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The Evolution of Bass Fishing in Japan

Today, bass fishing in Japan is undergoing a transformation that takes the sport of fishing and turns it into a cultural phenomenon that incorporates urban lifestyle, fashion, media, and a tight-knit community that prides itself on innovative products and an alternative lifestyle.

As one of only a handful of foreign bass anglers living in Japan, it is evident that a new wave of Japanese anglers - some a bi-product of of the COVID pandemic, have found a connection with bass fishing which fuels a passion for a predominately "American" lifestyle.


While attending Japan's first recreational fishing show in Yokohama this January, a colorful mix of new and seasoned anglers welcomed us to the fishing community.

Up-and-coming Japanese pro bass angler Yui Aoki from Yamanashi prefecture, home to the famous Lake Kawaguchi, has his eyes set on the United States in the coming years. Looking up to rising stars such as Takumi Ito, who currently competes in the Bassmaster Elite series in the United States, Yui can see a model for a successful transition to life overseas.


Other bass anglers who are newer to the sport, come from urban settings like major cities Tokyo and Osaka.


Many of these new anglers discovered bass fishing during the COVID pandemic when their normal professions took somewhat of a pause and a call to nature introduced them to the sport. Today, you'll find bass fashion apparel such as EXB4SS produced by hip hop star Nobohiro Fukami, an addicted 'bassaholic' with a vision for fishing "my way" between Japan and the United States.

 

Can we talk about Japan's unique bass lures?

While swimbait culture is still finding it's way in the United States, Japanese bass anglers have been perfecting their craft producing and fishing some of the largest and sometimes craziest lures you'll see for catching freshwater bass.


On one end of the spectrum you have Fullten, arguably the most realistic bass replica swimbait out there. Not yet available in the US and in very limited supply even in Japan, this approach to enticing bass to strike their own kind really pushes boundaries.


As an honored guest of the Japan Fishing Lure Collectors Club event in January 2022, I had an eye-opening experience to the wide array of talented lure makers and artisans showcasing their unique products. Everything from wasps to zombie lures, clowns, dinosaurs, airplanes, and even lures made from chicken bones were on full display!

But, how did this all start? What inspired such creative insanity?


Believe it or not, an old-school lure brand from the late 1800s in the United States, Heddon is the inspiration for many of these artisans. Asking many of the aspiring lure makers why Heddon provided such inspiration, they said it's the style of Heddon's lures that are 'non-realistic' that led to their creative concepts.


From my perspective, this approach seemed pretty impractical when it came to actually catching bass, so I had to ask, "does it actually work?".


Well, bass fishing in Japan provides unique water habitats and high pressure. Because of these circumstances, bass tend to react to these changes to their environment by striking such lures according to many of these lure makers.


For now, I'm still sticking with my reliable plastic worm and spinnerbait combo.

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