When it was time to create the new Riverworks rod lineup for 2022, there was one rod that absolutely had to be in our arsenal. There needed to be a truly extraordinary Tenkara Rod in the 360CM-390CM class.
A rod built to effortlessly cast ultralight level lines.
A rod that could effectively present traditional Japanese Kebari, unweighted soft hackles, and other nearly weightless patterns using the lightest level lines and tippets.
A rod with an action akin to some of the most legendary, "traditional-action" Japanese rods in recent history.
A rod that up until this point has not been undertaken by Tenkara rod designers, from the US or abroad.
We are seeking to produce a Tenkara Rod with a long list of attributes that make it truly special. A rod that could inevitably lay claim to being ONE of the finest Tenkara Rods ever produced.
This is not going to be easy. There is a company in recent history that made the bold, and unwarranted claim that they had produced the "best tenkara rod ever made". Long story short- it wasn't. From the onset of this project, we were determined not to go down that road with the ZX-K PRO Graphene. Let's just say we want to produce a truly special Tenkara Rod with a list of positive attributes. So we broke it down even further, and made a short list of all the positive attributes we wanted the ZX-K PRO Graphene to have.
1. Ultra-Slim Footprint A very thin blank
2. Superior Strength to Weight Ratio A really strong blank
3. Very low overall blank weight A really, really light blank
4. Progressive Flex Profile A blank that transitions from fast to full flex from butt to tip
5. NEW lighter carbon fiber grip change the density of the foam core on our classic carbon fiber grip to make it even lighter
Sounds like a pretty tall order. As a rod designer, you have to put your thinking cap on to achieve all this. But with a little work, every design challenge has a solution.
Items 1-3 have to start with the blank material. What material are you going to chose to achieve your design goals to create a blank that has an ultra-slim footprint, superior strength to weight ratio, and a very low overall blank weight? Which brings us to the next question..
What is GRAPHENE? To fully answer this question, we would need a fairly thick book of technical jargon and engineering speak. After a few minutes of that, most of us, myself included, would be making funny faces and clicking the back button on the browser.. The short answer, and bear with me here, is that CARBON is a naturally occurring element in the earth. CARBON is manipulated in various ways to give us carbon fiber cloth and other compounds in various forms. Each variation including the carbon fiber cloth used to produce fishing rod blanks is held together with various binders (mostly epoxy resin). In producing carbon fiber cloth (with graphite as its base element), it requires various modifications which degrades its molecular form. GRAPHENE is graphite (and eventually carbon fiber) with a nearly perfect molecular structure. When producing carbon fiber using GRAPHENE as its base element, it doesn't require extensive degrading modifications to produce the cloth required to roll fishing rod blanks. So, GRAPHENE based carbon fiber cloth requires a fraction of the pre-preg epoxy resin needed as a binding agent. This renders molecularly pristine GRAPHENE Rod Blanks stronger than steel and lighter than blanks constructed of industry standard carbon fiber cloth (such as Japanese Toray cloth for example). Given these two factors, we can make our ZX-K PRO Graphene blanks much thinner because we are using a superior material to standard carbon fiber cloth and we can produce our blank sections requiring much less overall diameter. With GRAPHENE based carbon fiber cloth, we can produce a rod blank with the same strength to weight ratio as a blank built with industry standard carbon fiber cloth with as much as 30% less overall diameter.
So as an example, and the figure we used for our baseline, our ZX3 360CM blank measures 10.66 mm at the end of the butt section. If we reduce the butt section diameter of the ZX3 by 30% , our target diameter of the ZX-K PRO Graphene butt section will be in the neighborhood of 6.4mm. When we run this blank out to 380CM or 12'5" (our target length) it is an incredibly thin blank with the same inherent strength to weight ratio as our ZX3 (which is one of the strongest, lightest blanks we have ever built on).
Most people reading this, and about 99% of the people who buy Tenkara Rods on the market today, will probably say, "Why would I really need to know all this shit?" What's important for OUR core customers (less than 1% of the total market), is not do they need to know all of this, but that WE know all of this..
Like the majority of Tenkara Rod Vendors based in the US, we don't order rods from the drive up window at the Chinese Tenkara factory.. "Hey, I'll take 100 of your 12' Tenkara Rods with the fake diamond inlays on the nose caps, and yeah, we want them with cool looking paint jobs, and (pause), put our logo on it. --- "Anything else for you today sir?" ---- "Do those come with rod socks and tubes?"--- "Yes they do sir"--- "Alright, cool, yeah that's it"-- "Please drive forward to the first window".. Click-- Done.. Window opens.. "That will be $1200 sir"... That's not a stretch, that is pretty close to how it goes.
That's not how we do things here at Riverworks Rod Co. We understand how rods are built, we know how to manipulate materials to get the action we want on our blanks. We know the business of rod building, and I personally fabricate every rod by hand. I know not many people out there care, but I believe our people care. We take a deep dive approach to the rods we design.
So back to the ZX-K PRO Graphene.
"So why doesn't everyone use GRAPHENE rod blanks to build fishing rods?"
One simple answer- MONEY. GRAPHENE based carbon fiber cloth is expensive.
GRAPHENE is not easily sourced. It is expensive. It requires more attention to finish. So the world's first GRAPHENE Tenkara Rod Blank will cost in the neighborhood of $200. So, when we add our expensive carbon fiber grip, hardware that is cast and finished in the US, add our industry standard 1200% markup, the cost comes out to a cool $4420.00 .. Ok, we won't use the industry standard markup, but the cost is still going to be expensive even with a 75% markup, as it stands right now, this would be an expensive rod. With that said, we believe it will be worth every penny, not just because the ZX-K PRO Graphene will be the world's first GRAPHENE Tenkara Rod, but because we believe the rod will be worthy of the price tag.
With a combination of cutting edge tech, a couple of OCD rod designers and testers, the ZX-K PRO Graphene is a massive undertaking.
We will continue to keep everyone posted on the progress of the ZX-K PRO Graphene development.
As of right now, we are not on a timeline. Let's just say we have a long way to go, and details will be forthcoming.