I was born in Tokyo, Japan and when I was very young my family moved to the countryside. My father used to take me saltwater fishing all the time. I caught my first bass at a small pond with my friends when I was 9 years old.
I heard that bass originally came from the U.S., as well as most of the techniques and popular lures. Bass fishing was very different from the type of fishing that I did with my father.
Using a lure to catch bass is very challenging. My friends and I would ride bicycles and fish almost every weekend at a small pond near my house. I did this until I graduated from junior high school. I played many different sports throughout school including Kendo(Japanese martial arts). I played Kendo 9 years and won several competitions but I always liked fishing and wanted to stay in touch with mother nature.
When I reached high school, I heard about a local bass fishing tournament. I used my summer vacation to ride a train with some of my friends to get to Lake Kawaguchi, near Mt. Fuji.
When I was 16 years old, Gary Yamamoto came to Japan to promote his lure company and I met him. I quickly learned from Gary that tournament fishing is totally different from just fun fishing. Amateur angler fish the way whatever they like and the result of catch doesn’t matter but not Pro’s.
Around this same time, one of my friends showed me an issue of the first Japanese bass fishing magazine called BASSER. From then, I started reading every issue and I saw coverage of the 1986 Bassmaster Classic. They were competing professionally for prize money and fishing for a win. This blew my mind and I thought that was so cool. They are fishing from a fully rigged Ranger boat and wearing sponsor logo patches all over their jersey and get paid to go fishing. This was the daily conversation among my friends and me.
I competed in junior tournaments throughout high school and by the time I graduated, I knew that bass fishing is what I really wanted to do for a living. I was not interested in college or becoming a doctor or lawyer and anything. My father was not very happy with this decision and my parents and teacher said fishing is just a hobby. So, unfortunately, I did not get any financial help from anyone to start my career as a pro.
After I graduated high school my parents didn’t allow me to stay at home without studying to go to college. So I moved out to Lake Kawaguchi and lived in a tent on a small island and fished every day. After that, I started working an odd job (hotel bell boy, dishwasher. waiter, construction work) to help support my fishing and enter any tournament I could afford to gain experience.
One day, I remember that Daiwa Corporation invited a few U.S. pros like Rick Clunn and Denny Brauer in Japan. They are superstars and I studied them very closely back then. I came up with one main conclusion. I needed to go to the U.S. and compete for tournaments and experiment what is real professional bass tournament is all about.
Heading to America
I saved up all my money ( $2,000) and carried one tackle box, a few rods and clothes with me and I made my first trip to the U.S. in 1992 to compete in the Texas B.A.S.S. Invitational. I could not speak any English and didn’t know anyone there. I was 21 years old and everyone I talked to in Japan told me I was crazy and impossible to be successful. That kind of stuff even motivated me more. I was young and I had nothing to lose. I started as a non-boater and learned the ropes from the bottom up. It was really a struggle in the beginning without sponsors and I had to sleep inside an old truck most nights. Besides the difficulty of learning how to find and catch bass, I also needed to learn the language and culture. I had a no idea that there was this many outside fishing stuff involved to being as a tour pro. My only option was to catch some bass and win a tournament or go back to Japan as a loser.
Since I didn’t get much help I had to figure things out on my own and deal with everything by myself. This way took a lot more time, but I didn’t have any other choice. This made me humble and tough as a person.
Before I ever fished B.A.S.S. invitationals, I created a 15-year career plan(1991-2005). If I look back at this plan now, it was always in the back of my mind like some kind of force. Because of this plan, incredible things were happening in real life. I thought it would take about 10 years to make Classic. It was exactly to that, I qualified for my first Bassmaster Classic in 2001.
It basically took me 10 years to understand mentality about the game of tournament fishing and to be able to compete at the highest level. Part of my plan was to win the Bassmaster Classic. I won in 2004 and I made it happen in the last 5 minutes of the last day when I caught my biggest bass of the week. I think mentality having this goal-oriented mindset and all my past experiences of tournament fishing helped make this thing happen. I’m naturally a positive thinking person and very stubborn as well. I think a key in that victory was to believe in myself and I could fish the current conditions up to the very last minute.
My 15-year plan including winning A.O.Y. by 2005. I still have yet to do that and that’s what still drives me.
My reality is that I still see my heroes every tournament and to be able to compete against them and being successful is truly a dream come true. To compete at the highest level of bass fishing and keep up with that level is an amazing challenge.
I even started training with other major sports athletes at IMG academies 7 years ago. I have trained with mental coach, fitness trainer, nutrition and media to maximize every way to improve my performance as a complete tour pro. Being at the top of my game and bringing the best in myself is all I can ask for.
Living My Dream
Over the years I have seen many people come and go in this sport and many things have changed. Twenty years ago, I never thought Japan would produce bass bigger than Texas. The cost of today’s highest level of bass tournaments is so expensive. I see quality lures made in Japan like Lucky Craft. The four-stroke Yamaha SHO engine runs better than any 2 stroke engine out there. No matter what changes there are, I never want to lose that excitement and fun I felt the day I caught my first bass. Alongside with my personal life, I’d like to continue to improve myself and try to become a better bass angler every day.
Competitive bass fishing is my passion for life and I’d like to share some of this with my friends as much as I can.
Additional Biography Information
Nick Name: Tak, T.O.
Date of Birth: 9-4-1970
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan
Residence: Emory, Texas
Height: 5′ 8”
Weight: 145 lbs.
Favorite Food: Sushi and any Japanese food
Favorite Music: Techno/Club Music
Favorite Sports to watch: Formula-1 Racing
Hobby: Kart Racing