August 5, 2017

Discover Tenkara Karasu 400 -- review

I recently reviewed the very nice Karasu 360 tenkara rod from Discover Tenkara. I like that rod very much, and so I was very excited to get in the mail its big brother, the Karasu 400. I've had it for a little while and had a chance to fish with it along side comparable rods.

For the sake of brevity I'll not be describing the rod, as it looks exactly like a beefier version of the Karasu 360.  Only the rod designation is different -- reflecting the 400 cm  length.

Here are some of my measurements:

Fully nested: 56 cm
Fully extended: 405 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 98 g
CCS: 21 pennies
RFI: 5.2
Rotational Moment: 7

Without tip plug

RFI comparison chart (click to enlarge)

I fished the rod on a mountain stream of moderate gradient. I used a #3 level line that, with tippet, was equal to the extended length of the rod. I used unweighted sakasa kebari as well as beadhead nymphs. I caught trout, browns and rainbows, in the 10-12 inch range.  For comparison, I fished it alongside (same line and flies) the Suntech Suikei TenkaraBum 40 tenkara rod. I chose this rod because it is of the same advertised length and, like the Karasu, was designed by a non-Japanese tenkara angler (but with input from Japanese rod consultants), and is made and marketed in Japan and worldwide. I thought it would be the perfect comparison for the Karasu.

For comparison, here are my measurements for the TB40:

Fully collapsed: 60 cm
Fully extended: 399.5 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 72.2 g
CCS: 19 pennies
RFI: 4.75
Rotational Moment: 5.5

I found the Karasu 400 to be a very nice rod. I really like its overall action and flex profile. The RFI is perfect for my style of tenkara. However, it's noticeably heavier than the TB40. The weight may be an issue for someone like me who has had issues with lateral epicondylitis, AKA, tennis elbow. But more importantly, the Karasu is noticeably more tip heavy than the TB40, despite its good overall balance. With a rotational moment of 7 it has more inertia or swing weight than the TB40, which has a rotational moment of only 5.5. Any number over 6 and the rod feels tip heavy; the larger the number, the more tip heavy. Likewise, the larger the number also means more stress on your forearm and more chance of micro-tears being induced in the extensor tendon with repeated use.

Linear and rotational dampening is quite good for the Karasu 400, but it takes longer to settle down than the TB40. I wanted to make sure I was seeing this correctly (as dampening seems to be a large part of Discover Tenkara's selling point for this rod) so I got some independent, impartial observers to help. They both agreed that the dampening was faster with the TB40. The Karasu still dampens quite quickly, however.

Both rods cast beautifully, with finesse and precision. Both rods handled unweighted and weighted flies equally well. Both rods exhibit the paragon of quality fit, finish and manufacturing expertise. And both rods easily handled any and all of the trout that I caught (but I certainly didn't catch any "monsters"). In short, both rods, the Karasu 400 being the topic of this review, are excellent rods.

I don't know how either rod handles trout over 18 inches in fast current flow, as I didn't catch any the days I had the Karasu. I'm sure that the Karasu 400 would be up to the challenge, however.

Conclusion: This is a very nice rod. I will say that the heavier weight and higher rotational moment are deal breakers for me -- as I has already stated that my arm would not be able to take hours of fishing with the Karasu 400. But as for you, I think the Karasu 400 is a very nice rod that deserves consideration if you're looking for a 400 cm tenkara rod. I personally like the Karasu 360 better; it dampens better than the 400 and it's (of course) lighter.

Have I bit the bullet and laid down the cash for either of the Karasu rods? No. I have other rods that are just as good IMO. Maybe some day after the rod gets a second generation tweak to make it lighter and less tip heavy -- we'll see. I'm a sucker for a well designed/made tenkara rod.

Think the Karasu 400 is the right rod for you, or you want to prove me wrong in my assessment of the rod? Then buy one . I'm pretty sure you'll be happy with this rod.

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod then make up your own mind. 
I received no revenue or enticement from Discover Tenkara for a favorable review of their products. I was loaned the Karasu 400 and returned it after this review.


  1. Great review Tom. Thanks for being a steady source of knowledge and honesty. Sounds like a great rod, but I am also prone to elbow/forearm problems.

  2. Hey Tom,
    Thanks for the review and, in particular, the comparison with the TB40; I have just recently purchased one from Chris. As I am still very new to the style, it is always a somewhat tenuous place for me in choosing a rod that will work the way I envision it to. With so many different rods to choose from and new ones coming on the market, I really appreciate the time you (and Chris) have invested in the gear reviews. I only own two rods at this time; a TUSA Rhodo and, now, a TB40. Both rods were purchased after reading your reviews. I bought the Rhodo solely based on a vlog and review you had done. I spent a little more time researching the TB40 and picking Cris's brain too before pulling the trigger. I will say that I am equally pleased with both rods, and very appreciative of the effort you guys make to be as detailed as possible in your descriptions. I love both of the rods that i have. Casting with the TB40 is awesome! It is so smooth a has been a joy to cast with anything that I have tied on it so far. I find it to be very accurate and responsive, even with a 2" sunny. It is perfect for the more open waters that I fish and, like you, I'm a big fan of sub-surface tactics so i throw a lot of bead heads and this rod does very well with them. I love the versatility that I am able to get with the Rhodo. I love fishing really small, clear, stealthy streams and this rod has allowed me to do that quite successfully. In comparison, I have found that I prefer casting the TB40, but it would be impossible to get that rod in the majority of places that I fish. It is safe to say that I will not be laying out the money for the Karasu, but I'm very glad to know that I have purchased an excellent rods at an excellent price point and i greatly appreciate the great info.

  3. I also suffer from fatigue and pain in my arm wrist and back of my hand. That's one of the reaosons i mostly buy shorter rods. As i live too far from any tenkara dealer to test drive rods first, keeping them short (under 11') avoid the risk of importing a major burden overerseas

  4. First of all, thank you Tom for taking the time and care to review our rod – it is greatly appreciated. Although overall a positive impression, I will confess that I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t love it more (naturally!). However, I also accept that it is a nearly impossible task to review a rod that is designed for specialist techniques that are not actually in use outside Japan and maybe two or three non-Japanese anglers yet!

    I guess it’s kind of like asking for a review on a F1 racecar when it can only be tested on a straight-line drag strip (yes it will go pretty fast in a straight line, but it only really shines when it comes to going round corners). The fascinating conundrum that we have is that our rod is designed to support techniques that we’d like to spread outside Japan – but it is a classic chicken and egg; without the right kit the techniques are not comfortable/possible (and yet without the techniques being in widespread use, the need for that kit is not apparent).

    The 400 is particularly designed for fishing longer lines on Honryu rivers (reflected in its balance position when held at a high rod-tip fishing position). Through all the testing and feedback from our top Japanese testers and developers, we knew that it HAD to cast the infamous 6-m level #3 nylon line….And at the same time be able to boom out 8 or 9 metres of level #4.5 fluorocarbon. The 360 has better rotational recovery than the (still great) 400 because of the much increased need to steer line around obstacles on smaller streams and because it is easier to achieve in a shorter rod while not sacrificing light-line casting ability.

    By contrast, the largely overhead casting style for Honryu rivers meant that we could ride the trade-off between hook-set and excellent ultralight line casting in the 400. I’d really love to get some time on stream with you sometime Tom and rig up some long #3 nylon and long, heavy fluorocarbon/big sakasa rigs on the 400.

    Many thanks for taking our rod out and assessing it. Keep up the good work (and I think you may come to love it in the end ha ha ha).