Universal Tenkara Unagi-4205

by Randy Knapp
(Warm Springs, VA)

Igor at Allfishingbuy asked me some time ago what I would like in a tenkara rod suited to saltwater applications and larger fish up to the 10lb range and even beyond. I told him what I thought, and he has now come out with his own line of rods suitable for inshore saltwater applications. As it turns out, these rods are suitable for big fish and big water freshwater applications as well.

Igor asked me if I would pick out one of these rods from his lineup and do an honest review. He said he would send me a loaner rod of my choice. He said if after the review, I did not want the rod, I could just send it back, but if I decided I wanted the rod, he would offer it to me at a discount for my efforts. I have decided that I definitely want the rod and will not be sending it back no matter what the cost which as of this writing has not been determined.

I chose to test the Unagi-4205 because I decided based upon the pictures and descriptions on the web site that this particular rod would be a good all around choice for inshore saltwater fish to about 10lbs. I was thinking about puppydrum, stripers (rockfish), flounder, bluefish, and speckled trout, all available in the waters I fish around the Chesapeake bay.

I have yet to have the opportunity to use the rod to catch saltwater fish but I have done some extensive successful carp fishing. Although I often fish for carp with flies, I decided to use whole kernel canned corn in order to hook and land enough fish to really get a feel for the rod under strain. In the last few weeks I have landed nearly 40 carp to over ten pounds.

This rod has surprised me...pleasantly so. I wasn't sure that a tenkara style rod could bridge the gap between traditional tenkara and pole fishing. The extra strength of the Hera telescoping poles combined with the lighter weights of tenkara rods and the welcome addition of a good cork handle have made for a good transition rod between traditional tenkara rods and modern telescoping poles. This is a rod that can handle the lightest flies, big bass bugs, saltwater Clouser minnows, and, yes, bait. Just when I thought I would be limited to an 8 wt or heavier traditional fly rod or spinning rod for most of my inshore saltwater fishing and carp and other "big" fish fishing, this rod comes to the market place.

The problem for me for big fish pole fishing has been the length and weight of the poles needed to land big fish. The reason I never got into spey rods was not that they weren't effective but that they were just too cumbersome. Even switch rods were heavy when the appropriate line and reel were added. One of the most appealing aspects of tenkara has been the simplicity/pleasure of fixed line fishing with a rod that could be handled with one hand. For me the total weight of a one handed rod needs to be under 4oz. The Unagi-4205 easily meets that requirement and is a pleasure to use all day.

I have tried a number of lines with this rod and many work well. My favorite has been the 15lb fluorescent yellow running line offered by Igor. Yours may be a custom furled or hand twisted line, a section of old fly line, or a custom hand tied line, or a level section of fluorocarbon. I have used both the braided loop connectors and whip-finished my own loops. Both work. My everyday line length has been about 16 feet with about 3 or 4 feet of a loop to loop hand twisted line as a transition (a heavy section of mono would also work) to which I loop to loop about 4 to 6 feet of 8 or 10lb tippet.

Yes, this rod will handle heavier tippets than your typical tenkara rod. I actually had a few larger carp break my 8lb tippet without breaking my rod. There is technique in keeping the fish in check on the initial run and keeping the fish constantly off balance until tired, but that is equally true of light tippet fishing with a traditional tenkara rod. There is no teacher like the loss of a great fish due to improper technique. I use two hook keepers on which I figure eight my line when not fishing. I also have two additional o-rings rolled onto my rod between the hook keepers. These are for tucking in the end of the tippet or even one or two hooks or flies.

Cosmetically the rod is simple but elegant. The cork rings are good with very little fill and the handle is ergonomically designed to fit one or two hands in different positions as needed. It is 11" long. The rod finish is non glaring deep olive satin with gold accent striping at the ends. Mine measured 13' 9" extended, 43" closed. I did not weigh the rod on a scale but feel certain it is under 4oz. I really like it. At $123.22 I think this rod is a real bargain. I also think this is the rod most tenkara fishers have wanted for big water, big fish situations. I have often thought it unreasonable to have a rod limited to 5X or 5lb tippets and expect to land big freshwater fish without undo stress, pull a largemouth bass out of cover, or land any powerful saltwater fish no matter what the size. This rod is light enough for one hand use and small flies, but definitely has the backbone and tip strength for the big boys.

Again, I may receive this rod at a discount in exchange for this review, but I feel I have accurately stated my true feelings and would be willing to pay full price for this rod.

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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

As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.


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

Beware of the Dogma

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