Opens profile: Fujita rockets to the Elites

In March of 2022 Japanese angler Kyoya Fujita came to the U.S. for the first time and attended the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell. Six months later he earned an invitation to become a Bassmaster Elite Series pro by finishing second in the Bassmaster Northern Opens Angler of the Year standings.

He made this incredibly difficult achievement look easy by finishing 10th at the James River, 16th at Oneida Lake and 11th at the Upper Chesapeake Bay. What makes his accomplishment even more remarkable is that Fujita speaks very little English.

Although the 26-year-old’s name is new to American bass fans, he is regarded as one of the best bass anglers in Japan. He has won every major tournament title in his home country, including six wins and four angler of the year races. If he fares as well in the Elite Series next year as well he did in the Northern Opens, every bass fan on the planet will know his name and know it well.

When Fujita started across the country on his quest for American bass stardom, a dismal experience threatened to derail him. Satoshi Ito, Daiwa’s R&D Director, helped Fujita purchase a bass boat and a Toyota Sequoia tow vehicle in America and drove with him from California to Texas. After spending the night at a Texas motel “in the middle of nowhere,” they started the Sequoia the next morning. Its normally quiet engine roared like a dragster. The catalectic converter had been stripped from the vehicle.

“We went to a Toyota dealer and they told us we would have to wait eight months for a replacement,” Ito said. “We were so tired and bummed out.”

Falling snow didn’t help their state of mind. They sold the Sequoia, bought a used Tundra and resumed their trek. Not one to be deterred, Fujita was soon traveling on his own and living in motels near the tournament waters. To help Fujita find safe accommodations, Ito researched motels on the internet and asked for advice from Daiwa’s pro staff anglers.

Not only did Fujita travel by himself, he found his own bass on waters he had never seen without help from other anglers. The seeds for his angling acumen were sown at age 3 when his father Toshiyuki began taking him fishing along with his brother Natsuki, who is three three years his elder.

These early outings were mainly fishing live bait for saltwater gobies from piers and stream fishing for a native salmon called the masu. When Fujita was 6 his father was given a stash of basic bass baits from a coworker. This prompted the Fujita gang to see what the lures could do in local bass ponds.

When Fujita caught his first bass at age 7, he didn’t realize the 12-inch largemouth had set him on a path to bass stardom. At around this age the Fujitas began renting boats so they could pursue bass off the bank. These vessels came with paddles and had no gas or electric motors.

Bank fishing tournaments are popular in Japan. Fujita competed in one of these events for trout age 9 to see what it was all about. He and his brother fished their first bass derby from the bank when he was 13.

“About 85% of anglers in Japan fish from the bank,” said Fujita.

Tackle shops often host bank fishing derbies for their customers. There are also professional bank fishing tournaments in Japan. Fujita participated in them to satisfy his competitive urges and gain more bass fishing knowledge.

Because you must be 18 years or older to compete in professional Japanese bass tournaments, Fujita had to wait until he had graduated from high school to do so. To support himself and his bass addiction, he managed the produce section in a grocery store and later managed a pay-fishing pond that is stocked with trout.

He competed in his first top tier bass tournament in 2019 when he was 20. His brother, who had been fishing these events for two years, helped him get started. It took Fujita less than six years to establish himself as one of Japan’s bass fishing superstars. His brother has also done well.

While competing in the Northern Opens, Fujita also continued to fish bass tournaments in Japan. Traveling back and forth between countries on opposite sides of the world proved especially challenging.

“That was more difficult than not speaking English,” Fujita said.

His exhausting schedule hasn’t diminished his love for bass fishing. Fujita currently lives in Yamanashi, Japan, near Lake Kawaguchi, which is overlooked by snowcapped Mount Fuji. When not competing in a tournament, he fishes for Kawaguchi’s bass nearly every day. He dreams of winning the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and the Bassmaster Classic.

Fujita’s sponsors include Daiwa, Jackall, SLP Works and Pulse.