After the first two Bassmaster Central Opens of 2019 Japan’s Taku Ito sits atop the Central Opens Angler of the Year (AOY) standings. The 32-year-old finished second at Toledo Bend and eighth at Smith Lake. Bear in mind that Ito has competed in only three Bassmaster Open events. His first was as a co-angler during the final Central Open of 2018 at Logan Martin Lake in Alabama.
As with other Japanese tournament anglers who have done well in America, Ito must overcome considerable obstacles. Given that Japan is about the size of Montana, there are few places to cast for bass relative to the vast array of natural lakes, rivers and reservoirs across America.
And, Japanese anglers who venture to America typically speak very little English, which is true of Ito. This makes getting from place to place and functioning in a strange land extremely challenging. However, it is apparent that once a Japanese bass fanatic gets on the water in America, he feels right at home. Ito is currently one of four Japanese anglers who are in the top 30 of the Central Opens.
The dedication and passion that Ito and other Japanese anglers have for bass tournament fishing is remarkable. The same can be said for Japanese fishing innovations. Many mainstream finesse bass tactics were born in Japan, and the country is known for its exquisitely finished lures.
Ito grew up and still lives in Kashiwa with his wife Chie and their 4-year-old son. When Ito was 6 years old, he and his father Taira began bank fishing once a week at a small lake that supports bass. Their favorite lures included the Bomber 5A, Rebel Pop-R, Norman Tiny N and The Slider Worm.
At age 10 Ito learned about Bassmaster tournaments in America. This revelation set his destiny in motion. He began reading everything he could find about bass fishing. Whenever he got wind of a new lure or technique he worked to master it. He dreamed of being as successful in America like 2004 Bassmaster Classic champion Takahiro Omori.
Because Ito could go bass fishing only once a week, he often fished for carp in a river near home that did not support bass. Although he used live bait, he credits these experiences for teaching him how to detect bites and battle big fish.
Bank fishing bass tournaments are popular in Japan, and Ito began fishing them when he was 11. While he was in junior his school, his father bought a Skeeter SX186 bass boat. They immediately began fishing Tone River Open boat tournaments. They fished together until Ito was 16, which is the minimum age for acquiring a boat driver’s license in Japan.
From then on Ito and his father fished the pro/co-angler format Tone River tournaments from separate boats. In 2011 Ito added the Hard Bait Only tournament circuit to his agenda and won his first AOY title there. His prize was a trip to America to fish with California pro Brent Ehrler. It was Ito’s first time in America. After this experience, he set his sights on competing in the Bassmaster Opens.
In 2015 Ito again won the Hard Bait Only AOY title, which resulted in another prize trip to America. This time around he fished Lake Skinner with a local guide.
In the years that followed, Ito won championships in Japan’s major bank and boat bass fishing circuits. His success earned him a birth to the Basser Allstar Classic, which he claimed is Japan’s most prestigious tournament. Only the 20 most popular and capable angler’s in Japan are invited to this major event.
After graduating from Reitaku University in 2009 Ito took a job at Nories selling rods and baits designed by Norio Tanabe, one of Japan’s most accomplished bass anglers. Ito learned a great deal from Tanabe and refers to him as “my master of fishing.”
As It’s fame grew due to his tournament successes, Ito was often featured in Japan’s widely circulated Lure Magazine, which increased his popularity. His job soon morphed into that of promoting Nories’ products via magazines, television, DVDs, YouTube and social media. Nories also became Ito’s main sponsor. When Ito is in Japan, he is on the water about 25 days every month.
Ito’s third trip to America was when he competed as a co-angler in the 2018 Bassmaster Open at Logan Martin Lake. When he comes to America to compete in the 2019 Bassmaster Central Opens as a pro, the round trip encompasses about 30 days. Ten of those days are for prefishing the tournament. Ito purchased the boat and tow vehicle he uses to fish the Opens from Yoshikazu Sato. Sato lives in Japan and fished 20 Bassmaster Opens from 2007 through 2018.
When Ito is in Japan he stores his boat at the home of Georgia resident James A. Dickey, whom he calls uncle Jim. Dickey worked in Japan and has known Chie since she was 3 years old. Ito contacted Dickey when he came to America to fish Logan Martin Lake.
Ito longs to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series. His sponsors include Nories Motorguide, Shimano reels, Columbia apparel, Ryugi Japan (hooks), Seaguar, Sight Master polarized sunglasses, Reitaku University, Yu-Shin T-Style custom boat parts, Flex (Japanese autos), Mishima boat maintenance, Britz-Revolut hair salon and Techstard fishing gear.