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There is more to Shimano than just reels and rods, just ask Ted Sakai

Date: 12/02/07
Interview: Ted Sakai
Title Product Manager Gear & Accessories, Shimano
Interviewer: Zander




Meet Ted Sakai Fishing Gear and Accessory Product Manager for Shimano

Introduction: It wasn't long ago that Shimano completely revamped their accessories lineup, and a new style of fishing was introduced to US anglers with Butterfly Jigging system. Key to all these new products is Shimano Accessory Product Manager Ted Sakai. After getting to know Ted on a trip to El Salto I learned how passionate he was about both fishing and gear, and decided it was time to find out more about the other side of Shimano. The following are excerpts from our conversation.

Zander: Hi Ted, thanks for taking the time to sit down with me. Let’s start with your background and your current role here at Shimano. How did you get into the tackle industry and what are you responsible for here at Shimano?  

T.Sakai: Your welcome and thank you for this opportunity. It has been a long time since I first got into the tackle business. I originally came to US back in 1992 to establish sales for a Japanese industrial OEM manufacturer, at that time I was strictly a weekend fisherman.  After 7 years being in US, I received an offer from Japanese fishing lure company here in California for an opportunity to help start up their business. After 4 years with that company, I learned that Shimano was expanding their gear and accessory business, at which time I immediately jumped on that opportunity. That is how I got involved in fishing industry. My current role in Shimano is as a Product Manager for fishing gear and accessories, which basically means everything outside of rods and reels.

The Bristol Bay portable livewell bag is designed specifically for the growing kayak market

What makes a Shimano bag special and any different than any other storage solution? Before I took this position at Shimano, Shimano’s tackle bag business was handled by business licensee whose goal was pursuing mass business for sales volumes. Today, our goal has shifted to provide unique and innovative products for a wide range of fishing applications. 

Zander: Do the bags for the US market get thought up here or in Japan, can you walk us through how a bag makes it from an idea to a real product, is there a lot of field testing involved?

T. Sakai: Shimano tackle bags available in US market are never an import of what is available in Japan. Our strategy of designing tackle management is shifting from making bags to carry tackle boxes to what is required for specific fishing applications. For example, when people started throwing big swim baits like those from Osprey or Castaic for largemouth bass, we came up with Broadway Lure Storage Bag for storing those big baits horizontally without causing damage to their soft tails.

Ted was responsible for introducing the Butterfly Jigs to the US

Zander: We are seeing a lot of growth in the Kayak fishing market, are you offering anything specific for kayak anglers?  

T. Sakai: At ICAST’07, we received “The Best of Tackle Management Award” with “Bristol Bay Portable Live-well Bag”.  This product is specially designed for Kayak fisherman with ideas inputted by Jim Sammons of La Jolla Kayak Fishing.  Kayak fishing is no longer just a enjoyable experience, but is now true sportfishing in every sense of the word, and a lot of catch-and-release tournaments are held throughout the US.  The Bristol Bay Portable Live-well bag can keep both your bait or catch alive by circulating water through the bag via a bilge pump.

The Baysteel saltwater multi tool was designed to complement the Butterfly Jigging system

Zander: Specialized tools are not something we would have expected out of Shimano, we have all seen traditional pliers branded by many manufacturers but when you came out with the Baysteel series we saw a tool designed for a very particular angling application. Can you tell us more about how Baysteel was born, and if we expect more specialized offerings?  

T. Sakai: The Baysteel Multi-tool was born to satisfy needs that arose with Butterfly jigging system.  When we came out with Butterfly jigging system, it simply needed a new style of tool that could cut spectra braided line and open large heavy split rings, all in one tool. None of the other  tools in the market today do both these jobs.  I am currently working on a new higher-end of Baysteel Multi-tool for the next year so stay tuned.

Ted with a El Salto bass at the debut of the Cumara fishing rods

Zander: Let’s talk about Butterfly Jigs. I know that you were very involved in the entire Butterfly system, has the response from anglers been what you expected, and is there anything new we can expect from the lineup?  

T. Sakai: Yes, I was heavily involved in this project.  The market reaction to the introduction of Butterfly jigging system has far exceeding than what we expected.  In fact we had severe delivery problems in the first year due to surpassed demand from all over the US. I was very surprised to see how Shimano could influence fishing market as a whole. Last year, we developed and introduced Butterfly Flat-side jigs which were created to satisfy the requirements of US private boaters, and it is now becoming the hottest jig in Northeast tuna jigging market. Today, the word “Butterfly jigging" has become synonymous with the new vertical jigging technique with swinging hooks in the front eye of jigs. I was very pleased to be a part of promoting this innovative fishing technique in the US market. Anglers can also expect more sizes and new colors in 2008 in the butterfly jigging system. 

The Evair fishing boat deck boots are both lightweight and 100% waterproof

Zander: You have also been working on new clothing, and perhaps most interesting fishing boots and sandals. Can you tell us more about the Evair lineup, and why Shimano is moving into this area?

T. Sakai: Well, did you know Shimano is the largest manufacturer of Bicycle shoes in the world? So why not in the fishing market?  If you fish out of your own boat or if you are not the deckhand of party boat, you have no reason to wear heavy rubber boots.  If you wear sneakers, you get wet and your fishing is pretty much done for the day. That is why we came out with Evair fishing boots.  Our newest addition is the Evair sandals which have also been well received by our dealers for both saltwater and freshwater applications.

Ted catches a Calico bass while testing the butterfly jigs

Zander: I would imagine that during the holiday season accessories like these would be popular gifts among anglers, is there any product in particular that has really done exceptionally well?

T. Sakai: Oh boy, there are a lot of offerings right now. Starting with the Broadway –Modular Tackle Storage System. All the Broadway tackle bags come in an individual color box which can be a great gift idea for holiday seasons.  Evair boots or sandals are also a good gift idea for the upcoming fishing season. We also offer high quality hats and visor, with quality features like breathable mesh fabric with A-Flex head band.

Zander: Ok, let’s have some fun and talk about you. How often do you get to go fishing, and what type of fishing do you most enjoy?

Shimano's newest shoe is the Evair marine fishing sandals which are designed to be lightweight and still able to absorb heel shock and reduce foot fatigue from all day fishing

T. Sakai: I go fishing as much as I can and every weekend for sure on my own boat. Butterfly jigging is my favorite type of saltwater fishing and I typically pursue both local bass and yellows.

Zander: Do you have a favorite rod and reel’s combo?

T. Sakai: Whatever Shimano makes. Since I am jigging fisherman, I like Trevala rods and Stella 8000 reels for local jigging.

Need a bag for your big saltwater reels? Shimano introduces the Broadway saltwater reel bag which features an extremely heavy duty weather proof material and Intercept technology to protect reels from corrosion, rust, and mildew

Zander: Hahah, I guess should have expected that. How about freshwater, when we fished together at El Salto I was impressed by your collection of jerkbaits, being a fan of ripbait fishing myself. Do you have any favorite lures for bass fishing? 

T.Sakai: It was great time fishing with you at El Salto. I don’t have much opportunity to bass fish, as I mostly focus on saltwater fishing these days, my preference for freshwater tackle has not changed much.  If I would go bass fishing, I definitely like to try jerkbaits and topwater no matter what the conditions are.

Zander: Looks like you have some very exciting things going on. We would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. In closing is there anything you would like to say to our readers?

Ted and Shimano President, Dave Pfeiffer, land a nice Yellow on a Butterfly Jig

T. Sakai: One last thing I will share with you, Shimano will be introducing a new fishing technique with unique jigs, rods and reels all in combination early next year. This technique is unique and will change the way anglers bottom fish, and trust me it will be a very exciting way to pursue fish down deep. Best of all this fishing technique isn’t limited to saltwater only, so keep your eyes open for this one. In closing I’d just like to say it was a pleasure to be able to speak directly to your readers through this interview, thank you so much for this opportunity

TackleTour would like to thank Ted Sakai for sitting down with us to talk accessories









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