This past November, Elite Series pro Kotaro Kiriyama made two Japanese anglers' dreams come true. They won the opportunity to fish in an American bass tournament. Through his American Dream tournament, Kiriyama — along with BassCat, Jackall and Shimano — afforded the winning team a trip to the U.S. to fish the BassCat Invitational at Norfork Lake in Arkansas.
While this may seem like an everyday affair in the good ol' U.S. of A., Japanese anglers see America as the Mecca of tournament bass fishing. Bass tournaments in Japan are not regarded very highly. After all, bass are an invasive, nuisance species in Japan. Each one caught must be killed. It isn't much of a stretch to compare Japanese tournament bass fishing to mudfish or snakehead fishing in the U.S.
The 2009 event was held on the Tone River, near Chiba, Japan. Heavy rains the preceding days did not dampen the contestants' spirits. Luckily, the sun came out for tournament day, and 50 anglers showed up to vie for a trip to the U.S. After a quick speech by Jackall CEO Seiji Kato, boats were launched.
After the weigh-in, curious anglers questioned Kiriyama about bass fishing in the United States, particularly about the Bassmaster Elite Series. The most common questions centered around the American bass fishing lifestyle and how to become a pro.
"Many Japanese anglers hope to visit the U.S. one day, and I hope I gave them a little more hope that it can come true," Kiriyama said. "I will keep having this event every year and hopefully someone will become a Bassmaster pro one day!"
Kiriyama feels the event was a great success. He soon hopes to start an American version of his American Dream tournament where the winner gets to fish Kota's Japanese event.