Michigan's connection to Japan has been strong for many years, but after this week's Bassmaster Elite Series event, a strong relationship through bass fishing is certainly forming.
4 Japanese anglers competed in the 102-man field against the best bass anglers in the world from July 27-30 on Lake St Clair.
Takumi Ito - Chiba, Japan
Kenta Kimura - Hirakata, Japan
Masayuki Matsushita - Tokoname, Japan
Kyoya Fujita - Yamanashi, Japan
On Day 1, all four anglers turned in a 5-fish limit of smallmouth bass and throughout the day, caught well over 100-200 fish combined on the day.
Day 2 was also full of action for all 4 anglers who again all weighed in 5-fish limits.
But, it was Takumi Ito who stole the show weighing in the tournament's heaviest bag of fish at 25 lbs., 8 oz., propelling him into 1st place at the end of the day.
Heading into Day 3, only 50 anglers qualified to fish Saturday and that number would be reduced to the top 10 anglers on Day 4 - Championship Sunday. From Japan, rookie sensation, Kyoya Fujita joined Takumi Ito to qualify for the final day of fishing.
In a tournament that broke many records of fish weighed in, it was a fierce final day of competition which saw rookie Joey Cifuentes winning his second blue trophy, with Takumi Ito finishing 3rd and Kyoya Fujita finishing 7th respectively.
Japanese Fishing Enthusiasts Enjoy the Experience
Macomb County's Brandenburg Park welcomed the fishing community all week long and many Japanese came out to experience world-class fishing at it's finest.
Greeted by incredible early morning sunrises over the infinite horizon of fresh water, spectators were front and center to witness not only their bass fishing idols up close, but also taking in the splendor of metro Detroit's signature body of water, Lake St. Clair.
One of the great opportunities fishing enthusiasts have at a Bassmaster Elite Series event is the up-close and intimate experience with the pro anglers.
A casually conversation with Classic winner Jeff Gustafson, meeting the reigning 'angler of the year' Brandon Palaniuk, or hanging out with Megabass pro Matt Wong on a perfect summer day is an angler's dream come true.
Japan & USA Relations Grow Through Fishing
Sports break down cultural barriers and unite people around the world and bass fishing in particular has become an incredibly strong bridge between the United States and Japan.
New friendships were formed and ancestral connections made.
For Manoshi Akinori, coming over to the US for bass fishing was a dream come true. "Winning Bassmaster has been my dream since I was a high school student. I came to this event to cheer on Japanese pro anglers Takumi Ito, Kyoya Fujita, Kenta Kimura, and Masa Matsushita. Staying near Detroit, I really enjoyed walking around downtown. The people I met during my stay were so kind and nice and Lake St.Clair is so big and beautiful, so I will come back here to fish again."
Bassmaster cameraman Jake Latendresse is frequently paired up with Takumi Ito and other Japanese anglers thanks to Jake's family lineage to Japan. "Japan means a lot to me", says Latendresse. Having such support in the US from people who can relate to Japan is really comforting for a lot of the Japanese anglers competing in the US.
Long time 'best friends' reunited after many years apart due to the COVID pandemic. For TV Producer, Shoji Igarashi, meeting his old pal Bernie Schultz at a restaurant in Michigan during the event was a pleasant surprise. Bernie recalled fond memories of past visits to Japan as well as many memorable visits by Shoji to Florida.
Legendary Bassmaster MC, Dave Mercer brought smiles to all throughout the week, including Japanese fishing fan Rina who came out early with her dad on Day 1 to wish the anglers "ganbatte" (good luck).
Fun Fishing on Lake St. Clair
A week of competitive fishing was not enough for many of the pro anglers. Lake St. Clair has become such an attraction in the angling world it is referred to as "Smallmouth Disneyland" by Takumi Ito.
At the conclusion of the Bassmaster tournament, many anglers stuck around for 'fun fishing' all types of species of fish and enjoyed time on the water with adoring fans and long-time friends.
Thanks to Takumi Ito and Masayuki Matsushita for taking us out!
Fishing Paradise Between Michigan & Japan
With the state of Michigan and Shiga prefecture in Japan holding 'sister state' relations, you can't help but draw a strong connection between the two regions and their iconic lakes - Biwa and St. Clair.
Throughout the past 2 weeks visiting Michigan, the hospitality provided by everyone in the region has been warm and welcoming to all anglers, media, and visitors from Japan. There's a strong sense of pride that is evident from the locals for this body of water in Lake St. Clair.
For the many Japanese anglers who fish both bodies of water on opposite sides of the planet, it's inspiring to see how their skills, techniques, and relationships travel with them, building on the strong reputation of bass fishing in Japan.
Thank you to all of the people who supported our visit to Michigan and the greater Detroit metro area, as well as a special thank you to Seigo Saito, Visit Detroit, Macomb County, Japan Business Society of Detroit, Bassmaster, and Delta Airlines.
Experience produced by Fishing AssistINT.