The truth behind the Yamamoto philosophy

When most anglers hear the name Yamamoto, they immediately think of a lure company that makes perhaps the finest-quality, premium-grade soft plastic fishing lures in the world.
Fish candy made specifically for finesse techniques.
What they don’t realize, however, is that their perception is not entirely correct.
For certain, Yamamoto soft plastics are first-rate, but the history of the famous lure company is as intriguing as the barbed wire fence that surrounds the company’s manufacturing facility. And the owner’s big fish philosophy.
“The key to the company is Gary himself,” says Russ Comeau, Yamamoto’s director of marketing. “He is an innovator, a tinkerer, and an extraordinary angler with a passion for competitive fishing at the highest levels.”
In fact, according to Comeau, Yamamoto doesn’t really care if anglers buy his products or not. Well, that may be overstating it a bit, but not much. You see, every bait designed and manufactured by the Yamamoto Company is made solely and specifically to meet the owner’s needs.
If other anglers want to emulate him and his success—and fish with the same lures—that is great. And if they don’t, well, Yamamoto doesn’t lose any sleep over it.
Believe it or not, until quite recently, the company didn’t even advertise its products (Martha Stewart, eat your heart out).
Even the foundation of the company has roots with a unique twist. In the late 1970s, the business that made Yamamoto’s favourite plastic worms and grubs began to struggle.
Frustrated when he couldn’t find a comparable source, Yamamoto did the only logical thing. He bought the company and moved the production equipment into his campground in Page, Ariz.
With the ability to now design, tinker, and manufacture at will, Yamamoto shifted his fishing philosophy into high gear. And that is where the irony hits home.
Most anglers believe Yamamoto to be a light line finesse angler who uses gossamer thin fishing lines, light action rods and reels, and techniques like drop shotting.
Nothing could be further from the truth. His current line of baitcasting rods are meaty beef sticks. And the next generation he is currently designing, and that I had a chance to inspect recently, are masterful blends and fusions of three different types of graphite.
Still, buggy whips they’re not.
Yamamoto also prefers heavier 14-, 16-, and 20-plus pound Sugoi fluorocarbon fishing line. And he honestly believes that light line techniques like drop shotting will never consistently win tournaments.
So why is the perception so different from the reality?
“In the early years of the company,” Comeau explained, flipping through one of the first brochures, “when Gary purchased it, small grubs and worms dominated the product list.
“But as Gary fished more tournaments and began to participate at the national B.A.S.S. and FLW levels, he was able to refine his big fish philosophy that is quite different from most other anglers.
“Gary doesn’t begin the day, as most tournament anglers do, trying to catch limit of small fish and then looking for kickers. Instead, he fishes for five big bites a day.”
As if to prove the point, Comeau picked up more recent editions of the company’s product line and compared them to the earlier editions.
“Take a look at the hula grubs as one good example,” Comeau remarked. “We now make a big six-inch version. It is same with all our soft plastics. Our worms, grubs, crayfish, lizards, you name it. Every year we’re making them bigger, bulkier, and more riggable.”
More riggable? What does that mean?
“For a number of reasons, Gary prefers to rig his lures with external bullet weights rather than put them on jig heads,” Comeau told me. “When a fish bites a soft plastic lure attached to a jig, by its very design the leadhead pries open the fish’s mouth and interferes with the hook set.
“That doesn’t happen when he uses a rig. Plus, he can fish with a much bigger hook. And with that bigger hook, he can use a much longer and bulkier bait.
“As you can see, it is consistent with his philosophy that you only need to catch five fish—if they’re the right five—to win any tournament anywhere in the world. By fishing with bigger, bulkier baits and not using jigs, Gary can filter out the noise and the static that he doesn’t want.”
Whoa, hold on a minute. Noise and static?
“Smaller fish,” Comeau explained. “It is also the reason Yamamoto soft plastic lures have a square nose or head. That is the way Gary prefers them for rigging purposes.”
All right. But what about the grumble heard from some anglers that Yamamoto soft plastics are, well, too soft? That you have to replace them often after you catch a fish.
“It is true,” Comeau agreed, nodding his head. “But what would you rather use. A harder bait that lasts forever but gets you no bites?
“Again, it relates to Gary’s philosophy of tournament angling. The first cast you make is always the most important one. And so is using a fresh bait,” Comeau added.“ Like I said, the lures are all made for Gary. Not necessarily for the customer.”
It has been a winning formula for more than 20 years. And how do you argue with success?
• • •
Backlash: Lake of the Woods is shortly going to lose a very good friend. MNR conservation officer Rick Leblanc is moving to Thunder Bay District at the end of the month, to be replaced by another officer.
I had the pleasure of hiring Rick when I was still working at the ministry and it is one of the best decisions I ever made. Rick is an extremely personable officer who has a thoroughly professional manner and winning way about him.
He has been highly visible on the lake and when he has needed to be tough, that is what he has been.
I know I speak for many when I say we wish Rick wasn’t leaving. But since he is, we wish him and his family the best in the future.

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