In a recent post, I wrote about how the path of the rod tip in tenkara differs from western casting. In order to achieve the right angle, it’s important to use the right grip. Western anglers coming to tenkara might be tempted to use the same grip they alway have with their thumb on top of the rod; however, this will make it difficult to cast a tenkara rod well. Let’s look at the differences between the typical western grip and the tenkara grip and see why it’s so important to hold the rod a certain way to cast a tenkara rod.
In the picture above you can see the typical western grip (A) with the thumb placed directly on top of the handle. Notice that this allows the wrist to bend easily back to the 2 O’clock position. As I pointed out in my post about the tenkara casting stroke, this is fine in western casting where a 10 O’clock / 2 O’clock stroke is used. But in tenkara, you want to stop the rod at 12 O’clock on the backcast. If you use the western style grip in tenkara, it’s too easy to go back too far on the backcast. Instead, it’s better to use the traditional tenkara grip (B) with your index finger on top of the rod. This physically limits how far back you can bend your wrist and makes it easier to naturally stop in the 12 O’clock position.
Compare the two pictures. In both cases, I’m bending my wrist back as far as it can go (without breaking something). Notice how the western grip naturally stops at 2 O’clock while the tenkara grip naturally stops at 12 O’clock.
To someone used to having their thumb on top of the rod, this might seem strange at first but you get used to it and it makes a big difference. In fact, some people have trouble casting simply because they’re not holding the rod the right way. I’m so used to the tenkara grip now that if I switch back to having my thumb on top of the rod, it actually feels strange. If you’re not already, try the tenkara grip out and see what a difference it can make in your casting.