When the competitors on the Bassmaster Elite Series were notified before the season that the angler who comes closest to accurately estimating his pounds and ounces total on BassTrakk at each event will receive $1,000, second-year pro Taku Ito had an interesting question:
What’s a pound?
Oh, and a quick follow-up question:
What’s an ounce?
A native of Chiba, Japan, Ito didn’t learn pounds and ounces as his weight metrics in school like his fellow competitors from the United States. Instead, he learned the standard Japanese metric of kilograms.
Since beginning his pursuit of an Elite Series berth in 2018 — and promptly qualifying for his rookie campaign last year — he’s been coming to the scales with no idea what he really had or where it would place him in the standings.
“I do kilograms my whole life,” said Ito, who finished 23rd in last year’s Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings as a rookie. “I work to learn conversion, but I not quite there yet. All tournament in Japan do kilograms. That what I still estimating in my head.”
So, in Taku’s mind, if he’s got anywhere close to 9 kilograms, he’s a had a great day. That’s somewhere in the vicinity of 20 pounds. It’s a great benchmark, but it doesn’t help him much when it comes time to estimate his total for BassTrakk — the daily unofficial standings that fans follow online while an event is in progress.
For that, he’s relied on Bassmaster Marshals like Bo Stephens, who rode with him on Day 2 of the season’s second event on the Tennessee River.
“He’d catch a fish and I’d say ‘That looks like a 2-pounder or a 3-pounder.’ Every time, he would just answer ‘Sure.’ I started to see a pattern,” Stephens said with a laugh. “Once he got a limit and it was time to cull, he caught one and I said, ‘What do you think?’ That’s when he told me he had no idea.”
For more than three years now, Ito has been living by a super-simple formula on the water.
“He told me he just knows the big ones from the little ones,” Stephens said. “There have been times when other anglers have asked him before the weigh-in what he had and he would say 15 pounds. Then it would turn out he had 21 pounds. He just doesn’t know.”
Figuring things out as he goes has been a common theme for the mild-mannered angler who’ll turn 35 later this month — and his happy-go-lucky approach has made him one of the more popular anglers on the trail.
When the Elites made their swing to the North last year with visits to the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain in New York and Lake St. Clair in Michigan, Ito says he had never caught a smallmouth bass. But he very nearly stole the show in all three televised events, finishing sixth, 10th and 10th, respectively, while showing off his deep-water fishing skills for smallmouth.
“I never catch before,” he said many times during the first of those three events at the St. Lawrence River.
He caught several that week, including a few in the neighborhood of 2.268 kilograms (or 5 pounds).
“He’s just such a genuine, likeable guy,” Stephens said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the water with him, figuring out the cultural differences and getting to know him a little bit.
“The fact that he’s not out there sweating the pounds and ounces, to me, that just makes him all the more likeable.”