A few weeks back while I was still in the U.S. I had a few days to kill in Texas before our final tournament of the season. I went and spent a few days at Ray Roberts Lake, which is the site of the 2021 Bassmaster Classic. I figured scouting around for a few days might pay off when we return in March for the tournament. I had never been on this body of water before so I figured it would be good to at least get a lay of the lake.
I got a hotel room by myself for a few days near the lake and looked forward to spending some time on the water. When I went outside to my boat and truck the first morning I was there I noticed that another angler had the same idea. The rig parked next to mine belonged to Takumi Ito, a rookie angler on the Elite Series from Japan.
I knew who he was because I had been getting my butt whipped by him most of the year. During our northern swing this past summer when we visited the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain and Lake St. Clair, Taku finished in the top ten at all three events by targeting smallmouths. The amazing thing is he had barely any time ever even fishing for smallmouths before this stretch of tournaments, then shows up and puts a beating on some of the top smallmouth anglers in the World.
There have been a number of Japanese anglers who have come over the U.S. over the past few decades and have had a lot of success. The most well-known and successful of these anglers is Takahiro Omori, who won the 2004 Bassmaster Classic. He is still a top competitor today on the Bass Pro Tour.
Japanese anglers are known for their prowess with finesse tactics and being really meticulous with their tackle. They don’t have many bass fisheries in Japan so they need to use as many tricks as possible to catch fish. During this stretch of smallmouth tournaments Taku proved that he is a really, really good angler with his finesse tactics. He became an instant star on Bassmaster Live, where fans enjoyed watching him fish and his awesome personality. He has a lot of fun in the boat and is simply entertaining to watch. If you aren’t familiar with him, you can find some of the highlight clips from these summer events with a quick search on YouTube.
I had spoken to Taku briefly a couple of different times during the season but I didn’t know him all that well. When I got in from fishing my first day at Ray Roberts, I sent him a message via Instagram asking if he would like to get something to eat. He replied and said yes, he would like to go for dinner and that he liked steak!
There was a steakhouse a couple blocks from our hotel so we made a plan and went for dinner. Taku’s English is pretty good considering he has only been in America for a little more than a year. We spent the whole dinner chatting and asking each other questions about fishing in our home regions of Canada and Japan and talking about our families.
Taku is 33 years old and has a wife and five year old son back home in Japan. When the coronavirus first shut things down he got home for a few months before our season resumed in June. When I think I have made some sacrifices and have a lot of travel to go through to compete in this crazy sport that I love, it’s really a fraction of what this guy has to go through. He travels halfway around the World by himself, is competing and doing well against the best anglers in their home country, it’s pretty inspiring. The language barrier, the cultural differences, being away from friends and family for months and months at a time and then the logistics of finding a boat and truck to use, gathering all of the tackle and equipment to compete and then to qualify for the Elite Series in his first try. It’s really an amazing story.
Taku has earned a lot of respect this year from the anglers who he is competing against. I know that the group of guys that I stay with think a lot of him. I enjoyed the dinner a lot and we did it again the next night before heading off on our separate ways before the final event of the year. He had a great season and ended up finishing 23rd in the points list, qualifying for his first Classic. After the final event at Lake Fork, Taku went home to Japan for the rest of the year. He is planning to be back competing on the Elite Series again in 2021.