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What to Expect Bass Fishing in Japan

If you follow the Bass Fishing Japan Instagram account, you've probably seen amazing pictures of beautiful, giant bass caught here in Japan. And it's true, Japan is home to some of the biggest, thickest, jaw-dropping largemouth bass on the planet.

Bass Fishing in Japan

As Japan has re-opened up to foreign visitors, an influx of tourists have infiltrated the country. That is certainly the case in most areas of the country with the exception of Japan's lakes, which are home to these incredible fish.

However, a small minority of foreign visitors are finding their way to these lakes.


Discovering Japan's Bass Fishing Lakes

In late October 2021, I had my first day out on the water with Hiroki Nakata on Lake Nojiri in Nagano prefecture. Known for it's winter activities, I was surprised to find this hidden oasis tucked amongst the towering snow-capped mountains which is home to smallmouth bass.

It was the last day of the fishing season and I manage to put 9 fish in the boat that day.

Fishing with Nakata-san was such an eye-opening experience. First of all, the size of the lures on two-pound test line made it feel like I was sifting through sand for gold to get a bite is the best way to describe it. Every bite as well was just as delicate and setting the hook aggressively was the best way to lose the fish. I learned right away that fishing in Japan was completely different than how I was used to fishing in the US!

The following summer, I revisited Nakata-san in June for some summer fishing and doubled my daily catch count to 19 using a completely different technique used in the summertime.

Going to the "Mother Lake" - Lake Biwa

As pretty much every avid bass angler knows by now, there is one lake in Japan that holds legendary status thanks to Manabu Kurita's world record catch of 22 lbs. 4 oz. in 2009.

In April 2022, I made my way down to Shiga prefecture, home of Lake Biwa.

Picturesque Lake Biwa and Bass Boat

Joining me was a friend from Tokyo who had never been bass fishing in Japan, but was interested in discovering a new side of Japan that is not publicized at all (for odd reasons).

Meeting my guide at the marina early in the morning, adrenaline was pumping through my body as I was about to head out onto the vast lake formed over 4 Million years ago.

Upon arrival, I was instantly fascinated by the entire setup. His boat was sitting not on a trailer, but on a set of skids with wheels, which would eventually be dollied over to an elevator that put the boat in the water. Mind blown!

The second thing that stuck out to me was the size of the lures on his boat! After extreme finesse fishing with Nakata-san on Lake Nojiri, I was in for a whole new experience going after these fabled Biwa bass.

Prior to departing the marina our guide, Yoneda-san, asked what kind of technique and fish we were interested in fishing for.

A.) "Giant bass, with few or no bites"

B.) "Site fishing with more regular, yet challenging bites"

While hooking into a giant was a dream, we did not want to get skunked on our first outing on Biwa, so chose the second option with more chances to catch our first Biwa bass. On the day, we put 8 fish in the boat, all ranging between 2 to 6 pounds. Every fish we caught was healthy and built the right way with the potential to grow into a 10+ pound fish someday.


Is Instagram vs Reality True for Bass Fishing in Japan?

Bass caught on Lake Kawaguchi

In my first 3 outings going bass fishing in Japan, I put a total of 36 fish in the boat on two different lakes. At that point, I was feeling pretty good about my ability to adapt to this new style of bass fishing and thought I had found a new "Shangri la" of bass fishing utopia.

It was at that time I decided to start documenting my experiences through Instagram and eventually build this website to provide information (in English) for other foreigners looking to enjoy this unique recreational sport in Japan.

But, as great as the fishing can be, some days just aren't meant to be. I discovered this on a beautiful spring day on Lake Kawaguchi with my buddy Tom who took me out that day. After having much success on lakes Nojiri and Biwa, I was unable to land a single fish that day for whatever reason. Meanwhile, Tom had a good day on the water landing 5 fish, including a beautiful 6 pounder.

So here's the truth about bass fishing in Japan.

1.) There are a limited amount of lakes in Japan that allow fishing, allow boats, and that have good bass population.

2.) Of the lakes that do allow fishing, allow boats, and have a good bass population, there is very little, if any fish management in place to maintain sustainable fisheries. There is also very high pressure from anglers almost every single day of the year (with the exception of the high elevation lakes like Nojiri, Hibara, and Inawashiro).

3.) Getting skunked is quite common fishing for bass in Japan. While every bit of what I wrote above is true, I also had a number of full days with zero catches - yes, even on Biwa.

4.) There is almost no fishing tourism infrastructure in Japan and especially none for bass fishing. While there are many guides on various lakes, all of them are running independently and most do not speak English. However, there are a few really good guides who do speak English. One-day outings typically range anywhere from ¥35,00 to ¥70,000.

As every angler knows, you will have your days on the water where the bite just isn't there.

While frustrating, what has been most enjoyable about bass fishing in Japan is getting out into 'unseen' areas of the country where most visitors and 'local' foreign residents do not spend much time. This experience gives you a great understanding and appreciation for the country's culture and you're able to form deeper relationships with the Japanese people.

In Part 2 of this series, I will feature other foreign anglers who have experienced bass fishing in Japan as well as some insights from local Japanese anglers. Stay tuned!



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