Suntech TenkaraBum 33 (LT)

The Suntech TenkaraBum 33 should have been called the TenkaraBum 33 LT.

There's a Joni Mitchel song from 1970 with the lyrics "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." With respect to the TenkaraBum 33, I'd change that to say "you don't know what you've got 'til you've had it for a while." The TenkaraBum 33 was initially conceived as a rod that would fish weighted nymphs well and could handle larger fish coming from smaller streams. It does both of those things well, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have given the rod a slightly different name.

I should have taken a page out of Daiwa's playbook, and called the rod the Suntech TenkaraBum 33 LT.  Daiwa's LT designation for tenkara rods means the rod is suited to both level and tapered lines.  Because the TenkaraBum 33 is a firmer rod than the TenkaraBum 36 or the TenkaraBum 40, it would be a much better choice for people who prefer to use tapered lines, most of which are heavier than level lines.

It will do well with any of the tapered lines generally available to tenkara anglers, whether the knotless nylon Fujino lines, the twisted fluorocarbon Nissin PALS SP Pro or the furled lines available from a number of small companies. It will also be a better choice for people who prefer to use a size 4 level line

The Suntech TenkaraBum 33 shares a design philosophy with the TenkaraBum 36 but it is not just the 36 with one less section. It is a different rod constructed on a different blank with a slightly different design goal. The goal for the TenkaraBum 36 was for an all-around rod for how American tenkara anglers fish (with weighted nymphs and with dry flies in addition to the unweighted wets used in Japan).

Smaller Streams

Creek Chub in 3x5 photo tank.

The goal for the Suntech TenkaraBum 33 was a rod for streams that are a bit too small for the TenkaraBum 36 and for fish that are too large (or much too large) for the Suntech Kurenai HM33R. It is a firmer, faster rod than the TenkaraBum 36 with a different bend profile (a bit more tip flex than the 36 but with a firmer midsection).

It is still a very sensitive rod and you will feel every head shake from a 6" brookie (or a 4" creek chub). That said, the rod was designed with larger fish in mind.

It is always a bit surprising to see Tom Davis catching 13-14" fish in  narrow, overgrown mountain streams. That may be more common in the west, but it is not unheard of elsewhere. I have caught 17" trout in the New York City suburbs in streams for which the TenkaraBum 33 would be the ideal length.

Angler holding rainbow trout at water's surface. TenkaraBum 33 floating alongside.If your small streams hold 17" rainbows
you need a TenkaraBum 33!

This fat 17" rainbow was caught with the Suntech TenkaraBum 33 prototype in a stream where I had to watch my casts so I wouldn't snag branches on the far side. Thinking back, nearly all the larger fish I have taken in smaller streams were holding under a low tree branch. On narrow streams with low tree branches, even with a slingshot cast, a longer rod would be a bit too long.

Pinpoint Casts

Although casting accuracy is always important, the smaller the stream the more important it is. The eddies and seams to which you are casting are smaller, and they are closer to the streamside bushes and branches. A faster rod with a taper that can deliver a slightly heavier line will give you better accuracy - particularly if there is even a hint of a breeze.

Weighted Nymphs

As with the TenkaraBum 36, the Suntech TenkaraBum 33 is a rod for anglers who want to fish nymphs and dries as well as unweighted wet flies. For years I had recommended the Daiwa Kiyose 33SF for nymphing, but it was a bit too stiff for fishing dries and unweighted wets.

The TenkaraBum 33 is stiff enough in the midsection to get good hook sets with even heavy nymphs, but the tip sections are softer than those on the Kiyose 33 SF or the very similar Daiwa Keiryu-X 33. That makes the TenkaraBum 33 a much better rod than the Keiryu-X 33 for fishing unweighted flies.

Actually, the softer tip sections make the TenkaraBum 33 a better rod than the Keiryu-X for nymphing, too. Over the last couple years I have learned much more about how sensitive trout are to line tension. In a nutshell, when tight line nymphing, you will feel more takes with a stiff rod, but by the time you can react, many of the fish will have spit out the nymph. You'll feel the tap but there's no fish there when you try to set the hook.

With a rod that has softer tip sections, you won't feel as many hits, but you will see the line twitch or stop. Just as you won't feel the hits, the trout won't feel the tension. You will have a better hook-up ratio because you'll know the fish is there before the fish knows you're there.

Using a slightly heavier line will ensure a bit of line sag, which is an excellent strike indicator. You will see the line straighten before you feel a hit - and before the fish feels the tension. Thus, while the rod will cast either a 3.5 or 4 line well, I would recommend the 4 when fishing nymphs.

The slightly firmer bend profile actually makes the TenkaraBum 33 a better nymphing rod than the TenkaraBum 36, too. It is a foot shorter, but for close in tight line nymphing, you may be hard pressed to find a better rod. I would urge you to consider the TenkaraBum 33 instead of a stiffer rod like the Daiwa Keiryu-X 33.

TenkaraBum 33 and smallmouth bass on boat deck.The rod was not designed for bass, but it can handle them.
Brown trout in net.
Angler holding small rainbow trout alongside TenkaraBum 33 rod

If the water is more than knee deep, with moderately fast current and a broken rather than a glassy surface, fishing deep with a short, tight line can be quite effective. The TenkaraBum 33 is truly excellent for that. The brown above was caught in water that was too deep for hippers and the rainbow was caught in fast water. Both were caught with a TenkaraBum 33 using a line, rod tip to hook, that was more than a foot shorter than the rod and with enough weight to get to the bottom quickly.

Suntech TenkaraBum 33 (TL)

Come to think of it, instead of calling it the TenkaraBum 33 LT, I should have called it the TenkaraBum 33 TL. That would cover two bases: (1) The ability of the rod to work well with a Tapered Line or a size 4 Level line, and (2) the ability of the rod to work extremely well as a Tight Line nymphing rod.

The rods have all been painted already, and the package labels have all been printed, but you know, the Suntech TenkaraBum 33 TL would have been a great name.

Suntech TenkaraBum 33 Features

TenkaraBum 33 grip
TenkaraBum 33 tip plug
TenkaraBum 33 grip screw cap
TenkaraBum 33 lillianspin and lillian

The foam grip, grip screw cap, and tip plug are the same for the TenkaraBum 33, TenkaraBum 36 and TenkaraBum 40. The blanks are all different, though, so none of sections are interchangeable with the TenkaraBum 36 or TenkaraBum 40 sections.

The grip is hard EVA foam, which provides an excellent nonskid grip (and is less expensive than cork, allowing the money to go toward a higher quality blank). The grip screw cap is knurled for easy tightening and removal, and rounded for comfort. The tip plug fits quite snugly and will not fall out when you least expect it. Because of the tight fit, do not insert the tip plug when the line is attached. The tip section has Suntech's signature "Lillian Spin" swivel, which does help to reduce line twist and which easily passes through the second section.

Length extended - 10'11"
Length collapsed - 22.5"
Weight without tip plug - 2.3 oz
Grip - Shaped EVA foam
Sections - 7
Tip Diameter - .7mm
Recommended tippet - 6x-5x
Pennies - 22

Rod made in Japan.

It turns out the supply chain is still broken. I will receive only about half as many TenkaraBum 33 rods as I expected this spring, and they will come in May rather than February or March.  The number of names on the waiting list is substantially more than the number of rods I expect to receive in May.

I will receive more in November or December. If you want one please let me know via the Back in Stock Notification Form.


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The new VAT regulations are too onerous for a one-man shop that rarely ships anything to the UK anyway. I apologize. 

TenkaraBum Home > Tenkara Rods > Suntech TenkaraBum 33

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"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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Angler holding brown trout alongside a TenkaraBum 33.

The TB33 is a very capable rod for smaller streams. It has the ability to finesse cast a tight loop into those well protected spots (tightly protected under willow branches) so common in smaller streams, and yet it also has the stiffness and power to initiate a quick hook set and power the fish out away from the snags. This is exactly what is needed for my smaller streams.

Tom D, Idaho

Teton Tenkara

That rod ... it’s my favorite. I’m fishing it all the time. Truly one of kind.

And I feel like nobody talks about it.

Chuck C, Maine

Chris, I just wanted to let you know that I'm loving the TenkaraBum 33. At this point I've fished about 7 days on the local spring fed stocker (with some holdovers) stream and have mostly been fishing size 18 Zebra nymphs, size 18 grey scuds and size 16 and 18 killer bugs. I've been catching mostly rainbows 12"-16" and the occasional brown. The rod casts my 3.5 level line and my Spectra furled lines nicely, is sensitive enough to feel light takes and has plenty of hook setting backbone when nymphing. Thanks for the heads up on this rod and I'm looking forward to tossing some Kebari at the brookies in the mountains soon.

Joe F, Virginia


Best rod ever!

Paul A (on location)