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Spreading the Sport with Pro Angler Kota Kiriyama


Date: 11/30/11
Interview: Kota Kiriyama
Subject: Fishing Tournaments, Lures
Interviewer: B. Hiroshima (Brock)

Introduction: Kota Kiriyama is one of the most well known professional bass anglers out of Japan and is very involved in promoting greater interest in the sport both here in the U.S. and in Japan. We catch up with Kota as the American Dream Tournament, which he is heavily involved with, is in full swing.


Pro Angler Kota Kiriyama fishes for bass on both sides of the world

Brock: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down with us. Let's start at the beginning, when did you start fishing and for what species?

Kota: I started fishing when I was around 5 years old for smaller Japanese fish such as Oikawa, funa, and carp.

Brock: What region of Japan did you first learn to bass fish in?

Kota: Mainly Chiba prefecture which is located on the east side of Tokyo.

Brock: Do you have any fishing heroes in Japan?

Kota: Koji Yoshida, he was one of the pioneers to first come to the US to fish tournaments.

Brock: Around what time did you fish your first bass tournament?

Kota: When I was in high school in Japan. There were more than 400 boats in a small reservoir in Chiba and I took 13th place, and picked up a new reel!!

Kota catches a bass on famous Lake Biwa in Japan

Brock: When did you decide you wanted to come over to America to fish and what inspired you?

Kota: When I was in high school, I worked by the only International airport in Japan. I saw many foreigners there speaking other languages that I could not understand.  Then I realized the importance of language in order to communicate with foreigners, so I decided I wanted to visit America.  I then worked hard to make money to visit the US.

Brock: How is tournament fishing different in America vs Japan?

Kota: There are many differences. First of all, Japan is geographically much smaller than the US as you know, so the number of lakes and rivers that are available to tournaments is very limited. Many lakes have clear water and are of smaller size which causes a high pressured body of water. So many tournament fishermen in a small body of water at once results in high pressured water. The lakes here are much bigger than lakes in Japan and they also offer different types of bass such as spotted bass and smallmouth bass, and the Delta also offers the added element of tidal fishing.

Brock: In 2000 you fished the world series of bass tournaments, the Bassmaster's Classic. How did you get there and what was your first Classic experience like?

Kota: My first Classic was amazing. It was held at Chicago, IL.  I had my friends come over from Japan and we never slept!! I still took 4th place, but there is always that should have could have deal!  I just enjoyed being at the Classic. I got to the first Classic through the western Invitational. I took second place in AOY in Western Bassmaster Invitational. I could have caught a few more good fish and won, but I lost 3 kickers!! Being impatient I broke them off! Sleepless nights got to me also! hahaha, now it is both a good and bitter memory!!

Kota's tournament rig

Brock: Which techniques that you learned in Japan helped you the most in America? Are there any techniques you have absorbed since fishing in America that have helped you?

Kota: Since I started early when I was in Japan I really did not have anything solid from there, but I knew the basic movement of bass based on fishing Lake Inba in Chiba, Japan. I actually learned most of my techniques in the US.

Brock: Switching gears you have had the privilege to work with arguably one of the most prolific lure designers of the last 20 years Mr. Seji Kato (Daiwa, Lucky Craft, Jackall fame) how did this relationship start?

Kota: It was crazy and funny.  When I was a student in New York, I called Lucky Craft one day and asked for Seiji because I had a lure that caught many fish.  I knew I was crazy to do that out of common sense, but Seiji picked up the phone and I asked him where I could get his lure.  He said it is not available in the US, so he said he would send it to me.  Few days later, I received lures from him and was happy. A few months later, I was working for him as an interpreter when he visited the US. This was the beginning of everything. I am embarrassed to write about this since what I did was considered an abnormal behavior in Japan. Everything had to fit in the frame in Japanese society, but I was out of it.

Kota lands a chunk Smallie

Brock: How shortly after that did you meet Ty Ono (president of Jackall)?

Kota: I met him almost immediately after I met Seiji. When Seiji hired me as an interpreter, I visited California, and that was where I met Ty who was with Daiwa at that time. We got along very easily and we had a lot of fun as friends first. He is a very humble man and showed me his ability of fishing by earning himself a AOY in a Japanese professional trail at the first year of establishing Jackall, Inc in Japan.

So I know both men and we have worked hard to make better baits and dedicate a lot more time on R&D than any other companies out there.  We all are hardcore bass fishermen and we understand the need of tournament fishermen by being at the highest level of competition in both countries. We have the latest technology to create lures that no one can follow. Our main HQ is located at the best place Lake Biwa (where the tied World Record bass has been caught). Our dedication and passion in bass fishing is at the highest level in tournament participation, and with the latest technology we are always striving to be the leader and create innovation in the fishing industry.

Brock: I've heard Mr. Kato often goes through 50-100 prototypes for one design, can you speak to this?

Kota: That is very ordinary for what he would like to pursue. I am working with him now on a new lure and we just passed about 30 and are still working on it!

Kota can't resist the Jackall swimming Ninja

Brock: What is your favorite hard and soft bait out of the Jackall lineup?

My favorite hard bait is the Squad minnow 95. My favorite soft bait is the Crazy Ninja Crosstail shad!!

Brock: Let's talk about the Swimming Ninja for a minute. Aside from the notable success you found at Lake Amistad in Texas with it how has this bait helped your fishing style and do you throw other swim baits?

Kota: I do throw other baits. The Swimming Ninja works well especially in the clear water and slow conditions. So when fish are biting well, I pick up other swim lures to catch them also. Swimbait fishing has helped me cover water faster and I get to pick the size of fish in many conditions.

Fishing the Alabama Rig

I've heard you run a custom outfit on the tour, can you talk a little about your rod and reel pairings?

Kota: With my style of fishing and the fact that I'm not a big person I need to have equipment that is lighter yet strong. I need equipment that I can continue using for 2 weeks in a row without getting tired without having broken parts. Based on this R&D concept, I design everything. My sponsors have been working with me closely and this is the only way that I can work. So whatever I use and produce, it has to be extreme. Fishing the toughest conditions on the US tour I can provide good information. Coupled with the latest technology and the super hard working mentality in Japan, I can come out with the best equipment in the world. There is no doubt about it.

Brock: With all the various fishing lines out today which do you prefer using in certain applications? 

Kota: I prefer using mainly fluorocarbon line when I fish under the surface such as when fishing worm, jigs, jerkbaits, Alabama dropshot (Carolina rig), flick shaking and dropshotting. I love to use braid for top water fishing and sometimes deep cranking. I also use braid when I fish grass areas with vibration lures shallow cranking. Flipping mats are good with braid also. I almost use no mono except for smaller top water lures like the SK popper and smaller prop baits. Sometimes when the water is clear, I choose mono. I do not use much leader.

Spreading the spot on the American Dream Tournament trail

Brock: Iíve also heard that on the tournament trail in Japan has been a great success, what inspired you to start the American Dream tournament trail and can you tell us a little about it?

My inspiration to start the American Dream tournament comes from wanting to be the bridge from Japan to the US. Since I am living in the fishing industry, I wanted to have a tournament that could take people who aspired to widen their view of life! Because of my own experience being in another country, there are a lot of things to learn and that made me mentally rich.  I would never had become who I am if I did not leave my country when I was 18. By leaving my country, I see where I come from and who I am. By knowing this, I will see what I can do in my future to connect different cultures because there is so much out there we all should see and know about as a human beings. This is why my father told me to go to America, I realize that now, and I would like both Japanese and Americans to know each other.

Brock: Thank you Mr. Kiriyama for the great stories and insight into your past.

If you would like to follow Mr. Kiriyama's tournament life, new lures, as well as new techniques check out his English blog at www.ninjatacklebox.com (Japanese blog http://kotakiriyama.com/blog). American Dream tournament information can be found at www.kotaamericandream.com He also is on Facebook and Twitter under Kota Kiriyama.

Kota would like to thank his sponsors: Jackall, Shimano, Basscat, Yamaha, Owner hooks, DNA sunglasses, Power Pole, Decatur-Morgan county CVB, Adventure Advertising, American Dream Realized, LLC, Torklift international









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