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The Japanese Way: Using Techniques From Across the Pacific on U.S. Summer Bass Lakes

By Don Wirth
6/26/2013 9:31:23 AM

It's a fine summer Saturday, and all week you've been looking forward to fishing today. But when you arrive at the lake at 5 a.m., you find 27 other boats in line ahead of you at the ramp. By the time you get on the water, hordes of anglers are already pummeling the local bass population with spinnerbaits, crankbaits, swimbaits, and topwater plugs. Worse, the dreaded weekend armada of wake-making pleasure boats and personal watercraft is beginning to show up, and it won't be long until the lake turns into a churning maelstrom. Not surprisingly, you've had zero bites so far-the bass have reacted to all this chaos by either retreating to the sanctuary of deep water or holing up in the gnarliest shallow cover they can find.

Such bass fishing may be tough. But it's way tougher on lakes in Japan.

Credit: Field & Stream

Difficult Fishing, Year-Round

Kota Kiriyama, a Japanese bass pro who has achieved rock-star status in his homeland and is currently living in Birmingham, Ala., can detail the differences between American and Japanese conditions. By comparison, we have it easy. "Bass in Japanese lakes receive tremendous fishing pressure," he says. "The Japan Sportfishing Associa-tion estimates there are nearly 3 million bass anglers there, and since most bass lakes are very small, they get extremely crowded. Also, many lakes have super-clear water, some with visibility exceeding 30 feet. In these extreme fishing conditions, it becomes very difficult to get bass to bite."

Minoru Segawa, the president of Lucky Craft U.S.A., the U.S. branch of one of Japan's leading bass lure manufacturers, points out a luxury that American anglers take for granted. "While many U.S. bass anglers fish from boats, 90 percent of Japanese anglers fish from shore," says Segawa. "The boat angler, armed with sophisticated marine electronics that reveal bottom structure and bass, can move around the lake quickly. If he doesn't get bites in one spot, he moves to another, and keeps moving around the lake until he finds feeding fish.

"The shore angler lacks this mobility and technology. Sometimes the bank is crowded with fishermen, and he must settle for whatever open spot is available. He casts to the same small area over and over again, and if there are any bass nearby, they grow wary and often refuse to bite."

Japanese light-line fishing methods such as the drop-shot and flick-shake techniques have evolved out of these conditions, Kiriyama notes. "Japan has 15 times the population density of the U.S.-127 million people crowded into an area about the size of California. Many Japanese work long hours and have little free time, so rather than travel long distances, they fish only the lakes closest to where they live. Thus all but the most remote lakes receive enormous fishing pressure.

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