A Look at Two Big-Fish Tenkara Rods

…because everyone keeps asking.

We get contacted quite often by customers shopping for big fish rods who are trying to decide between purchasing the Taka or the Kyojin. We get asked, “Which rod should I choose? How do the two rods compare?” So let’s take a moment to talk about the differences between the Zen Taka and the Zen Kyojin and how and when those differences come into play.
The Zen Taka Tenkara rod is an extremely versatile zoom rod. It is long at 13’/15′ with a slender taper and a 15.25″ fighting handle. The rod is designed with a 7:3 flex profile. The Taka comes with the Zen Standard Tip which is soft, but also accomodates our Performance Tip which provides a faster action. This rod like all Zen rods, is extremely accurate with no side rotation or wobble, whether you are casting a short or long line. On the subject of lines, the Taka can cast a variety of line types and lengths from #3.0 Tenkara Level Line (fluorocarbon), furled, nylon, floating or a heavier PVC-type of line like the Zen Fusion Line Series.
The Taka has tremendous backbone and will deliver incredible power against large fish and tough species including bonefish, redfish, char, and salmon such as sockeye and chum, just to name a few. Of course it is ideal for big, fat, broad-shouldered rainbows and browns too. Personally, it is a favorite rod to use on float trips where both of these species can be found in massive proportions and where drift is critical and control and strength necessary. Whether you need to cast a 12ft tight set up or a 30-40ft long one, the Taka can handle it with elegance and poise. As for tippet size, the Taka can handle 12lb test for those starting out and up to 16lb test for the tenkara angler who is expereinced with the rod and has a solid understanding of fish management on a fixed line. The Taka has a FRAE Rating of an 8wt and is an swesome rod for when big hefty fish are coming at your fly all day and reach is important. It’s a rod to push boundaries with.
The Taka is big and powerful but still feels very tenkara-ish. It flexes deep and has a soft tip. That soft tip allows for delicate play and fly manipulation. It also provides “forgiveness” to the angler and will soften the play. That forgiveness allows “room for error” during management and landings. This is inspite of the muscle and backbone the rod has – which is why the rod is loved by so many redfish-from-a-kayak tenkara anglers. They get the muscle and control they need to land these bad boys butstill  have the big flex and deep bend to deal with these big fish from a low sitting position in a kayak. And as mentioned above, you can’t beat the Taka rod for getting a perfect drift from a float boat.
But keep in mind, If you are casting big, heavy, dish-rag flies, the soft tip sections on the Taka will make casting more challanging, particularly if there is strong wind. The extra weight of big flies can bend the tip section and the push of strong wind will make it difficult to load the rod. The Performance Tip was designed to address this senario and makes a substantial difference in the action of the rod. It is something to definitely consider if you deal with a lot of strong wind or often use heavy flies.
Now the Kyojin. The Zen Kyojin Tenkara rod is just the opposite of the Taka. This rod is also an 8wt but feels completely different. It is 12′ and has a more abrupt taper than the lengthy Taka. The Kyojin is beefy with an extra long 15.75″ fighting handle. The rod is designed for two handed casting and fighting but it can be cast single-handedly by many. When you pick the Kyojin up, it feels stout and stiff but actually has a 6:4 flex profile. This flex is not felt by a test shake of the rod. You don’t discover that flex until you hook into something big and powerful – enough toactualy bend the rod. As beefy as the Kyojin is, the rod is extraordinarily accurate and able to deliver a soft and delicate fly presentation. The thicker, stiffer tip section provides exact control over both casting and fly manipulation. It also provides immediate and solid hook sets and turning over big wet dish-rag flies is no problem on the Kyojin. Wind is also no issue for this incredible rod.
The Kyojin pairs perfectly with our Zen Tenkara Fusion Line BIG and blasts through strong gusts and steady blowing with ease. Hooksets and play on the Kyojin are very controlled and should always be to the side. Angler should avoid trout sets like the plague on this rod. High play on the Kyojin will put too much pressure on the rod’s top sections – which unlike the Taka, have little flex and bend. Setting and playing to the side keeps pressure off the tip and gets you into the power and strength of the rod. Down low is where you find all the muscle and control and the Kyojin has tons and tons of it.
The Kyojin can handle up to 20lb test but we advise customers to work their way up to that limit so they are practiced and confident with the rod. Most people enjoy using a two-handed spey-type of cast, especially if they set up a very long line. The Kyojin is ideal for steelhead, Atlantic salmon, kings, junior tarpon, baracudda and big bones in the 6-8lb range. The rod is incredble but not designed with simple trout in mind. It is a specilaty rod.
A final thought on rods: If you are considering a big fish rod that can also handle the small stuff with considerable elegance and grace, consider the Zen Sagi. This rod landed many a Mexican bonefish before the Taka rod was ever designed. It is long and slender similar to the Taka, just a little less. The Sagi is 13’6″ in length and very capable of handling just about anything you come across in a river. It has tackled both saltwater species and wild rainbows, char and big graylings in Alaska. The rod is a fantastic option for those who regularly hook into 16″-22″ bows or browns and want a capable rod that isn’t oversized and still feels like small fish will be a lot of fun. With a 7:3 flex profile and it’s sexy, slender taper, the Sagi can cast any line you choose to tie on, similar to the Taka, but even more so. Complete novice casters will look like rockstars and quickly be able to create beautful loops on long lines or pop short casts in close range with the intuative and graceful Sagi rod. Consider it a solidly viable option for big fish – on a very practical rod. If you like long, the Sagi makes for the complete trout tool. It was a FRAE Rating of a 7wt.
As a wrap up, think about how and where you will be using your big fish rod most of the time. That should be what guides your purchase. Just like conventional fly fishing rods, there isn’t a tenkara rod that can do it all. But these three Zen rods can do an awful lot. Are you looking or in need of a spoecialty rod? Or do you just want a rod that you can confidently target some bigger fish on? Thinking about these questions will help you make a more informed decsion and always, always feel free to reach out and contact us directly with your questions.


  1. Hi Karin
    Great summary . I am really pleased with way my Sagi feels when a small trout of about 20 cm takes my fly the feedback to grip the grip is quite satifying.
    In Australia we have our native murray cod am of giving them a go on my rod. There is a stream not far from where i live that has a good of population of small fish there biggies of course but not many. Hook size 4-2-1/0 & 2/0 be okay.

  2. Both the Taka and the KyojinII have a terrific (but very different feel).

    I have been impressed by how easily I can cast a lot of line with the Kyojin II. I haven’t caught anything big yet – but, will report back when I can. It definitely has some backbone.

    You can’t find a company with better response to customer questions.

    • Thanks for the kind words Kari. Let us know if you have any questions or need support. Always happy to help.
      Tight Lines and, happy fishing!

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