Epic Interviews with Japan's Top Trophy Bass Hunters

Story by Matt and Chinami Paino, Dr. Rogelio Villarreal and Russ Bassdozer

To begin our trophy bass hunter series in Japan, these are some of the first stories to inform the world about Japan's trophy bass fishing as told by the top trophy hunters themselves.

There have been trophy bass in Japan for many years, but  trophy hunters there have always felt that Japan did not get enough recognition for its trophy bass potential. Now, we've given each trophy hunter a chance to tell their story, and we'll publish each one-by-one in the order shown:.

  1. Interview with Shimada (the previous 19.15 record holder)
  2. Interview with Kurita (the new 22.4 record holder)
  3. Interview with Okumura (deps tackle company owner)
  4. Interview with Yasumura (monster bass hunter)

We asked each trophy hunter identical questions about big bass in Japan, and their answers translated to English for you.

It is a special honor for us to be able to tell the world about Japan's trophy fisheries and fishermen in their own words.

And although many of us may never fish in Japan, the interviews have lots of key info that's useful to try to relate how these trophy hunter's game plans can help you catch some of the monster bass on your own home waters.


Here now is Okumura's story, beginning with a little background. In 1992, Okumura-san started to gain much media attention by breaking the ten pound barrier several times in a row on Japan's famed bass water, Lake Biwa. He used an original design heavy weight spinnerbait, slow-rolling it deep along the bottom, a tactic not practiced much in Japan. However, Okumura loved to fish with big spinnerbaits, and he had an uncanny knack of catching monster bass, especially when outdoor writers/photographers were fishing with him. So that lure and technique started Okumura's career and legend as one of Japan's foremost big bass experts, and it led to his founding of the deps lure company in 1998, at the age of 28.

At first, deps offered Okumura's legendary spinnerbait named the B-Custom. It became an immediate sensation in Japan and the B-Custom still ranks as one of the best fish catching lures in Japan today.

But Okumura didn't stop there. Okumura and deps began to test and manufacture new styles of big baits not seen before in Japan, or anywhere. One radical new design was a big wakebait named the Buzzjet 96, released in 2003. It still remains the most popular big wakebait in Japan today.

In 2004, deps released another big bait, the Silent Killer jointed swimbait which features a hard plastic body encased within a soft silicone skin covering it. As the name implies, this big bait is both a silent runner and a subtle killer on big bass. This bait has demonstrated that  there are times when silence and subtleness, even in a big bait, is key to catching monsters.

Okumura's next triumph was the release of the Realiser, a big bait which capitalizes upon the plentiful bluegill population of Okumura's home lake, Lake Biwa. With its larger profile, the Realiser features an unorthodox look and an action that's designed to mimic big sunfish sunning or swimming through grass. The deps Realiser has become a required bait for many of  Japan's big fish anglers.

In 2007, he released the High Sider, a big triple-jointed swimbait that has 4 body sections to produce a lot of  high side flaring with its body roll. It is very effective when used on a straight grind for monster bass.

As you have seen with the previous two Japanese fish hunters' interviews (Shimada and Kurita), the large profile lures are popular with these trophy hunters. What's different in Okumura's case is that he founded deps to research and develop the very lures that Okumura has required throughout his intense and much-publicized pursuit of lunker bass. Okumura's vision has been for deps to develop big profile lures like the B-Custom, Buzzjet 96, Silent Killer, Realiser, High Sider and others that would give him a better chance of catching Japan's monster bass. Such big lures really didn't exist at all in Japan before 2000, and it is only since then that the monster bass potential in Japan has been tapped - with the development of big baits. Before the big bait boom, monster bass catches in Japan were uncommon. Okumura has been a pioneer through the big bass tackle produced by deps and via his insights shared in magazines, DVDs and on TV.

Interview with Japan's Top Trophy Bass Hunter: Okumura

Question #1: How long have you been fishing for trophy bass, Okumura-san? How did you get started?

Okumura: For about 18 years. Ever since I was a little kid I have always wanted to catch big fish. There is nothing like the feeling and value you get when you catch a big bass and thatís what keeps me going.

Question #2: Please tell us a brief "fishing bio" about yourself (200 words or less) such as: how many days do you fish, if you are pro tournament angler, if you are in the fishing tackle business, if you are sponsored by companies in the fishing tackle business, if you are a fishing guide, if you have written or been written about in trophy bass articles/books, on fishing TV shows or videos - none of those things are necessary, but just establishes who you are with the unfamiliar reader. Basically, please share 200 words or less "fishing bio" about yourself.

Okumura: I started writing articles for several magazines around 1993 introducing my fishing style of targeting big bass. At that time some of the magazine editors started to go fishing with me and together we introduced monster fish hunting to the Japanese public. In Japan ant that time, fishing was mainly with light tackle and finesse rigs.

In 1998, I established my company, deps Co. (www.depsweb.co.jp) and since then Iíve been dedicated to designing lures and rods for catching big bass.

Although I am not a tournament angler I have become very popular and known to all the Japanese anglers because I have demonstrated in videos and in magazines various techniques on how to catch trophy bass.

I work with and am publicized through the following:

Magazines: Lure Magazine, Rod & Reel, Basser Numerous articles on big bass fishing
DVDs: Naigai Publishing D-plosion I to D-plosion VI series of DVDs on big bass fishing
Tsuri Vision D-IMPACT EXTRA
Rod & Reel Okumura Kazumasa x Lake Biwa Strange Game
Television
Shows:
Tsuri Vision Okumura Kazumasa D-IMPACT
Kan Tere Ondema Okumura Kazumasa - GREAT LUNKER HUNTER

Question #3: How many trophy bass have you caught (definition/size of a "trophy" is whatever you prefer)? What is the size of your biggest trophy bass?

Okumura: Over the past 10 years, most of my time on the water has been working with Japanese magazines and producing bass fishing DVDs where I have been called upon to catch 60cm (23.6") bass and above. In Japan, the 60cm bass are called "ROKU MARU" and that is considered to be a trophy catch. Most of my fish have been right around this 60cm mark in length and weigh between 4-5 kilos (9 to 11 lbs) in weight. Most of these fish have come off of rubber jigs, big swim baits or big worms.

Question #4: What rod and reel combos do you use most often for trophy bass hunting? What line and pound test do you use most often (mono, fluoro, braid) for trophy bass hunting? We are not asking so much about brands and models, but about general features of the rods, reels, lines you most often use for trophy bass hunting. Also, we are not asking about every rod, reel, line you use - that can be many different outfits. We wish to give the reader (who may be unfamiliar with trophy bass hunting in Japan) a general feel for what you most often would prefer to use in terms of rod, reel, line - understanding it is not the only outfit you use - but the one you would prefer to use, or tend to use most often.

Okumura:

  • 7 Foot Heavy Action Fast Tapered Rod with 20lb fluorocarbon
  • 7 foot 6 inch Heavy Action Medium Fast Tapered Rod with 25lb fluorocarbon
  • 8 Foot Extra Heavy Action Medium Fast Tapered Rod with 25-30lb fluoro or also with 66lb braid
  • All reels that I use have a line capacity for holding 70 meters of 25lb line

Question #5: What are your top three techniques for catching giant bass?

Okumura

  1. Big baits (lipless jointed types) used with a jerk and fall technique
  2. Swimming a jig throughout the water column
  3. Deadsticking (stitching) a big worm

I do not agree with Japanese pro anglers or filming videos of bed fishing right when the spawn is occurring but I do think the world record fish will come off of a bed.

Question #6: What are your top three lures for attracting trophies?

Okumura:

  1. Big baits - lipless jointed type
  2. Big worms - 8 to 13 inches
  3. Rubber jigs

Question #7. What is the best time of the year for trophies in Japan?

Okumura: I think that for Lake Ikehara, mid-April to the end of May is the best time period.

For Lake Biwa, from March to the end of June since there is a big difference in spawning months between the south end (Nanko) of the lake and the north (Kita) end of the lake.

Question #8. What role do electronics play for you when hunting for trophy bass?

Okumura: I do not find any need for electronics at Lake Ikehara because sight fishing is the main style of monster fishing there. In the case of Lake Biwa, electronics can be extremely helpful to look at and understanding difficult topography, or examine dredged areas, sunken boats, locating schools of fish as well as bait, and weed lines. However I turn off the power when I am fishing a well-known spot or at my top ranked spots.

Question #9. Once you are on the water, how do you divide your fishing day trying to locate trophy bass?

Okumura: I will target the areas that I feel have the highest potential to produce lunkers. If I do not feel that the timing is right there, I will wait it out or go check other areas or even circle back to the original high-potential spots and repeat the process, kind of keep cycling through the potential areas until I hit them.

Question #10. What is the main trophy bass forage in Japan's lakes?

Okumura: Bluegill is the main bait at Lake Biwa. Sometimes bass will prey upon other bass as well. Biwako (Ko means lake, so Biwako means Lake Biwa) has lots of weeds and therefore there is an abundance of crawfish, shrimp and ayu ensuring that bass have plenty to eat and grow rapidly during their life.

At Lake Ikehara, the monster bass feed on Ugui and Funa which are both large baitfish. The water is extremely clear at Ikehara. It is so clear that, except for the spawning period, it is rare that monster bass are caught there. So, except for the spawning period, Lake Ikehara has less pressure on big bass compared to Lake Biwa.

Both Lake Ikehara and Biwa have Florida strain bass. However itís only been within the past 10 years that the bass have seen considerable growth spurts and we are now seeing more of these monsters. I believe that the changing weather patterns and changing climate is a factor in the bass growing larger in recent years.

Question #11. Do you do any night fishing for trophy bass?

Okumura: No. A camera crew is usually always with me fishing so no night fishing.

Question #12: Do you feel there is a particular time of day or night when it is best to catch trophy bass?

Okumura:  From my experience, I notice that bass go into a feeding time around 10am, 1pm, and 3 o' clock in the afternoon. So between 10 and 4 in general is a good timeframe to be trophy fishing.

Question #13: What do you feel that trophy bass do different, that ordinary size bass do not do?

Okumura: I think that smaller bass behavior is preoccupied with constantly looking for bait. For trophy bass, their top priority is safety or security first and foremost.

Question #14: What do you do different when hunting trophy bass, that you do not do when fishing for ordinary size bass?

Okumura: When I target big bass, I try not to worry or become anxious that I have to catch a monster that day. I tell myself I have the whole season to catch a monster. I also use large lures when targeting big fish.