From late March into early April I visited Japan with my wife. One of my minor regrets about our previous “big holiday” to America, was that in five weeks I didn’t do any bass fishing.
Twenty years ago when I started fishing, I had a bass fishing video game on my PC so it’s always a fish I’ve wanted to catch. I looked into it but decided against because of the price of a guide and a boat for one day, given the length of time we were spending in the US.
As Japan was to be a two week holiday, I decided that a day of fishing should be on the agenda and began to do my research. I considered some sea fishing in Tokyo Bay but realised that I would prefer to fish during our stint in Kyoto.
The first thing I came across on Google was Bass Fishing on Lake Biwa. Bass are non-native to Japan, being originally from the USA, so in some ways are technically not the real deal for a Japanese fishing experience. However, Bass Fishing’s popularity in Japan has made the country the second largest market for bass fishing after the USA, and the joint world record has now been caught on Lake Biwa. At the same time, it would satisfy my previous regret of not doing any bass fishing in the USA.
After more research, I found an English-speaking guide from Truth Fishing Guide Service who you could hire for the day for ¥50,000 (£350 GBP/$450 USD).
My guide, Okuma, picked me up promptly from my hotel near Omiya station in Kyoto at 6am and drove us under an hour to the marina. On the way, he told me that fishing had recently been difficult as the weather hadn’t yet warmed up enough and the ice from the surrounding mountains was still melting into the lake. However, I remained enthusiastically optimistic.
Okuma fuelled the boat up and shortly after 7am we were out on the water. We tried a few different spots with no success, tearing about the lake on the boat at high speed before Okuma hooked into the first bass of the day. By that point, having not caught anything in the first couple of hours, being incredibly tired from the combination of running around photographing every temple and castle in Kyoto, and waking up at 5:30am, I had become slightly pessimistic about our chances. I took a snap of Okuma’s bass since it was the first one I’d seen outside of a video game, and began fishing again with rekindled enthusiasm.
Not long and Okuma caught another bass. This time it was a much better size of around 5lb. We continued fishing and bam! I was into a fish! Twenty seconds or so into the fight the fish launched itself out of the air – not being experienced with this behaviour I left the rod tip up, and it flung the hook. I wasn’t too disappointed though, I’d actually hooked my first bass and I was ready for the next: now armed with the advice to plunge my rod tip straight down if this happened next time.
Shortly after, the action died down a bit. Okuma began using the smaller engine on the front of the boat to drift across a particular part of the lake before turning it around and drifting the other way. We both had another couple of bass this way, before heading to a restaurant in a hotel on the lakeside. For lunch, I ate a prawn katsu curry and explained to my Japanese guide that you can order the same curry sauce back in England at the fish and chip shop 😂.
After lunch, we went back out on the water and tried spots Okuma said we were more likely to catch larger fish. Okuma caught at least one more fish that afternoon but the big ones evaded us both. It would have been nice to catch a better size bass, but as we headed back in at 4pm, I was pretty satisfied with my day as I had ticked a species I’ve long wanted to catch off the list.