Japanese angler Shinichi Fukae doesn’t speak English, but his fishing skills lose nothing in translation. The Osaka native recently made professional bass fishing history by becoming the first person to win angler of the year honors in two countries: Japan in 2003, and the United States in 2004 on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour. Guido Hibdon, who also fishes the FLW Tour, says, “My hat’s off to the guy. First time I met Shin, it was six days before I knew what color his boat and van were because he left so early and came back to the campground so late. He sleeps in his van. That’s how hungry he is to win.” F&S caught up with Fukae, 32, and spoke with him through an interpreter.
F&S: Congratulations. Were you surprised to do so well here?
FUKAE: I still can’t believe I won angler of the year. I love to fish here and hope this is just the beginning. This is like a dream for me.
F&S: Were you prepared for the level of competition you faced here?
FUKAE: I don’t think that way really. Fishing is against the fish and nature, not the other anglers. There is just the fish and the fisherman. You don’t try to catch other fishermen. You try to catch the fish.
F&S: What is your favorite lure and technique?
FUKAE: I like finesse fishing with a 4- to 6-inch straight worm on a 3/32-ounce jig-head and 6-pound line.
F&S: Japanese anglers like you and Bassmaster Champion Takahiro Omori are known for extremely precise bait presentation. Where does that come from?
FUKAE: That’s because we don’t have so many fish in our lakes. So the Japanese want to fish all the bass in a given spot. And because Japanese people are good at doing one thing exactly.
F&S: What made you decide to come to the United States?
FUKAE: Bass fishing was born in America. You have so much bass history. Japanese people admire your pros, like Larry Nixon and Rick Clunn. I think they might be more popular in Japan than here. We follow them on the Internet. They have many fans.
F&S: You must have picked up some English by now.
FUKAE: Oh, yes! I know the most important things: Net. Move boat. Please. Thank you. I use net the most. I mean, net, please. –BILL HEAVEY