I recently broke down and bought a Tenkara USA Ito after hearing a lot of buzz and positive reviews on it. To be honest, my first experience with the Ito didn’t make a great impression on me. I had cast one a few times and thought it was too slow and longer than I really needed. But what I didn’t realize was that the Ito grows on you and once you fish it a few times and drop some preconceived notions, you finally realize it’s full potential and advantages.
While the Ito is rated as a 6:4 action, it’s different than any other 6:4 tenkara rod I’ve fished. It feels significantly slower in the hand. I’m used to fishing a 6:4 Iwana or 6:4 Amago–both of which feel stiffer than the Ito so I would call it a “soft” 6:4. It is a pleasure to cast if you slow down your casting rhythm and let the rod do most of the work. I find that I don’t have to move my arm as much and the rod is very responsive with even the slightest of movements. This might take a little adjustment period for those used to casting faster rods where you have to do more work but once you get it, it feels pretty sweet.
The Zoom Feature
The Ito is a “zoom” rod which means it can be fished at two different lengths–13 ft. or extended to 14 ft. 7 in. As expected, there is a noticeable difference between the two lengths. When in 13 ft. mode, the rod feels unexpectedly light thanks to the way the handle moves the focal point of your grip a little higher. At the fully extended 14 ft. 7 in. length, the rod does feel more tip heavy and slower, but still not as much as I had expected at such a mammoth length.
Overall, I prefer the way the 13 ft. mode casts and feels in the hand. This is the way I fish it most of the time. But it’s nice to be able to instantly adjust the rod length when you need a little extra reach, then go right back to the “sweet spot” of 13 ft. when you don’t.
I’ve fished the rod on both small streams and larger rivers and the adjustable length lets me handle both well. And while it might seem like a “big” rod, the softer action doesn’t pigeonhole it as a “big fish” rod–meaning that it’s still fun to land smaller fish with it.
The Finishing Touches
The Ito is definitely a premium rod. Every component is well-made, high-quality, and I feel it’s worth every penny of the slightly more expensive cost of other Tenkara USA rods (especially when you consider it’s versatility).
The cork grip is one of the best I’ve seen and every detail is well crafted right down to the winding check, rod plug, and end cap:
Aesthetically, the Ito is a beautiful tenkara rod with a matte black blank and dark blue accents. The specs and length demarkations are in gold:
The collapsed length is longer than other Tenkara USA rods at just over 21 in. but I’d still deem it compact enough for backpacking and those looking to go minimal.
The Ito probably isn’t for everyone. But that’s why they make different tenkara rods. Overall, I have to say this is currently my favorite tenkara rod. I love the way it casts and the ability to instantly adjust the rod’s length. The zoom feature essentially gives you 2 rods in one and I love that versatility. It turns large rivers into small streams without having to cut or tie on more line saving valuable fishing time. In fact, I love the action of the Ito so much, I actually took a break from finishing this post to go cast the Ito in my back yard. Yeah…it’s that cool.