Japanese Connection — Takumi Ito

Japanese Connection — Takumi Ito

Sep 30, 2013

The Japanese Connection: Pond Hopping with Takumi Ito

By Mike Pehanich

Small Waters Fishing joins Takumi Ito on small local waters where the Japanese bass star demonstrates two of his favorite rigs and two Nories soft plastic lures. 

Bass fisherman know no communication barriers. Put two bass fisherman from opposite corners of the world together, and you can be sure they will get their points across!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to fish with international bass fishing sensation Takumi Ito on several small waters in the Chicagoland area.

The 27-year-old bass fishing pro is one of the brightest stars among Japan’s TBC Tournament pros. He also does lure design, rod design, field testing, and sales planning for the Marukyu Company, parent of the Nories and Ecogear brands, which entered the U.S. market in 2012.

Takumi Ito, one of Japan's leading bass anglers, displays a catch from a pressured quarry lake in Illinois taken with the Nories Escape Twin rigged on a heavy downshot.

A member of Norio Tanabe’s “Nories” design team, Takumi Ito had come to the US with Marukyu COO Nobuyoshi Okada and Masazumi Miyazama, commercial director over Marukyu’s European and African business. All three were here to learn more about the American sportfishing industry.

Time and timing permitted us only a few short hours on small local waters. But we enjoyed talking tackle, bass fishing and some of the lures and techniques that have catapulted him to the elite ranks of Japanese bass professionals.

Our first stop was a private development lake in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. Mr. Okada, Mr. Miyazama and U.S. Marukyu distributor Munenori Kajiwara tested prototypes of a prospective Marukyu catfish bait formulation while Takumi Ito cast the shoreline with several Nories baits and patiently answered questions from avid bass anglers from Lee’s Global Tackle Connection (www.leesglobaltackle.com), the first U.S. retailer to carry Marukyu products, before I joined the group.

Two techniques

Takumi Ito has adopted a wide range of rigs, baits and techniques in order to compete professionally. But he has earned particular acclaim for his mastery of two particular techniques – the Neko rig and the heavy downshot (dropshot).

Both are fine-tuned variations on techniques that have become common tools in the American bass angler’s arsenal.

The Neko rig is a variation of “wacky” worm fishing that employs a nail weight or mushroom-head weight placed at the nose of the worm. This nose-down presentation gives a different look and action to the worm and allows the angler to keep his presentation close to bottom throughout the retrieve when conditions and the bass themselves call for it.

The heavy downshot is a dropshot variation that is executed with a very short dropper line and a heavy dropshot weight of 3/8- to ½ ounce or more.

Most anglers dropshot for a patient and slow “finesse” presentation. But the heavy downshot rig turns the dropshot into a different tool altogether by enabling the angler to impart quicker movement and more action to his bait. Unlike the finesse presentation of a typical dropshot rig, the heavy downshot produces reaction strikes. It also enables an angler to work certain soft plastic baits more effectively in current.

Takumi Ito demonstrated how he executes these techniques with two Nories baits headed to the U.S. market for the 2014 season.

Marukyu's chief operating officer, Nobuyoshi Okada, enjoyed witnessing the response of American bass to his company's soft plastic lures.

The new Shrilpin

His bait of choice for the Neko rig was the new 6.5-inch Nories Shrilpin. At first glance, it looks like a jumbo version of the Nories Shrilpin, a versatile and popular finesse plastic “shrimp and goby fusion bait” available in two-, four- and five-inch sizes in Japan. Like its predecessor, the new 6.5 version has a neatly tapered and contoured back half that delivers vibration and lifelike action with the most subtle of action or current at work.

But the new “hybrid swim design” makes the Nories 6.5 Shrilpin a bait with distinctive traits. The opaque salt-impregnated front half of the bait is made from a tougher plastic than the translucent and buoyant tail section. That causes the bait to hang in a nose-down position with its tail waving high. Add a nail weight or mushroom weight to the head, and you have a special worm indeed!

Our second stop that afternoon was a deep clear quarry lake in Illinois’ DuPage County Forest Preserve District. I Neko-rigged the 6.5 Shrilpin and cast it from a rock ledge that plummeted rapidly into 10- to 15 feet of water. Patches of vegetation grew on this deep flat. The first time I hung up on one of these submerged grass stalks, I discovered just how unique the Shrilpin was. As I ripped the rig free, I felt a vibration through my rod tip that was reminiscent of a blade bait’s action. I realized quickly that the 6.5 Shrilpin delivers not only a subtle, quivering action with the slightest movement but also uncommon fish-attracting vibration with a more aggressive pull, too. (See Neko-rigging with Takumi Ito and the Nories 6.5-inch Shrilpin)

Lintaro Kajiwara learned his lesson in heavy dropshotting quickly, catching this handsome bass on the Nories Escape Twin creature bait.

Teacher Ito

Munenori Kajiwara’s son, Lintaro, joined our group that afternoon at the quarry. The youth, a sophomore who garnered second place honors in the Illinois High School Association two-man team competition this past spring, received a private lesson in heavy downshotting from the master.

Mr. Ito demonstrated the heavy downshot technique with the Nories Escape Twin, a creature-style lure that has become a quiet favorite among Japanese bass professionals due to its reputation for producing “kicker” fish in tournament competition. During his demonstration, he cast the rig to the outside edge of a hump and caught a hefty bass in short order. He explained the rig to Lintaro and rigged a second Escape Twin identically to his. Within minutes, the youth hooked and landed a bass well above the four-pound mark.

Cheers and congratulations rained down on student and teacher for a quarter hour.

Read more on Takumi Ito, the heavy downshot technique and the Nories Escape Twin in Small Waters Fishing: “Heavy Downshotting with Takumi Ito and the Nories Escape Twin”

Masazumi Miyazawa, commercial director in Europe & Africa for Marukyu, tested prototypes of prospective catfish bait additions to the Marukyu line-up.

Many American anglers now know about Japan’s most famous bass water, Lake Biwa, where Manabu Kurita caught his world record-tying largemouth bass.

But the sprawling Lake Biwa is not the typical bass setting for most Japanese anglers. Much of Japan’s bass fishing takes place on small waters.

“Most of the lakes in Japan are natural lakes and small reservoirs,” explained Mr. Ito. “We also have a lot of ponds with weeds, trees and bushes and shallow cover.”

Largemouth bass are regarded as an invasive species in Japan, and government regulations prohibit their introduction to public waters where they are not currently found – or even the release of bass after catching them. Couple these restrictions with the popularity of bass fishing, and you can see why Japanese anglers have developed or refined so many finesse options to catch these heavily pressured fish.

Pay lakes have emerged in recent years to satisfy the hunger of Japanese bass anglers. Though these lakes are becoming more popular, Mr. Ito and many other serious bass anglers still prefer hunting pressured bass in their natural haunts rather than fishing for the farm-raised bass at the pay lakes.


Across the Big Pond! Small Waters Fishing met with members of Marukyu Co. on two small waters in northern Illinois. Left to right: Masazumi Miyazawa (commercial director Europe & Africa), Lintaro Kajiwara, Munenori Kajiwara (U.S. distributor for Marukyu, Nories & Ecogear brands), Takumi Ito (pro angler and Marukyu sales planner), Kyle Lopez of Lee's Global Tackle, Shiho Kajiwara, and Nobuyoshi Okada (CEO of Marukyu Co.)

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