moments before.

It doesn't always work out quite so nicely, but sometimes it does. With a  shorter rod the only way to have caught that fish would have been to wade halfway across the river. In some rivers you can do that. In some you can't.

My presentation - the day before - had been on Long Rod, Short Line Tenkara. The above setting, cast and fish would have perfectly illustrated a point that I had tried to make in my presentation. A number of anglers are well known for "long line tenkara," but with a shorter rod there is no way you could have held enough line off the water's surface to fish the center of that eddy without drag pulling your fly. With a longer rod and shorter line you'll have less line in the water and you can get much better drifts than you can with a shorter rod and longer line.

Angler holding a nice rainbow troutThe Keiryu Sawanobori 53 made short work of this rainbow.

The Keiryu Sawanobori is just so light for its length and it has the capability of handling some very impressive fish. The Keiryu Sawanobori 53 carries a higher penny rating (32) than the Daiwa Kiyose 43M-Y, with which people have caught braggin' size rainbows and even pretty fair sized carp. It's just a penny shy of the Daiwa Enshou LT44SF, which has been discontinued but which I think was the best big water / big fish tenkara rod until Daiwa intoduced the Expert LT H44. With the longer length and smoother casting, the Sawanobori 53 would be my choice over any tenkara rod when fishing a large stream or small river.

Large brown trout with Keiryu SawanoboriMy best ever fish on a dry fly.

One thing that definitely surprised me about the Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori rods is that they will cast a light size 3 line quite effectively. These are rods that you can use for fishing dries and unweighted wets yet they have enough backbone to fish weighted nymphs well also.

Rainbow trout with Keiryu Sawanobori 53Even modest fish are fun.

For keiryu fishing, they'll go about as delicate as you could want - all the way down to 9X tippets. They're rated up to 5X, though, and with their length and mid flex action, 5X tippet will handle surprisingly large fish. They're sensitive enough that they are still fun with more modest fish. I really, really like these rods.

Smallmouth bass with keiryu sawanobori rod on boat seat

I took a Keiryu Sawanobori to Maine with me a couple years ago for smallmouth fishing. I didn't hook any trophy size fish, but the rod handles a nice smallmouth very well indeed. I am getting more and more questions regarding rods for smallmouth bass. The Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori would be a good choice for smallies in lakes or streams.

And lest we forget, the Keiryu Sawanobori rods are actually keiryu rods. If you are a keiryu fisherman, you will have a hard time finding nicer all-around rods. They are not "zero" rods, but they are rated down to 9X, which is as light as anyone needs to fish. Also rated for 5X, they'll handle 18-20" trout without issue. They are very nice rods!

Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori Features

The Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori rods are a deep maroon color, with bright sparkles in the finish on the grip section. The sections above the grip have the same maroon color but without the sparkles.

Sawanobori writen on rod grip

The grip is a widened out section of the blank itself with smooth non-skid finish that is effective wet or dry. The grip has Sawanobori written on it but you need pretty good light to see it this clearly. It is subtle, not flashy. The grip is much wider than on some keiryu rods, so it is unlikely you will even think of putting tennis racquet grip wrap on it.

Nonskid coating on upper end of grip section

There is about 3" of the same non-skid finish on the front end of the grip section - just where you would put your forward hand when casting two handed. That is a wonderful idea that I had not seen on other keiryu rods.

Lillian and the ends of all the sections just showing outside of next larger sections
Grip screw cap

As with other Suntech rods, the lillian is attached with a micro swivel that easily slides through the second section, allowing complete disassembly for drying and cleaning. The grip screw cap is knurled for easy removal and has a ventilation hole.

Unlike most Japanese tenkara rods, the Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori rods are covered by a one-year warranty (keep the blue and white sheets that are in the back of the plastic retail display case).

All in all, this is a rod that I like a lot and that I am sure will please anyone looking for a 5+ meter keiryu rod that will handle a wide range of tippet strengths (and a wide range of fish sizes). It seems to work equally well for tenkara and for keiryu fishing. If you've been looking for a longer rod, this is definitely one to consider.

Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori Stats

With tip cap
Without cap
Tip Diameter
Grip Diameter
Tippet rating
% Carbon

16’ 10”
3.7 oz
3.2 oz

20’ 3”
4.9 oz
4.3 oz

23' 7"
6.5 oz
5.7 oz


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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662

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The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.

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Keiryu Sawanobori 53

I used a level line and tippet together = about 12" shorter than the length of the rod. Man was that wonderful. It was so easy to control the fly and line. It was like picking fish out of a barrel! The only real issue I found was bringing them in to the net. The line was almost too short. Superb control over the fly though!

Jason B, Oregon

Took the rod out yesterday and loaded it with 18 feet of DT2 with 18" of Orange Sunset 15# line with 2 foot of 0X Maxima and 4 feet of 4X Mono. Very smooth and I was able to cast out very large floater's easily.

Caught some decent smallmouths but failed this time to catch a hog.  I think they are on to me in that stretch of water. 

This rod has a lot power but can really lay out a long line easily.

Roger H, West Virginia

I'm at the tail end of 2 back to back trips where I caught 18 inch fish  in small streams in SE Idaho and now I'm in the southern Oregon Cascades catching 12 inch brook trout and rainbows in high alpine lakes and streams. All were caught using my new Suntech Sawanobori 53. Turns out it is incredibly versatile and it has been my go to rod except for the tightest streams.

Jonathan B, Oregon

The Sawanobori has me spoiled. It is the most intuitive (to me) rod that I have ever owned.

Les A, Idaho

Thanks again for the recommendation for the rod. I went to the [name withheld] River today and it is the perfect rod for a river that size. I was able get excellent drifts at distance and get some flies into spots that would have been hard with any other rod. It is a remarkably light rod for its size. It handled some larger fish very well (two 17 inch fish).

August G, New York

Small trout alonside Keiryu Sawanobori

Thanks again for the recommendation for the rod. I went to the XXXXX today and it is the perfect rod for a river that size. I was able get excellent drifts at distance and get some flies into spots that would have been hard with any other rod. It is a remarkably light rod for its size. It handled some larger fish very well (two 17 inch fish).

August G, New York