In his book Purple Cow, Seth Godin wrote the following:
While driving through France a few years ago, my family and I were enchanted by the hundreds of storybook cows grazing in lovely pastures right next to the road. For dozens of kilometers, we all gazed out the window, marveling at the beauty. Then, within a few minutes, we started ignoring the cows. The new cows were just like the old cows, and what was once amazing was now common. Worse than common: It was boring.
Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow — the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows — is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible.
The world is full of boring stuff — brown cows — which is why so few people pay attention. Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service. Not just slapping on the marketing function as a last-minute add-on, but also understanding from the outset that if your offering itself isn’t remarkable, then it’s invisible — no matter how much you spend on well-crafted advertising.
The iPhone was a purple cow. People line up outside Apple stores for days to get the latest incarnation. Blackberrys were purple cows in their day too–spawning the term “crackberry”. Maybe they’ve turned to brown now, but in their heyday, they were the epitome of a purple cow. People were addicted to them and couldn’t put them down (some still can’t).
The things that get the most attention and go viral on social media these days are the ones that are the most remarkable. The ones you want to share with like-minded friends. The ones you can’t wait to post about. The purple cows.
So, why am I talking about a marketing concept on my tenkara blog? Because the tenkara industry has become a corral of brown cows.
For the last four years, I’ve witnessed a raft of new tenkara companies sprout up. Every time, my hope is that they will come out with something truly unique, remarkable, or amazing. Yet, it’s inevitably the same thing: a brown cow.
I think partially this is due to the fact that it’s relatively easy to get in touch with an existing tenkara rod manufacturer in China, slap your logo on the blank, and sell it on eBay or your own hastily put-together-e-commerce site. Why design a totally new rod action when you can just source them from China and make them look yours?
After all, it takes a lot of work to design a completely new rod from the ground up and most who want to ride the tenkara wave probably don’t have the time, money, or wherewithal to take up such an endeavor.
So what we end up with is a market flooded with tenkara rods that look the same, cast the same, and couldn’t be differentiated if cast blindfolded side by side. There are too many “good” tenkara rods out there and not enough “remarkable” ones.
Which makes me wonder why the new startups decide to offer more of the same.
Just once, I’d like to see a new company bring something really impactful to the table. I’d like to see someone rise to the challenge and really make a disruptive contribution to the tenkara industry.
Where are the game changers? Where are the innovators? Where are the purple cows?
What about experimenting with different materials like boron or fiberglass? Or blends of those materials. What about some new on-board line management system systems? What about zoom rods that can adjust to 4 different lengths? Or a rod whose action can adjust from 5;5 to 6:4 to 7:3? Self-winding line spools?
Some of the examples above might be far-fetched (or even impossible), but they would be purple cows.
When I try to identify any purple cows that might be in the tenkara industry right now, the Oni rod (pictured above) immediately comes to mind. It has the “wow” factor. In the hand, the rod defies gravity and the action is so different than any other rod I’ve tried, it easily passes the blindfold test. It even looks unique (especially if you get it with the optional bamboo handle).
The Oni rod is also a purple cow because it was painstakingly designed by Masami Sakakibara, widely considered one of the best tenkara anglers in the world. And he even makes the grips by hand. He may not have of hundreds of people lined up outside his house to get one like the Apple store, but there is a waiting list. I can’t say I’ve heard of that happening with any other tenkara rod.
The world needs another 13 ft. 6:4 action tenkara rod like it needs another discussion about what tenkara is and isn’t (or as my mother would say, a “hole in the head”). There will be more tenkara companies entering the ring in the future (I happen to know one that’s already in the works). And as always, my anticipation will be high. But will they offer truly anything new and unique? Or, will I be disappointed yet again? We’ll see.
In the interim, I’d like to make a plea to all future tenkara startups: Please, be remarkable. Be disruptive. Be a purple cow. If you’re not, then why are you doing it?
I want to see a line of tenkara rods designed and built out of Orvis Helios 2 blank material.
Just wait for the first $700.00 tenkara rod to hit the market. That will be the biggest game changer in the young western tenkara world.
Yes, I’ll be first in line to buy one!
Good post. Timely too. I’ve been thinking the same thing recently, especially as I’ve tested more and more rods offered from different companies. A lot of the same, but honestly, that can be said of fly rods too. How different is one $250 fly rod from the other? Guess that’s what happens when there are too few factories that actually make things…
I’m pretty sure I was contacted by the same “company in the works” you referenced and one of the questions I posed in my reply was – what makes a “Brand X” rod different from what is out there otherwise? Doesn’t mean I won’t help them with some exposure when they want to launch, I’m good like that, but I like different thinking too.
I personally have an idea, but not sure how to execute. Or even if there’s a market for it. Purple cow? Maybe… More like a brown cow with a purple leg. We’ll see…
I asked them the exact same question you did. The answer I got was that they’re using a special graphite that allows them to make a very light yet strong rod. I’m interested to see them.
Also, I agree with you that the same problem exists in the fly fishing industry in general. So many rods that are all the same.
Excellent topic Jason. I’ve been thinking the same thing.
Jason, you’ve got some excellent points here and I share your enthusiasm for innovation. I think the major barrier is most likely market conditions. Is the US Tenkara market large enough to support “premium” rods yet? Are there enough customers who can, or will, pay the increased markups that are needed to offset the costs of design, production, and high end materials? While I believe firmly that this will eventually be the case, perhaps the current trend of “good enough” is best seen as a necessary period of expansion where the US becomes familiar with Tenkara. As the market grows, I’m certain we’ll see increased opportunity for premium equipment and innovative accessories. In the meantime, enterprising minds might do well to carefully observe the environment, develop solid ideas and designs, and be ready to introduce them when the conditions become right.
Hi Matt, I think you make a valid point and the current size of the market probably discourages people from making the effort to innovate.
But one could also argue that purple cows create new markets. No one knew they wanted an iPhone until Apple created it. And you know the rest of that story.
I hate to reopen old wounds, but as I recall, the last purple cow (before the Oni rod) was met by a chorus of “That’s not a cow.”
I was once part of that chorus. But times and attitudes have changed.
Great post. Two comments:
1) The Tenkara marketplace absolutely needs more purple cows, but I do find there are a number of standout rods and products out there that are ahead of the pack. Most of them are introductions from Japan, but I know you’d agree there are some innovators in the US who are making great products for how people in the US fish Tenkara. You are probably in the best position to produce an aggregate “Best Tenkara Gear 2013” post (or some such) to continue to highlight the best of what is being produced for Tenkara anglers and pressure this nascent market to further innovate.
2) I didn’t know I wanted a fiberglass Tenkara rod until I read this post, which says to me that this site is where the innovation is happening most right now. Thank you, and keep up the good work.
This is most definitely a worthwhile discussion, but I think it’s important to note that a dichotomy exists between wanting to innovate and add complexity to gear and tenkara’s mantra of simplifying and stripping away all that is unnecessary to fish.
I dont disagree with what you’re saying, and I have a few concepts I’d like to see, probably polar opposite from most people, but at the end of the day, the rods that are out there, tenkara, seiryu, keiryu, or otherwise, are generally amazingly simple, no frills, lightweight, and functional rods that cast light lines very well, hold line off the water, allow many presentation techniques, and land fish quickly and effectively.
There are nit-picky things we’d all change on any rod, but for the most part, a lot of these rods are very successful at achieving “more with less”.
So many analogies could be drawn, but the one i revert back to, and find most relatable, is with cooking.
Young chefs always wonder, “what does it need” or “what can I add”, where as the more experienced ones ponder, “what can I remove”?
Unfortunately, this isn’t popular with most folks.
I’ll end this comment with suggesting that maybe we shouldn’t be asking for what can we add to the current system of tenkara and tenkara gear, but what might we be able to remove from it?
(rod tip swivels, line spools, paint, bonded on grips; just a few ideas)
Good points and analogy Phil. I think innovation doesn’t necessarily lead to complexity. It could be something as simple as rod action or line material.
Perhaps the innovation we all have been looking for is not in the equipment. Maybe the innovation that is being discovered is in the techniques of how we use the equipment.
The American Tenkara Method is happening all over the country. People in Texas are figuring out the best techniques for still water panfishing, people in New England are coming up with methods for small, tight overhead canopy streams, anglers all over the country are discovering that carp are a wild ride on the end of a fixed line rod.
We are doing things that tenkara anglers in Japan would not even think about attempting. Hell, I caught a 2ft wide stingray in Belize 2 weeks ago with a keiryu rod. I never knew I needed a fixed line stingray rod until I caught a stingray.
Change frequently originates from an internal search for knowledge. Then ideas, methods, and tools are created to facilitate and make real the internal search for knowledge.
Maybe we are just not yet ready for our purple cows.
Just a rambling thought.
Good point John. I agree that there has been a lot of innovation by western anglers pushing the boundaries of tenkara.
You’ve already tried and reviewed TRY390 rod from The Tenkara Times. I really hope that this is not my rod brought you to generalizations about brown cows.
No, that rod stands out as having a distinct personality and I would definitely not put it in the brown cow category. But that’s because you actually took the time to design it. I’m really referring more to the companies that just import rods from China and slap their logo on them. We don’t need more of those. We need more people like you who have actually make the effort to create something original.
While I would agree that the market is becoming inundated with crappy to mediocre tenkara rods, there’s also several premium brands for us to choose from as well and yes with the premium price tag attached to them. The market needs a mix of rods and price ranges to support everybody’s needs. Not everybody wants a premium rod, or not everybody wants every one of their tenkara rods to be a premium rod. Some people just want to test the waters with an entry level rod. I have a few beaters in my collection to do just that, beat the hell out of, or just to loan out to someone. And I have some very premium rods too. They are expensive rods and not worth the price I paid. But if you want it you have to pay for it. I do agree that producing a rod that doesn’t actually resemble the action of a tenkara rod is a disservice to the consumers, especially the ones that don’t already know better.
At the other end of the spectrum though. We need to be very careful what we wish for here. In comparison to other fishing rods a tenkara rod is about as basic as it gets in the fishing rod building business. It’s a multi-piece graphite blank with a handle on it! That’s it! No hi-tech guides, no fancy reel seat, no multi-color thread wraps, no finish on those thread wraps, none of it! The building process is pretty much done when the handle goes on it, a little paint and a winding check, and done! Very little hands on work to do. Whats my point. I don’t care what material a rod blank is made out of, to consider paying a price of $700 for it just because it’s attached to a big name like Shimano, Sage, Orvis, or Hardy would be a complete bend over, and as much of a disservice to the consumer as a crappy rod for $150. Those companies all make good products but a tenkara rod is so simple to build. A premium fly rod costs $700 because of the 1. Quality of materials and 2. All of the time and hands on effort that it takes to build them.
Let all keep in mind that a tenkara rod is for catching small fish in the 6″ to 16″ range, and for casting fairly short, light lines. The premium Tenkara rods on the market today are as sophisticated as they will ever need to be. Anything else is just fluff, hype, and a way for one angler to say “look at my rod, I think I’m better than you”.
Let me rephrase that last part because I just realized it was fairly rude.
“I think my rod is better than yours”
Maybe it’s Tenkara rods themselves that are the purple cows of fly fishing. Nobody knew they wanted one until they were here. Just like I phones were the purple cows of cell phones. Now many manufactures have their own versions of the “smart phone purple cow”. They all do about the same thing with slight nuisance’s between them.
I like the fact that Tenkara is low tech . Do we really need to innovate year after year such a simple tool that will continue to do the same very basic task? None of my fly rods are over $300.00 dollars. I have cast some $700.00 rods and they were amazing. However not going to pay more then 2x as much for a great rod over a very good one.
However I do like my toys and I do like innovation. No reason not to move forward making improvements in the Tenkara world within reason.
Since Tenkara is supposed to be simple the least simple part ( still pretty simple however) about it is retrieving longer lines and/or keeping them off the water. That would be one of the improvements I would be curious if somebody could overcome. Maybe a hollow last segment so you can run the line inside the rod and out the bottom? That way you could hand strip line to retrieve fish . Maybe a micro guide on the last segment with the line anchored at the handle instead of the tip? New materials besides graphite to make the rod the same weight or lighter with the proposed changes?
I would like to see rod blanks offered so I could customize the rod to my preference.
The entire fly fishing industry is pretty small. Titleist makes more revenue in golf ball sales then the entire fly fishing industry combined. Then there’s tenkara rods, which makes up probably 5% of fly rod sales.(at best)Its a small piece of a very small piece of pie. there’s just not that many people or much money involved.
The other thing is fly fishing has very traditional stylistic leanings. Its evolution is much slower then other sports or fishing types since a lot of the practitioners dislike change. In many ways, you can be more successful making something older, more traditional. Tenkara is a japanese tradition, so its understandable that the biggest innovations in tenkara are occurring among the japanese. In the US our fishing is mostly based on a native US and english heritage. Thats why a lot of rod companies still make bamboo rods, even though they cost up to 10 times as much as a graphite rod, that could be made to cast the same way, lots of people stick with tradition in this industry.
Your point about slapping a label on a chinese made rod is pretty true. Its very easy to have someone else make your rod from a template without anything new. Most people will take the easiest path to success if possible. Bottom line, if you want to find innovation in this industry, the best place to look is in the mirror. GL on finding the purple cows Jason
Purple cow? I’m still fishing with my Ayu from TenkaraUSA and can’t get bored. However, I’m getting bored with all these reviews of products and copies of products that do not add anything new to what Daniel Galhardo has already done. What Tenkara needs is more literature on fishing techniques that can improve the potential of this art. I can’t believe that there are anglers out there waiting for Orvis to built a Tenkara rod for $700 and pay for it. That’s what I call a boring person that needs to fill his life by shopping and more shopping. Is that not a sign of depression?
A sign of depression? You have no idea. For a professional who makes his living from tenkara, who has fished with rods from almost every company that makes tenkara rods, and who has thought about rod design enough to have a very good idea about how rods could be improved to want a rod made from the latest in blank technology – even if it is expensive – is not a sign of depression. It is a sign of wanting to have the best possible rod. Shopping has nothing at all to do with it. A desire for excellence does.
I was a fly fisherman long before “that movie” came out and brought all of the yuppies into fly fishing. Never owned a $700 rod and never will. Come on! a piece of plastic for $700. But then again I don’t care how many different rods will attract new people, do we need more new fishermen? I have read that some places in British Columbia are now “locals only” on the weekends that and the fact that non-resident license can cost over $2000. where is the end. So to paraphrase J. Gierach, “if the rods are that great but I can’t afford them, who cares.” Just my two cents.
GREAT discussion going here guys! I love all the comments.
I just want to reiterate one thing: innovation does not automatically mean expensive. I happen to think the use of braided nylon level line is pretty innovative. And it’s $15 for a 100 ft’ spool. That’s cheaper than some furled lines on the market today:
Jason, I enjoy your website and writing and all the posts I get by subscribing. So thanks for all that. Well done.
As a fallen-away convert to Tenkara, (my lazy fault) I did get a chuckle from your phrase “What about some new on-board line management systems?”.
Isn’t that called a “reel”?.
But in the spirit of Purple Cow innovation, how about a fiber-optic solar rechargeable Tenkara rod? That way, it would be light and whippy and if we fish past dusk into dark we could follow the line all the way to the fly and watch the action.
Of course, the light generated must be visible to us but invisible to fish, so I guess we are talking infra-red LED as a source. Think of the cash flow from a line of designer Tenkara Night Vision Glasses!
We could develop an app for Google Glasses and sell millions of Tenkara rods to early adapter nerds that live near water.
Geez, I feel rich already.
Don’t thank me, just send the royalty checks.
Brian, that’s not innovative enough. I’m thinking combination light saber/tenkara rod. That would serve dual purpose as both a fishing tool and a way to fend off rude anglers who encroach on your spot. I could have used that on the Salmon River or South Platte a few times.
I believe, at least to some extent, a lot of you are putting the cart before the horse here. How many 5:5 rods dose TUSA now have in their rod line? Its sure a lot less than what they started out with. A lot of these start-ups have done their marketing research and home work, and they are giving the customer exactly what sells the best, at very attractive price points I might add. And if it looks good to great, even though it may not fish as well as many of us might like it to, it will sell pretty well. And by most reviewer’s accounts that I have read, the rods do not fish all that badly. Most new people coming into Tenkara fly fishing are not nearly as dedicated or discerning as most of you are.
Most of the people commenting here are far from being your average Tenkara-Joe, Tom, Dick, and Harry. As Chris can probably verify, the mid-priced Japanese fixed line rods do not sell nearly as readily as the 150.00 to 170.00 dollar rods do, let alone 700.00 or higher priced rods. In some ways the reasonable Tenkara tackle prices are the biggest attraction for Tenkara-style fly fishing for a lot of new people coming into the sport, and a rebellion of sorts against the overly high priced western fly fishing tackle industry, as well as all the do-dads that goes along with it. For someone just coming into Tenkara fly fishing, the amount of enjoyment they can get for the amount of money they have to spend has to be one of the best deals on the planet. They do not have a point of comparison with much better tackle and most don’t really care all that much about any of that. They just want to have fun and catch some fish with out having to invest an arm and a leg to do it. And who can blame them?
I see the desire and false need to develop ever longer line techniques and casting distance capable fixed line rods as being an infiltration of the western fly fishing culture and techniques and ideals into Tenkara style fly fishing in this country. The fact that Tenkara is a relatively short range fly fishing tool is an imperfection that should be embraced and honored. It is the essence of the wabi sabi concept in my view. For sure American style Tenkara will evolve down its own separate but equal roads. In a way, what a lot of people here are wishing for is for Tenkara fly fishing to become an industry just like what western fly fishing has become. I also was a fly fisherman long before “The Movie” was released and the cost of fly fishing gear was much more reasonable back then than it is today. If I had to do it all over again, I couldn’t afford to buy what I have now at today’s prices. I would hate to see that happen to Tenkara fly fishing. But it is already well on its way to happening here, and a lot of you are fanning the flames to hell in my view. Most of you will not believe what I have said today. Take note, give it 30 years and see where you will be then. I will not be around to say,”I told you so”, but that’s the way things will be. You’ll see.
Agreed! Well said Karl.
If I’m still around then I’ll probably be fishing a vintage Tenkara rod. I just hope to hell that it doesn’t say Orvis on it.
Good post Jason.
hi everyone and sorry for my english 🙂
Yes it’s easy now to make chinese tenkara products (80% mondial market outside Japan) but in the same time, making a good products take long time of development and test.
Tenkara technics is “new” so it’s sure new products arrived soon (2015), because i work on 🙂
But it’s a secret 😉
“I am the Tenkara Professional” Chris Stewart mentioned above. I have tested extensively, tenkara rods from every manufacturer in Japan. They range from entry level rods costing well under $200.00 US to over $400.00 US. We don’t test a rod for a day or two. It is months, I have some rods in the testing pool that we have been evaluating for over a year. We don’t publish our test data because we test rods that are most often not yet available on the market. We are part of the field test group. Our data helps distributors/retailers decide what rods may become available to you the consumer.
In fact the Oni rod pictured at the top of this article is my personal rod. It is currently one of the most expensive tenkara rods on the market, and coincidentally, possibly the best tenkara rod in production in the world today.
Why am I willing to pay such a high premium for this rod? Let me tell you it has nothing to do with being depressed and addicted to shopping. It comes from using tenkara rods on a pretty much daily basis. I know what makes a rod that sucks, a rod that is good, and a rod that is great. I want great rods.
Great rods come from sourcing the best materials and consistent/obsessive quality control.
I want to see a tenkara rod made from a specific material that is patented and the manufacturing process is owned by a single company, Orvis. Heilos2 rod blank materials are the most advanced fly rod making materials on the market. I think that the properties of this material will make a full production tenkara rod that will be an amazing tool, unlike any tenkara rod on the market.
I know that a rod made of the most advanced materials by a single manufacturer will be expensive. I am someone who wants to push the performance/technological limits of tenkara rod technology. I want a sub 3oz, 4 meter rod that has the power to catch fish that range from 6 inches to 24 inches. Those are the types of fish we catch where I live and guide. Right now there is only one material on the market that may be able to handle that range in a single rod and it ain’t cheap.
I don’t want a purple cow, I want a Ferrari in a world of Honda Civics. There is nothing wrong with driving a Honda Civic, it is possibly one of the best values in automobile history, but I am sure that no one would pass up on driving the Ferrari if they had the chance.
The Oni rod is a Ferrari. Until you use one, you just don’t know what you don’t know. His rod is unique because Masami Sakakibara designed the rod from tip to grip based on his more than 4 decades of experience and he sources it from the best rod manufacturer in Japan. Each Oni rod is hand made by a single master craftsman. They are not made on an assembly line. Each rod’s final assembly is done by Sakakibara-san himself. My bamboo grip has a tiny flaw in the finish. Sakikabar-san’s finger print is in the final lacquer coat. That to me is priceless. These two, master angler and master craftsman, produce the best rod available. They have to, their personal reputations are at stake with each rod that they ship out. It means something when the most respected tenkara angler in Japan puts his personal name on his rod.
I know I want higher performance from other manufacturers, I want better quality not because it is expensive, I want it because it makes my tenkara fishing a better personal experience.
Not everyone needs or wants an Oni rod, a purple cow, or a Ferrari, but there are some who do. A $700 rod benefits all the rods priced below because of technology trickle down. I want to see the current blank technology barrier broken because the trickle down effect will make all the rods better in the future. It does not matter what company’s name is on the rod. What matters is that a rod company is willing to take the risk and bring the technology to the market.”
Over the past 4 years i have submitted various ideas to Tenkara USA, Tenkara Rod Co., Tenkara Times,FountainHead, etc with detailed descriptions and drawings. I get a “nod” and “thank you” and then…nothing! so i have kind of givin up. Im not sure why i don’t get a courtesy “thanks but no thanks” but i never get any feed back other than…”interesting idea, we will look into it”, etc. To one as i, uneducated into the design and manufacturing of rods,etc it may not be clear to me BUT…it does seem rather straight forward to me. Handel grip, with end cap, various segments, lilian and attachment? Yes? Here is a review of some of my ideas: Built in line holder in the first segment, either stationary or flip-up (like “easy keeper”, Spool holder with built-in holder and line holder (so it won’t un ravel) An “easy keeper like line holder at the end of the first segment and one at the base of the cork grip (like the Utah guides have developed) a built in spool holder on the cloth sleeve of the rod “sock”, some type of cord for the “plug” so it dosen’t get dropped and lost. A screw on/off grip that is interchangeable,aka, cork grip, contoured cork grip, no-cork grip, etc. Misc. gear, some type of “walker/cain” to use in the river/streams for older and handicapped anglers. That way we can “wade” to. You young bucks will understand this NEED when you get into your 60’s! And there are many more ideas, from many other 10 kara anglers, if you just ask and listen and then get to work on some unique and creative ideas. TenkaraUSA even has a team member that is into design of rods, when do we get to see his ideas?! Thanks for listening.
Tim, ooooooh, I like those ideas. Especially the keeper on the line spool. That is a perfect example of an innovation that doesn’t add complexity, would be easy to design, and would not be expensive. I’d love to hear more of your ideas.
I think we all want “good” gear, not everybody wants “great” gear, but I think most people just don’t want another common rock in their hand. Some want a diamond in the rough others want a polished and cut diamond. I also don’t think that wishing for a better rod (a diamond) is asking for too much. I want new and better gear too, but I will say this, because it is so true. There is no material currently used and readily available for rod building on the face of this planet that would make it justifiable today to charge $700 for a tenkara rod. But if that’s what you want, that’s what you will get. As the Japanese would say; “Ones act, ones profit” and they also say “Even monkeys fall from trees” yes they make mistakes too. It’s really not even justifiable for a fly rod to cost $700, but that’s where the market and marketing hype has led us, and now that’s what we have to pay.
I too would like to see some of the newest rod technologies used in the construction of a high-end tenkara rod. But I’m not willing to stand in line and pay a ridiculous price of $700 for it. Those prices should be on Karl’s time line of “years from now.” I’ll be the guy waving as I drive by that line on my way to catch that 24” trout your talking about. These new materials are costing rod companies on average of 10%-15% increased materials costs for manufacture of their top rods. I’m not talking components here. I’m talking resins and adhesives used in conjunction with carbon fiber laminates in which silica nanoparticle technology enables significant composite property improvements. The only thing that really has changed is the adhesive properties in these newest rods, and then the tweaking of their tapers. BTW they do that tweaking every day anyway.
Better materials do exist but we are talking fishing poles here not space travel. Orvis’ materials and with their high-cure thermoplastic resins techniques used on their H2 rods are on plane with other top of the line manufactures. They’re all using different but almost identical materials and techniques such as 3M’s Matrix Resin Technology with nano-silica adhesives. Or, another manufacturer, that’s using their G5 alignment technology formulas. And others are just sitting on their hands and using their same materials, waiting to see something, well, “revolutionary” The top new rods are comparable rods. There’s nothing truly revolutionary going on right now in the rod building industry. I will say that it’s about time that Orvis has come to play and put a great comparable hi-performance rod on the table. It really has been too long IMO.
Companies as well as people make claims about their products and other’s products that are often not based on true facts. Don’t become naïve to their claims. Public Enemy had the hit back in 1988. “Don’t believe the Hype”! There will never be the “Holy Grail” of tenkara rods, just like there is not and will never be a “Holy Grail” of fly, spin, or casting rods. Too much diversity lies within each category. There is no such thing as a do all rod that will effectively or satisfactorily fish for 6”-24” fish (4oz- 4.5lb) and make you happy doing it with every cast. They can only be built compromising those expectations. A Ferrari would be cool to drive…some times. Their sleek, fast, they handle great on certain roads (perfect roads), and get lots of admiring looks. They are also impractical in every day life, they cost way to freaking much for all but a few to own, and the resale value sucks. They also can’t go over speed bumps, they break down easy and cost too much to fix. “Not seeing is a flower.” Reality cannot compete with imagination. It’s ok to dream, dreams are free, I just don’t believe we should put a $700 price tag on a dream.
Jason, very good post.
If there’s a feature from western fly fishing
sometimes i really miss in tenkara is he ability to set the hook with the line.
I guess most of us have already seen, across the internet, pictures from some Japanese tenkara anglers adapting their rods with an “interline” system
as ways to feed line and, i guess, also setting the hook.
That would be a great idea for the companies to put their minds at work.
We actually have a Honda Civic in the family. Lot’s of features at a better price then most other autos in the same category. Now that’s innovation! However on the weekend the Civic is not the right tool . Out comes the F150. The 150 was a simple as I could get it. No reason to spend big bucks on something I know will see abuse.
IF I drove a sports car it would cost twice as much as those two vehicles put together and do nothing that I personally need it to do particularly well. Plus I would be paying through ths nose for the privilege of fancy but pointless. That in my eyes is not innovation. Anybody can put together a rod with the best of the best and charge for it. It takes REAL innovation to put together a nice , dependable rod at a good price point Sure higher dollar rods are a great experience . However I get to have more great experiences with the money that the Civic saves me in gas and the backwoods area’s the Ford get’s me to .
Point is do we judge innovation on paying top dollar for a great experience? Or should we Judge rods on value that leaves us room to create our own great experiences? I can fish a $700.00 rod if I want to . However if I can’t afford to travel were I want to fish what’s the point? Or if I can only have 1 rod that I have to depend on to do everything OK instead of 2-3 rods for the same price that I can depend on for the specific situation I need to fish in?
I would pay more for the Civic if it had the right additional features at the right price. It’s not about cheap and good as much as it’s value for price paid.
For example a high end fly rod. The material drives up the price. Lighter , more responsive , maybe even more durable. That adds value and is worth paying for to a point. But on those same rods they also use more expensive real seats, guides, wrappings. And finishes Those add -0- value , at least perceived value.
I have never missed an appointment because the Honda was not as fast as a sports car. I have never been stuck because my F150 did not come with 12K woth of options. I have never missed a fish because of My $200.00 Fly Rod or $125.00 Tenkara rod failed me. Do I need to pay more for the same experience with any of them?
Wow, you guys need to tell us how you really feel. Out of all the post on the subject, not many people are talking about bringing new people into the sport. Space shuttle carbon, alien glue, and 700 dollar performance doesn’t put any new butts in the seat. There is the weakness in the industry. Too many people have been turned off by the guy behind the counter in the fly shop. Check the ego at the door, treat everyone as if they are ” in the club “. More people in the sport equals more money, which will give companies what they need to give you the technology you pro’s want. Killer post. Great buzz on the industry. Tenkaron’s Unite!
To quote David Brynne of Talking Heads….” say something once, why say it again? “
I have a fiberglass fixed-line (seiryu) rod. It is heavy and is the worst casting rod I’ve ever used. I know that’s an N of 1, but it’s terrible.
I have some of the old Scott G-series fly rods, with un-sanded raw black blanks, in 2, and 4 and 5-piece models that are actually lighter in weight than most of the rods that being made today. These are “technical trout fishing rods” designed to turn over the longest of leaders and to protect the finest of tippets, which they also do better than most of the rods that are being made today. They are progressive loading medium tapered rods with soft tips and skeleton-cork reel seats, but they are heads and shoulders above the fast action, higher strength carbon fiber rods that are being produced presently for fishing 6,7 and 8X tippet materials. And if you really want the ultimate short, small stream fishing fly rod, light tippet protecting, short-range casting ultimate in fly rods, the old glass rods are still at the top of the heap today.
Then there are the semi and hand made bamboo fly rods costing thousands of dollars. A rod making material that goes back almost to the beginning of life as we know it on this planet. The anglers who lust after those cane rods believe (and they may very well be right in their belief) that no finer material for fly rod construction has or ever will be found. They look with pure contempt upon those of us who use plastic fly rods, be we western or Tenkara style anglers.
Constantly coming up with newer and supposedly ever better rod making materials does not necessarily guarantee that better, more advanced fly rods are being produced. What it does do is create a constant demand for new products in a market with a declining buyer base, and it justifies ever higher rod prices for very little, if any, in the way of improvements in actual on stream fishing performance. One of the advantages in having lived and fished for a very long time is in being able to see how cyclic, temporary, and fleeting many of these supposedly “Improved Technologies really are. An of course if you could not live with out have burned through your savings, playing you for a sucker again. And how most of these new and improved things have little or nothing at all to do with our true fishing pleasure and contentment. Spend your money as much or little as you like. Do what’s fun for you. But angling contentment can’t really be bought. It has to be earned.
LAH, because people apparently don’t get it the first time you say it. Frankly, I’m still surprised why people think innovation automatically = $$$. Look at some of Tim’s ideas. They are good but inexpensive. No one here is asking for a $700 tenkara rod and I’m not sure why everyone fixated on that specific dollar amount. The Oni rod is considered the best in the world by many seasoned anglers and you can get one for $350–literally less than half of the overly hyped fly rods on the market today. Those of us who love and appreciate good design are not asking the industry for more “expensive” gear. We’re just asking for less of the same and more of the “different”. That does not intrinsically equate to more money. Just better gear.
Thanks Jason! Nothing fancy or expensive in my ideas. I wish i could include some rough drawings here as i have in the Tenkara Rod Co. site (as i hale from Boise, ID.) Im so into the “minimalistic ” ideal! Like, what are the best and most effective lines and flys? I just want to use the best i can come up with.
Hi Timmy, you can include the drawings here. If they’re on paper, take a picture of them and upload them in a comment. Look for the “choose file” button below and to the left of the submit button. I’m sure others would love to see them as well.
Ok ,Jason, these are VERY ROUGH drawings made a couple of months ago. But, in the interest of time and and appropriateness im submitting them for the sake of timeliness. More to come…
Hi Timmy, I don’t see the pictures. Did you upload them?
Oopsss, sorry, heres the drawings….
I’ve always looked at all my fishing gear as disposable, it has a lifespan and when it’s done I chuck it and buy some new gear. Rods, flies, lines, waders are all consumables to me so I’m quite happy for the market to be flooded with rods however they are manufactured or marketed. I carefully research everything I buy to get the best value for money considering my needs which may well differ from others so the more rods available at the top or the bottom end the better.
How much can you really innovate with a tenkara rod ?, some of your ideas are nice Jason and may well be of benefit but all that extra R&D comes at a premium and I’m not prepared to pay top dollar for something I will thrash about on a river and probably in time, break.
What do we really need from a tenkara rod that isn’t provided already ?, if it’s light, casts well, is comfortable and handles a fish what more do we need ?, there are plenty of rods that tick these boxes.
Some may want to buy £500 tenkara rods but I think a really cheap rod, maybe even £20 would encourage many more anglers into tenkara and once hooked then they’ll begin to spend a little more on their next rod and there next rod after that.
I would never buy a rod with a “lifetime” warranty either, it’s a con as far as I can see, maybe not as much of a con as it is with a fly rod where you’ll pay a handsome fee to take advantage of your so called warranty but how much of the price of every rod is this so called warranty ?.
My purple cow would be the cheapest rod on the market that does what it says on the tin, get more people fishing by offering a disposable tenkara rod for 20 bucks instead of aspiring to become the new Hardy of tenkara.
PS, Apple Suck 😉
I’d like to see more rod companies that have options that come in shorter collapsed lengths and also some in longer collapsed lengths.
Twenty one to twenty four inch collapsed lengths seem to be the main focus.
Part 3 of more ideas…
Great ideas! I think you’ll be interested in a post I have coming put soon. It’s something similar to one of your designs.
thetroutfly – “if it’s light, casts well, is comfortable and handles a fish what more do we need ?” I think the problem is that if it is light, casts well, is comfortable and handles a fish you couldn’t sell it for £20 (about $32). The rod that Tom Davis thought was the worst he’d ever tried cost more than that. And even if you could sell a rod for $30, I doubt any company with a sales volume of less than WalMart or Amazon would want to (or could afford to).
JDSmith – There is a truly nice and not terribly expensive tenkara rod that has a collapsed length of about 40-43″ depending on the model. It isn’t conventient but is a wonderful rod. I know of a couple other rods that have shorter collapsed lengths (15-16″) but the ones I’ve seen so far tend to be on the stiff side. I know of one rod that collapses to about 10″, but it is expensive and probably stiff. I haven’t seen or fished with one.
Timmy – Foldout line keepers would make it impossible to collapse the rod because they would block the section above to grip from sliding into it. I do know of one very small clip on reel, but it is so small you would have to use level line, it would create tremendous coil memory in the line and it would mat down the hackles of the fly because it was designed for a bare bait hook and the line would have to be wound on top of the fly.
Chris S., you said “Timmy – Foldout line keepers would make it impossible to collapse the rod because they would block the section above to grip from sliding into it” Think OUTSIDE the rod tube! (Yea like thinking outside “the box” jargon) So the spring loaded keeper would be molded outside on the rod, not in it. My ideas are just springboards for others with similar ideas and “know how” + the right tools and equipment can experiment. Let your imagination go CRAZY Chris!
Purple Cow – Unbreakable rod tip. Then you are really solving a problem and enhancing tenkara.
Purple Cow – Design the rod cap (grip end) to hold the rod plug, securely. Ideally, it just clicks into it.
One other note, sometimes people talk about products reaching the pinnacle of their design, when there is no reason to add anything, nor any reason to take something away. Personally, that’s where tenkara rods are for me. I have an 11 foot TUSA Iwana and enjoy it. I wouldn’t mind trying a longer rod, but until the Iwana somehow catastrophically fails and can’t be repaired, I’ll stick with it.
Simplicity is what first attracted me to tenkara. I don’t want to carry multiple rods of different lengths, because at that point…I might as well just have one rod with a reel on it. If any of you are frustrated by the influx of ‘players’ in the tenkara game, just wait until someone starts talking about tenkara specific clothing, waders, and boots. It is only a matter of time…
“people talk about products reaching the pinnacle of their design, when there is no reason to add anything, nor any reason to take something away. Personally, that’s where tenkara rods are for me. I have an 11 foot TUSA Iwana and enjoy it.”
This is the second post that makes essentially the same point (the first was with respect to an Ayu). I am very happy for both of you that you are completely satisfied with your rods, but for people who have fished only one rod to proclaim that perfection has been reached and that other rods neither add anything nor can add anything is, to put it mildly, based on insufficient evidence. The rods mentioned are good but not great mid-priced rods. Not only have other, newer rods surpassed them, there were rods in existence when they were introduced that were better.
A fully understand that some people value simplicity over all else, and having choices reduces the simplicity, but unless you still have a dial phone, a manual transmission car and a black & white TV, I can’t understand why you thing the first tenkara rod you ever used is the pinnacle of design and cannot be improved upon. You may not want a better rod, but don’t for a minute think there aren’t better rods already and that rods won’t continue to improve.
Wow, these are some diverse opinions on the matter. What’s funny is all of these comments represent a great market research in customer opinions as well as rod manufacturing opinions. I say to each is own! Seize the day with your Tenkara. Everyone’s tenkara is different. Im glad everyone has their own opinions and it’s not just one flavor. It will be interesting to see the Tenkara market trend here in the US in the next 3-5 years.
I think more purple cows will emerge as well as more browns. Just a matter of who.
A lot of what Timmy has suggested has already been done , at least as a home made modification.
Do a google search using this term:
インターライン テンカラ竿の取り扱い which translates roughly as Interline Tenkara Rod handling.
And you will find a youtube video with the same title and several web page hits, most are on the
blog.goo.ne.jp/kurokantonbi/e/ web site.
If such modifications interest you check them out.
I’m pretty happy with the traditional method.
David, that video clip has me wondering…is that guy trying to turn a Tenkara rod into a “western rod” with a reel and winder mechanism? How blaspheme!!! I think that is way overboard! KEEP IT ORIGINAL AND SIMPLE!!!!!
If you look at his earlier mods its appears they were only methods to hold the line spool on the rod. Later he started running the line inside the sections of the rod and out the tip.
( I am aware of one Japanese website that commercially sells wooden handled tenkara rods that do a similar thing, storing line internally, and line out the tip. He appears to run a fishing lodge, guides and teaches students, his rods tend to be shorter rods , about 3m)
Some of his other later mods run the line through a hole forward of the grip then back to butt end then internally out the rod tip. . Later mods he bent a small tube to lead the line back to and through a hole in the butt cap, then internally out the rod tip..
He has other fishing videos on YT, I’ve not seen him reel in a fish on any of the ones i watched. So I wouldn’t say he is trying to go western rod. Only trying to make a system that allows him to quickly pull off the length of line he wants to use on different sections of the stream. And quickly store the line and collapse the rod to move to a different spot.
Another website shows a guy’s similar home mods . But he actually uses a very small western reel , running line through the butt end of the rod and out the rod tip. Again it doesn’t appear he reels in fish with the reel. He is only using the reel for quick line storage.
I too am happy with the simpler traditional methods. Whether any of these ideas fully developed would ever make anyone’s Purple Cow list , is I suppose, dependent upon their color perception. ; – /. I think the wooden handled rods do for some people. Other may judge them not to be tenkara. The sport of many colors.
Chris – I think that if a company like Shakespeare entered the world of tenkara you’d find out just how nice a rod can be made for 20 bucks. I’ve fished with tons of fly rods however most of my own over the years have been Shakespeare and one of the very best trout rods I’ve ever used was a Shakespeare that cost me just £17 (new), fair enough it didn’t have any fancy bits or super high tech innovations but what it did have was every bit of Shakespeare’s know how built up over many, many years. I think they could do a pretty good rod if they put their minds to it and keep the price down.
My goto tenkara rod cost me just £29 and although I own rods four or five times that price it’s the one I enjoy using the most, for me it feels right and I would (and do) take it out over the others.
My experience with fly rods is that the best isn’t always the most expensive and I’m sure the same is true of tenkara rods, in Japan it’s possible to pick up a tenkara rod for 20 or 30 bucks so why not over here ?
Mr. Trout Fly, what brand is your “My goto tenkara rod cost me just £29 and although I own rods four or five times that price it’s the one I enjoy using the most, for me it feels right and I would (and do) take it out over the others” ? Pic maybe?
Many, many years ago the first fly rod that I bought for myself was not an expensive one. It cost me around $25 for it, and I purchased it at a local sporting goods store. I was very young then, and too intimidated to go into a proper fly shop and admit to them my lack of experience, and let me emphasize that I PAID FOR IT. Why? Because it was quickly replaced with a proper fly rod, thus having paid twice for the one thing that I wanted…a decent fly rod.
The rod was a Shakespeare 8′-6″ 8wt, and I used it only a few times before I realized that it was a sorry excuse for a fly rod. I was truly the one that was sorry though. The local stripers were giving me hell against that rod! Even the shakers (<18”) were hard to tame. I still have the rod and will hold onto it for it's sentimental value. I take it out on occasion to cast it just for kicks and giggles. It's a chore to cast it. It’s laborious to get even a fair amount of line laid out with it. Even with the minimal amount of use it's had, there is a small groove in the tip-top from the line rubbing against it, because for $25 bucks you just don't get good quality fly fishing rods.
Now, more than three and a half decades later, I can honestly say that I have never seen a Shakespeare fly rod on the shelf of a proper Fly Fishing Shop. I now know that there was a reason that particular rod sold at sporting goods and hardware stores. This has been my experience with that name in fly-fishing.
I've got to be honest here. I would be more likely to spend several hundred dollars on a tenkara rod that says Orvis Helios2 on it than $20 on a tenkara rod that says Shakespeare on it. Twenty bucks and the name Shakespeare just don’t scream innovation or quality to me.
Ultimately though, it comes down to this. “Each to their own.”
If a £29 tenkara rod is so remarkable, then why not remark on its name? I’d bet that a good tenkara rod for that price would be interesting to some people.
OK Guys, I’ll tell you a little about my “remarkable” £29 tenkara rod. The name of it is Whizz ST 360 and it’s clearly a budget rod, the finish isn’t great, the cork isn’t high grade and the butt cap is plastic and the end cap is pretty standard. It’s rated 7:3 and as the 360 would imply it’s 12′.
I prefer the feel of this rod over my others and I’ve had trout to 18″ on it and it’s handled them all very well, it’s lightweight, casts well, comfortable and handles a fish. Also, whatever crappy finish they put on it doesn’t bubble up when wet like one of my other rods.
If you’d like to see what I thought of the rod on receiving it check here http://thetroutfly.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/value-tenkara-rod.html
As I pointed out in my earlier post I view my tackle as disposable, I don’t treat it well enough to view it any other way and I wouldn’t be happy to treat a £300 rod in that way. I rarely use a fly rod for more than a season or two, I usually sell them and get new ones as they get quite beat up during a season.
As for Shakespeare, I have used a few stinkers from them in the past but overall most of their rods have served me well. I’ve had more expensive gear in the past and some of that was utter rubbish, there are some brands that I would never touch again or recommend to others.
I don’t care what a rod says on it, I only care about getting value for my money and £29 for a tenkara rod that has fished well for a season and is looking forward to it’s second ain’t bad in my book.
Two very interesting ideas i picked up from The Trout Fly…YouTube..Button Keepers (Alternative to EZ Keepers) Tenkara. and…
I already have 2 of these coming from eBay and will post a review. They were supposed to be here on the 30th but I still haven’t gotten them. Maybe today.
Me too. Coming from Singapore. (slow boat?!) Did you see the video on the “button keepers” yet?
Following your idea of a £20 rod, I have just introduced a £20 rod ($32). Some people will love it. Some will hate it. It is not a “me too” rod, though. Hopefully it will indeed introduce more people to fixed line fishing.
Wizz? Why mess around. For about another ten bucks a name-brand Shimotsuke Brother rod can be had from Chris. The Brother is a direct descendant of the high-end Shimotsuke models and a very well respected JDM T rod.
Awesome Chris, I think I’ll make one of those my next purchase. I can think of a few very small overgrown burns where I’d get some use out of that rod, should be nice for my daughter to use too 🙂
Holy Cow, here is a satisfied owner’s take on Chris’s latest Purple Cow Rod in the fixed line rod market: http://www.tenkarabum.com/the-cow-goes-moo.html
David, this is a very late post to this topic, so i hope you read this. I looked up all your references to the japanese dude that has a inside pole line and little reel. You said that you are aware of a company that makes rods with a inside-pole line. Do you have any info. on them?
This idea (similar to Timmy’s above drawing/idea) would eliminate the need for 2 separate EZ Keepers on the rod. One EZ would still be needed on the blank above the handle but the idea is to make the plastic/metal rod butt cap the shape of a U – with the U shape instead of Timmy’s shape on his above drawing the line could QUICKLY wrapped onto the rod while moving from creek hole to hole/hiking between fishing locations on stream.
This rod butt cap shape could still be used by T.USA because it would still be able to hold line AND have a center hole for the rod end cap when rod is extended.
This would also put much less kinks into the line because there would be far less bends/wraps needed because of the 12″+ wrap length between single EZ and rod but end cap.
I would be surprised if this has not been thought of and made before now… The main thing I don’t like about the EZ’s is the limited space between each EZ due to rod blank length above the handle. I personally would not want anything attached/hanging off my Cork Handle while fishing.