The ultimate destination 

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” The great American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said that. Evidently, he hadn’t flown United Airlines. He certainly hadn’t weathered the 26-hour string of flights from Birmingham, Ala., to Osaka, Japan. That particular journey is equivalent to picking out a massive backlash of 2-pound braid on a narrow-spool baitcaster … blindfolded. The destination, however, was something different altogether. 

For bass anglers, destination fishing is often considered a luxury. Travel is expensive; lodging and dining are at all-time highs. And it’s more difficult to unplug from work now than it has ever been. However, the moments shared, memories made and friendships both deepened and created in a capsule of new surroundings and alternate cultures are life-changing. Flip to page 24, for example, to read about author Riley Love’s dream trip to Mexico’s Lake Aguamilpa. 

Or take for example my recent trip to Japan. As implied, the physical journey is not the fun part. The guy next to me on the 13-hour leg from Atlanta to Tokyo was really good at sleeping while the plane was in the air. He was even better at snoring. And airports are airports … a means to an end. But, oh, the destination. 

The folks at Daiwa hosted my weeklong stay in the Land of the Rising Sun. They wanted to share with me the current state of bass fishing in their country. Upon landing, we gathered around a dinner table and feasted on a traditional Japanese barbecue, featuring steak, cow tongue and a few other meats I couldn’t identify but greatly enjoyed. Being served and serving others is a highlight of meals there. 

The following morning, we toured the Daiwa factory and then went shopping at a tackle store. This was eye opening … nay, eye popping. When you consider the number of freshwater lakes in Japan (30) and the fact that the government wants to eradicate bass, as it is an invasive species, the tackle selection blows the mind. The aisles are 8 feet tall, every inch immaculately organized with lures of shapes and sizes (both enormous and tiny) that we don’t typically see in the States. The variety of terminal tackle was equally impressive. Yes, I spent too much money. 

Day 2 was fishing. Not bass fishing, exactly, but sort of. There is a saltwater fish in Tokyo Bay (they call it a bay bass) that looks very much like a snook but is fished for in a similar fashion to largemouth. Our evening excursion lasted from sundown well into the semi-darkness of night. Not complete darkness, because the bay is surrounded by Tokyo and the lights of the world’s biggest city. Plus, the Tokyo airport abuts the most productive fishing areas, and the runway (which you fish beneath) extends well into the water. 

Finally, we took a bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka (that particular part of the journey was epic). There, we participated in the Osaka trade show for fishing. The crowd was robust, the passion evident and the new gear extraordinary. 

As my trip came to an end, I had not only accumulated killer tackle, a new species of fish to add to my lifetime catch list and a couple pounds I’d need to lose, but a handful of people that will be lifetime friends. And a single relationship like that, through fishing, is the best destination you can hope for.