The Japanese Connection – Nories/Marukyu

The Japanese Connection – Nories/Marukyu

May 10, 2013

Norio Tanabe’s frogs make amphibious landing in U.S. market

By Mike Pehanich

To Americans, carp fishing and bass fishing lay at polar ends of the angling spectrum, and, as they say, never the twain shall meet!

Not so in Japan where carp anglers rival bass fishermen in the degree of angling sophistication! In fact, the histories of Japanese bass fishing pioneer Norio Tanabe and the nation’s leading manufacturer of ground bait for carp were closely tied even before 2003 when Marukyu acquired Nories, the tackle brand launched by Norio Tanabe himself.

The Marukyu stable of brands today includes:

  • Nories  — Best known to Japanese bass anglers is the high-end brand of hard and soft plastic lures and wire baits named after the founder.
  • Marukyu ground baits – Marukyu sells its ground carp bait line, consisting of “feeder” or chumming baits, under the corporate name.
  • Ecogear – These medium-priced hard and soft artificial lures are popular with saltwater and freshwater anglers alike.

Marukyu, which hit its milestone 100-year anniversary two years ago, started out as  a miso soup manufacturing company. The fermentation process by which Marukyu converts soybean into miso led the company to production of ground carp bait products in 1960. The brand dominates the Japanese market with an estimated 80 percent share today.

Bass legend

But, for bass anglers worldwide, the Marukyu/Nories story centers on Norio Tanabe.

“Mr. Norio Tanabe started bass fishing way before anybody in Japan knew what bass fishing was,” explains Munenori (“Mike”) Kajiwara, who is spearheading the introduction of the Nories and Ecogear lines in the U.S. market. “He was the first Japanese angler to compete in the U.S., and he is a legend.”

Small Waters Fishing editor Mike Pehanich caught this largemouth eight minutes into live filming of the Nories NF60 frog in action.

Largemouth bass had come to Japan in 1925, but they captured little attention until American troops occupying Japan after World War II discovered them. Bass fishing interest went from curiosity to craze to art form as Japanese anglers began experimenting with artificial lures.  As Japanese tackle makers put their ingenuity into bass tackle, the global bass market took a quantum leap in its level of sophistication.

One man who enabled the Japanese to springboard into that market was Norio Tanabe a bass fishing enthusiast who had been fishing in relative obscurity in his native land. In the early 1990s, Tanabe decided to try his hand at professional bass fishing. He came to America to test his talent against the world’s best.

He etched his name in the record books by winning the Bassmaster Kentucky Lake Invitational in 1993.

He returned to Japan with a trophy and $35,000 in first prize winnings, but, with bass angling little more than a cult following in Japan, it was a modestly triumphant return at best.

Munenori "Mike" Kajiwara helps a young angler catch her first fish at an Ecogear-sponsored event in Mundelein, Illinois.

Shuttling between the U.S. and his homeland over the next seven years, Norio Tanabe earned six Top 10 finishes in Bassmaster competition, the most significant being his 6th place finish at the Bassmaster Classic in Chicago in 2000, one of the toughest events in the history of the “world series of bass fishing.” His accomplishments since have only added to his status as an angling icon in Japan.

“Every single bass angler in Japan knows who Norio Tanabe is,” says Kajiwara. “He built the market. We love him. We respect him…and he is such a wonderful gentleman, too. It’s because of him that we have a bass fishing market in Japan.”

But Tanabe’s work in Japan during that period eclipsed his tournament accomplishments.

He began to develop his own bass lures and helped Marukyu develop its Ecogear line of artificial baits. Marukyu reciprocated by distributing Tanabe’s products, which sold under the “Nories” name.

In Japan, the Nories brand carries the cachet of premium brands, including globally revered names like Lucky Craft, Jackall, and Megabass.

The Nories NF60 hollow-body frog (above), along with the Ebigaeru popping frog, will spearhead the Marukyu/Nories entry into the U.S. tackle market.

Japanese anglers regard Nories wirebaits – particularly its spinnerbaits – to be among the best in the industry. (“His spinnerbaits are gooooood!” says Kajiwara.)

Marukyu makes its debut in the American market with the Nories NF60 hollow-body frog and Ebigaeru popping frog along with limited quantities of two soft plastic baits, the Latterie worm and Spoontail Shad swimbait.

The company hopes that the brand can reverberate among American bass anglers in the same way Norio Tanabe caught Japanese angler attention and helped change fishing forever in his island homeland.

Purchase Nories Ebigaeru Popping Frog, the Nories NF60 Frog and other Nories and Ecogear lures at Lee’s Global Tackle Connection.




Get Nories NF60 and Ebigaeru frogs at Lee’s Global Tackle Connection, and check out other great baits from Nories and Ecogear, too. Lee’s Global Tackle is your on-line store for top specialty and imported lures, including exclusive offerings from the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM). Give yourself the angling edge by shopping at Lee’s Global Tackle Connection! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *