West Coast Pros Weigh In on the Japan Cali Lure Connection

bass fishing lures from Japan to California

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay




Winter 2021



n 2006, young bass pro Ishama Monroe had an

incredible year. Fishing both the FLW Tour and the

inaugural season of the Bassmaster Elite Series, the 32-year-old angler banked about $400,000. That included

$103,000 for winning the first Elite event on Lake Amistad

and another $100,00 for winning the Busch Shootout on

Grapevine Lake in Texas.

Indeed, the Lone Star State was very good to Ish that

year, but it wasn’t where he wanted to be when the season


Unlike some pros, he didn’t head to Hawaii for some

R&R. Unlike some NFL quarterbacks, he wasn’t going to

Disneyland. Instead, he made a beeline for Japan.

His friend, tackle designer Hideki Maeda, later of Teckel

Lures, took him on a tackle shopping spree for the ages. Ish

spent over $10,000 on fishing gear on that lone trip to Asia,

including $800 for a single rod made by Daiwa, one of his


“At that time, the action wasn’t available over here,” he

said. “But my rod from Daiwa is based on that Carolina rig


Unlike Ish, fellow California native Aaron Martens was

a fan of Japanese tackle much earlier. His area in Southern

California was the gateway for many of the Japanese fishing

innovations that only made it to the rest of the United States

much later.

Indeed, by the time many Ozarks anglers learned about

the Megabass Vision 110, let alone acquired one, Martens

had not only fished them for years, but had guided company

page founder Yuki Ito in California.


By Pete Robbins

“We had two or three stores by my house that were just like Japanese stores,” he recalled. “I used Lucky Craft and Megabass Lures back then, but to be honest I probably caught more fish on Wiggle Warts and Speed Traps than anything.”

Possibly the allure, wasn’t necessarily the Japanese baits, as much as the attitude and the innovation of the products.

“Working with Japanese companies and clients since I was 14 or 15, I benefited in a lot of different ways,” said Martens. “I learned to dropshot from them before anyone here had ever heard of it. They tend to be very technical. I’m not as technical as I used to be but that’s why the Japanese fishermen tended to relate to me.”

Monroe said that getting to know the people in Japan and from Japan was worth more than many of his purchases. Notwithstanding the frog rod discovery that has made him tens of thousands of dollars since then, he said he purchases “lots of stuff that looks really good but has zero function.”

As a confirmed power fisherman, he’s tended not to rely on the new finesse techniques that arrive in the U.S. from Japan every year or two, or the gear to implement it. Nevertheless, to some extent the simplicity and cleanliness that many Japanese anglers portray may have seeped into his psyche.

“I look at Shin’s boat and it’s super clean,” he explained. “The need for all of that new tackle has passed for me. I’ve gone back to simplifying my tackle. In the 10 or so years I have left in my career – by my last year – I will fish the whole