If you have ever been curious about the quality of a Japanese rod, or whether a rod actually designed to fish weighted flies helps with hook sets, now is the time.
Of course, if you already have a Suntech rod and already know their commitment to quality, and if you have an old "Brand X" 360 that really could be upgraded, now is the time for that, too.
The Suntech TenkaraBum 36 is the first tenkara rod designed by an American tenkara angler in collaboration with a Japanese rod company. It is made in Japan by Suntech and is sold in Japan as well as in the US.
My goal for the TenkaraBum 36 was to create a rod for the way American tenkara anglers fish, which often is very different than the way the Japanese masters fish. Many of my customers specifically ask for a rod that can fish nymphs. A lot of them really want a rod that can do everything - fish dry flies, wets and weighted nymphs but most of them definitely want a rod with which they can fish nymphs.
I wanted the rod to be able to fish a light line, as that is what I consider to be the very essence of tenkara - getting great drifts by keeping as much line as possible off the water's surface.
That's a tricky combination - having sufficient backbone to get good hooksets when fishing weighted nymphs, yet being able to cast a light line. I must say, though, that Suntech has produced a rod that is better than I even dared hope for.
I am happy to report that Tom Davis of Teton Tenkara, in his review of the Suntech TenkaraBum 36, suggests that my design goals have been met: "It casts a light line flawlessly and fishes weighted and unweighted flies without issue."
For a long time, I wrote that tenkara rods weren't good for fishing nymphs because their tips were too soft. I was wrong. It is the midsection of the rod that needs the stiffness to pull the line through the water and set the hook when fishing nymphs. The Suntech TenkaraBum 36 midsection is just a bit firmer than most tenkara rods.
It turns out that the firmer midsection, which allows you to get good hook sets when fishing with weighted nymphs, also allows you to get good hook sets when fishing poppers for largemouth bass.
The last few tip sections of a tenkara rod have to be relatively soft to cast a light line. The tip sections of the TenkaraBum 36 are just soft enough to cast a size 2.5 line with ease. The rod has enough backbone that you can fish a furled or floating line if you wish, but personally, I wouldn't go over a size 3 with this rod unless you wanted to fish a big bulky fly like a large Muddler Minnow.
It turns out that tip sections just soft enough to cast a light line are also soft enough that even smaller fish are fun to catch! They'll put a bend in the rod and you'll feel every head shake.
The transition between the softer tip sections and firmer midsection is so smooth, though, that casting the rod is a dream. As you start your forward cast, you can feel the rod load but you can also feel the power of the midsection. You can feel the transfer of power from the butt to the midsection to the tip sections to the line.
Once you feel the rod pulling the line, it takes just a flick to send the line forward. An abrupt stop with the rod still high will give you some of the tightest loops you've ever achieved with a tenkara rod.
The TenkaraBum 36 has a faster action than other tenkara rods, which will give you greater line speed and tighter loops. If you enjoy fishing dry flies, you will find they are easier to cast with this rod than with other tenkara rods. The same holds true for bulky flies, like the aforementioned Muddler Minnow - which no one would consider a tenkara fly but which casts surprisingly well with the TenkaraBum 36 and a size 3.5 line.
I am pretty confident that American anglers will appreciate the rod's
ability to get good hooksets, and Japanese anglers will appreciate the
rod's ability to cast a light line. And vice-versa, of course. A few
Japanese tenkara anglers do fish weighted flies and an increasing number of American
tenkara anglers recognize the benifits of fishing with light lines. In his review, Jason Klass of TenkaraTalk wrote "I typically fish either #2.5 or #3 fluorocarbon level lines and this rod throws them perfectly."
You will be able to tell in an instant that the Suntech TenkaraBum 36 is not like the rods made by the any of the other American tenkara companies. People who have Suntech rods will tell you of the Suntech commitment to quality. Suntech is a small company and to them, quality is paramount. It shows in the Suntech Tenkarabum 36. The fit and finish are excellent.
The rod and the label on the box both say Suikei Tenkarabum 36. I have previously written that I should have called the "Suikei 39" by its full name: GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39. Suikei is not actually the name of a rod, it is more like a family of rods. In addition to the GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39 and 44, the Suntech Field Master, Fine Power and Grayce are all "suikei" rods. Suikei doesn't translate perfectly into English, but the image it seeks to evoke is "flawless stream." I am honored that Suntech would include the TenkaraBum 36 in the Suikei line and I hope that you will consider it the perfect rod for fishing flawless streams.
|Beautiful day on the Swift with my little buddy. Fished tenkara today, with the orange squirmy worm being the fish favorite. I used the Suntech TenkaraBum 36 rod and a Rio Euro Nymph leader for the line. This is a great combo, I had no problems setting the size 10 weighted hook and the rod protected the 6x tippet even when fighting 17"+ fish in the current.
Anthony L, Massachusetts
A second video by Anthony L on the Swift River in MA
But please don't think they're just for flawless streams. I fully understand that in Japan, "tenkara" is a method of fishing for trout in mountain streams. They would not consider fishing for bluegills in ponds to be tenkara. However, if they tried it, they would realize in an instant how much fun it is to catch a bruiser of a bluegill, like Jeff D's shown above. I don't care if you call it "tenkara" or "fixed line fishing" just do it! It's so much fun it should come with a warning label.
Although a definite part of the design goal was to make a rod that will fish weighted nymphs as well as dries and unweighted wets, I didn't even think about streamers during the design process.
Since announcing the TenkaraBum Streamer Challenge in May, 2016, I discovered that the TenkaraBum 36 fishes streamers quite nicely. The smallmouth bass shown above was caught on a Minimal Dace, which is easy to cast with just about any rod, while the brookie above was caught on a size 4 Muddler Minnow with a BB shot about 10" in front of the fly, which definitely is not easy to cast with just any rod.
And if you happen to be fishing with a Black Killer Bugger you just don't know what you might hook. As Jeff R found out, if you happen to hook a bowfin, you'd best be fishing with a rod that can handle it!
For regular readers of TenkaraBum.com, the fact that the rod has a grip must be a surprise. I have written quite a lot about the seiryu and keiryu rods that do not have grips, and have felt for quite some time that a grip is not necessary.
I wanted people to recognize and appreciate what seiryu and keiryu rods offered in the way of performance. For people to experience the benefits that the rods offered, they had to get over the fact that the rods didn't have the grips they were used to.
For a rod as light as the Suntech TenkaraBum 36 (just 2.2 ounces) a grip isn't necessary. It is very nice, though. Plus, the grip is a product of the collaboration with Suntech. They want to sell the rod to Japanese tenkara anglers and for that they wanted a grip. Truth be told, a lot of American tenkara anglers expect tenkara rods to have grips. I am pretty sure it turned out well enough to please American and Japanese anglers alike.
My initial thought when designing the grip was that it would give the angler two distinct gripping locations. What I found when I actually fished the rod for the first time was that there are four distinct gripping locations and they all feel quite different: 1. choking up so that your forefinger is on the blank and the front part of the grip is under the ball of your hand, 2. holding it with your hand centered on the forward bulge, 3. holding it with your two middle fingers right at the "waist" of the grip, and 4. cradling the very end of the rod in your palm. I'm sure you'll find the one that is most comfortable for you, but if you're like me you'll end up using them all.
The foam itself is hard and not at all squishy. It really does make an excellent grip material. It provides an excellent nonskid surface, and unlike a bare graphite grip, it isn't cold in the winter. Also, since even bad cork is expensive, it is much better for the money to go into a higher quality blank.
The lillian is attached by the swivel you've come to expect with Suntech rods. It is thin enough to pass through the #2 section so you can fully disassemble the rod to dry between uses. (Very highly recommended.)
The tip plug is plastic and fits very snugly. You will not have to worry about it falling out by itself. The slits in the portion that is inserted into the rod are wide enough to accommodate level line so it will be possible to insert the plug with the line still attached, but be careful. You do not want to get the lillian caught in one of the slits. If you squeeze the lillian into one of the slits and then remove the tip plug and pull it to one side, a stuck lillian would pull the rod tip to the side and break it.
The grip screw cap is metal, is rounded for comfort and knurled for easy tightening or removal. There is a hole for ventilation, but do disassemble the rod between uses. There is a rubber bumper on the inside of the cap so the rod is quiet.
The rod comes with a stretchy rod sock (in the back of the plastic case, hidden behind the Suntech stickers). As with most other Japanese rods, there is no hard rod case.
Replacements are available for all the parts, and I will have them in stock for immediate shipment. The rod does not have a warranty.
Length extended - 11'11"
Length collapsed - 21.5"
Weight without tip plug - 2.2 oz
Grip - Shaped EVA foam
Sections - 8
Tip Diameter - .65mm
Recommended tippet - 6x-5x
Pennies - 18.5
Although the Suntech TenkaraBum 36 at first glance has little in common with the Suntech Kurenai HM30R, they share one trait - if you even pick one up, you'll want one.
The buttons below add a a pair of Tenkara Line Holders and a spool Nissin Oni Tenkara level fluorocarbon line (size 3 is recommended).
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|I love weighted flies. Weight plus a fixed line puts you in control of the whole water column.
Alan L, Missouri
My son wrote 10 book reports to earn his first tenkara rod.
Harry P, On Vacation
My friend, John G, took his son, Jonnie, fishing in the Wisconsin Driftless today.
It was Jonnie's first time on a tenkara rod and John's TB36 worked quite well for the young man.
Many nice browns were caught. John mentioned this was likely the best Father's Day they've had.
Fishing, fathers and fun for a great day in the Driftless.
Pete L, Iowa
|It's cosmetically the best looking rod I own by a long shot (no joke)!
Mike A, Florida
OMG! I just got mine in and wow! It is beautiful, extreme quality, light, and with that special Suntech balance and feel!
Will F, Colorado
|This is the nicest foam handle I have ever owned on any kind of rod - it has the same density and rigidity as cork but is even more non-slip and shaped just perfect.
Barry P, Missouri
|Third cast. It works.
Ed B, Pennsylvania
|Tossed tungsten bead nymphs and kebari with ease.
ERiK O, Utah
|It's great. Super light, the grip is very comfortable, crisp casting action and handled the fish with ease. A real pleasure to use.
Morgan L, New York
| While this rod was designed to be able to fish weighted nymphs well (which it does), I’d leave you with the following takeaway: that’s not all it can do. It’s very versatile, gorgeously finished, and a pleasure to cast.
Jason K, Colorado
|I see a lot of people talking about these rods as "nymph rods." IMHO, after using the rod for two days on the water, I'm solidly calling it a Tenkara rod designed for Tenkara flies that still throws nymphs really well.
Adam K, New York
|Finally got to fish the new rod! Kebari, nymphs, and split shot no problem. Love the crisp action of the rod. Handled all the fish great. Sent you a pic of the largest from today. Thanks again for an amazing product! 5 stars!!
Jeff R, Texas
|I really like this rod. The Suikei TenkaraBum 36 is a well balanced, dynamic rod. It casts a light line flawlessly and fishes weighted and unweighted flies without issue.
Tom D, Idaho
|Greetings from Florida. I had my new rod out today. My daughter and I caught a number of Mayan cichlids and bluegill on a bully spider. It was both of our first tenkara fish and her second fish ever. She had a blast and said, "I want one of these! This is the best way to catch fish."
Michael T, Florida
|The TB 36 throws a dry fly awesome.
James K, Pennsylvania
|Caught with a dry caddis fly. Shows the rod has the delicacy to present a size 20 fly on 6x tippet to ultra selective fish and still has the back bone to bring the big guys in. You have a real winner with this rod. I will only fish western style now in lakes where I need 60' casts. For everything else it's Tenkara Bum 36.
Anthony L, Massachusetts
|Used the TenkaraBum Rod today at a local spillway. Caught a ton of crappie! Great fun!
Jeff R, Texas
|I'm super happy with my Tenkara Bum 36. I've never fished with anything but cork grips. I think the TB 36 grip is better than cork!! It handles everything from wet flies to lightly weighted nymphs with ease. Thank you for taking the time to design such a versatile rod. My fishing partner says my face may break because I'm smiling so much.
Kristine H, Washington
|We use 2 fly rigs all the time. Hopper/dropper is my mid summer favorite. I have been using 2 fly weighted nymphs this past winter with the Tenkara Bum Suikei 36 rod. Superb combination of rod and flies.
If you want to do the 2 fly thing, the Tenkara Bum 36 is possibly the best choice out there right now. It's fairly soft tip and progressively stiff midsection makes casting the heavier rig much easier as well as hook sets. The power transfer to the stiffer mid sections is smooth and fast. That rod really is something to seriously consider adding to your arsenal.
John V, Utah
|The bow is the first fish I’ve ever caught on tenkara, the brown was the second. My guide put me in some great tenkara spots. It was his first introduction to tenkara and he’s very excited about it, expect him to email you. Overall, a great day, tenkara fishing and the TBum 36 are amazing. Thanks again.
Dan M, New York
|My wife (who is Japanese) recently went back to Tokyo to visit with family and came back with a Suntech TenkaraBum rod for my birthday.
I fished the rod this past week for the first time and caught a fair amount of browns. It was very fun to cast, whether it was a dry or a beadheaded hares-ear, and land fish with. Terrific rod.
Michael S, New York
|My TenkaraBum 36 was delivered at 11:30 this morning. Since it was a little late to head to my favorite trout water I decided to go to a local pond in a city park for some warm water fishing. I was wetting a line by 12:45. It was unbelievably good fishing. I had a 50+ fish afternoon.
I'd tied a #3 level line with a 4' piece of 6x tippet. The largemouth and bluegill were smashing the poppers I was throwing. Despite the 20+ mph wind the TenkaraBum 36 casts the line really well. I am amazed at how well the rod works. It protected the tippet against the big bass and strong 'gills just fine. The rod was flawless. The fit, finish and feel are all high end. You really nailed it with the design. I couldn't be happier.
Pete L, Iowa
|I was catching large-ish (by east coast standards) rainbows on the Oni II this spring in Austria and the rod was really vibrating quite a bit under load compared to the Tenkara Bum rod which handled the big fish better.
Martin G, Virginia