For lovers of quality tackle nothing comes close to the wow factor that Japanese tackle offers. Ingenuity, quality and that all-important bling factor we’ve grown to expect and love in Japanese tackle are there in abundance.
The Mecca for Japanese tackle is the Osaka Tackle Trade Show each February. The first of the two major annual shows in Japan, Osaka is where much of the new tackle for the year is released and where all local and overseas tackle rats get up close and personal with the latest toys.
Wall-to-wall fishing bling is the best way to describe it, with all of Japan’s famous tackle brands (Megabass, Daiwa, Jackall, Deps, Lucky Craft, Fuji, etc) there to impress, and in a lot cases there to show the next great leap forward in tackle design. For an Australian Japanese tackle addict, it was Nirvana.
The first thing that hits you when you walk into the show is the spectacle of it all. Smoke machines, stage lights, fashion parades and of course the tackle itself. Glammed-up promo girls hand out endless catalogues as constant streams of global fishing media reps hit stand after stand to record in search of the new.
It’s high-end glitz and glamour like I’ve never seen been before. Imagine walking into a David Jones or Harrods that sells only fishing tackle and you’re getting close to how it was.
Megabass was the first port of call and it wasn’t hard to find. It didn’t matter where you were in the hall, a quick glance upward to the massive Megabass sign easily showed you the way.
It was like stepping into a catalogue, with row after row of timber-lined rod racks and display shelves showcasing the latest wizardry.
For reel fans, the Black Jungle baitcaster was hard to go past for wow factor. With a series of Black Jungle rods and line to match, it was a toe-to-tail fit-out that only the Japanese, in particular Megabass, do so well.
Lures are where it all started for Megabass and they still deliver. The Baby Pop X turned the heads of the bream fishers amon us, while the Griffon BT, Deep Six, and Vibration X Power Bombs looked the goods for natives.
It was hard to top meeting Yuki Ito (Megabass founder and CEO) as one of the highlights of the trip. Quietly spoken off camera, Ito was engaging and keen to get our feedback on our favourite Megabass products. ‘I love all of them’ probably wasn’t the most defined reply that he was looking for from me, but it did convey perfectly my liking of the brand.
For Frogleys Offshore contest prizewinner Matt Little, it was a brush with a Japanese fishing celebrity that he’ll never forget. Ito presented him with two signed Pop Xs and then, onstage in front of a huge crowd on the Saturday afternoon, presenting him with a signed Megabass hoodie. For a hardcore Megabass fan like Matt it was like a Catholic being given communion by the Pope.
The willingness of the Japanese people to assist is never more evident than when you visit the stands.
Jackall led the way with their display tank filled with largemouth bass. Tank? It was more like a lap pool!
You could press your face against the glass and see how the lures swam. The new Soul Shad 62DDR SP grabbed my eye as one of the deepest-running bream and bass jerkbaits I’d ever seen.
Fuji also showcased perfectly how their products worked. One display/human operated machine showed how abrasive and conductive to heat normal guides are compared with Fuji’s high-end SiC models. When you see 10lb line break 20 times quicker on a normal guide than over quality SiC guides, you quickly understand the advantages of using top-end components.
Fuji had another demo that allowed you to feel with your own hands the increase in sensitivity that lightweight titanium guides offer. Two identical rods were loaded up on a machine that fed vibrations through the lines. One rod had titanium guides and the other didn’t.
You took turns grabbing each rod and feeling the difference, which was remarkable.
Essentially at the show if you wanted to pick up the products, play with them, look at them and in some cases get your hands dirty, you could.
And there were smiling faces happy to explain all about it. Of course, understanding it all was problematic unless you understood Japanese!
All wasn’t lost, however, with a catalogue quickly on hand to fill in any missing information and to act as a keepsake and future reference guide.
The show was as much about the fashion of fishing – the clothing, the accessories and the overriding vibe of the sport, as it was about the rods, the reels and the lures. The combination of fashion and function as a primary focus was very evident.
Task-orientated clothing such as wet weather gear, cold gear, footwear and species- and technique-specific baggage and accessories occupied a large portion of the show.
The Japanese willingness to use bold colours and contemporary styling is something that I found refreshing and, to be honest, a pleasant change to the more conservative path we tend to take here.
Well-known brands such as Daiwa, Gamakatsu, Megabass and Shimano all followed the ‘bright is better’ approach with their clothing, while a few-lesser known brands such as Breaden, Freeknot and Bawo take it to the next level with gear you’d expect to see on MTV rather than at the local boat ramp. It was funky and definitely different but, then, that’s Japan.
There were a few stands that went for the kicking-it old-school theme and for me they were among the highlights of the show. Dowluck and Vagabond, in particular, grabbed my attention.
The Dowluck stand was like stepping back into a 1950s fishing shack in the Louisiana Delta. The architecture followed that trend and so did the tackle.
Intricately painted retro lures that looked like they fell out of a 1953 Heddon catalogue were standard, and handcrafted overhead reels with simply stunningly crafted rod handles hit you with wow factor like nothing else I saw.
Vagabond, while having a similar old charm, added a touch of new school with a DJ on hand spinning records and creating a very cool hip-hop atmosphere. Custom-crafted swimbaits, pimped out old ABU overheads and out-there bass lures were the domain of this very engaging brand.
When it comes to pimping fishing tackle, no one does it like the Japanese. SLP, Human, Livre and Dress solely focus on the tools needed to make your tackle better and prettier than it already is.
SLP specialises in custom paint jobs and component upgrades for reels, while Human does it for lures and reels. Simply leaving your reels stock standard seems to be frowned on in Japan, and who could blame them?
Replacement, handles, knobs, spools, bearings, screws, and caps allow you to change the colour, function, and weight of your reel. In many ways it’s just like taking your HSV to the shop and getting it worked out even more.
Getting kids involved was a big part of the show and nowhere more so than in the retail hall, where you picked up your tackle bargains before you headed home. Knot-tying lessons, fishing ponds filled with trout, prize pools filled with stuffed fish and lucky-dip bags that needed to be hooked with a rod and hauled out into the hands of waiting parents were all part of a show that got kids engaged and fishing.
It got kids involved, smiling and enjoying the excitement of fishing and what it has to offer. It was uplifting to see the smiles on the children’s faces and this show memory that will stay with me for a long time.
There’s no denying it, the Japanese love their fishing and they love the accessories and trends that that come with it. The accessories that stood out and were common with a lot of the manufacturers included high-end, high-detailed lip grippers, collapsible holding tanks, PFDs, shoulder and weigh bags and landing nets.
Women- and child-specific tackle and clothing were popular, along with fluorocarbon lines, finesse skirted jigs, blades, lightweight rod guides and magazines and DVDs.
Among other small trends that I spotted the use of UV colour schemes on lures. We have it here to some degree already but I think there will be more to come.
There were a lot of those ‘only in Japan’ moments – items that stop you in your tracks and leave you bewildered, gobsmacked or just downright impressed.
The electric reels from Command allow you to control retrieve speed, free-spool depth, drag and more than likely make you a latté while fishing definitely stopped me in my tracks. Considering they hold over 500m of super-expensive Japanese PE, which alone would break me, I’d hate to think what the reel itself would be worth.
It was the timber-framed ABU baitcaster reel on the Matagi stand that had the ‘you’ve got to be joking element’. A mixture of old and new, it illustrated perfectly the tone of the show and from what I’ve seen of the Japanese fishing industry. It was a dipping of the hat to the older traditions of the sport plus a driven willingness to design and create new technologies for the future.
It’s a marriage that the Japanese achieve beautifully and a trend that endears itself to many, myself included.
The Osaka Tackle Trade Show was as awe-inspiring as I was led to believe and as engaging as I could ever have hoped. To be honest, three days wasn’t enough to take it all in as thoroughly and in as much detail as I would have likes.
I guess I’ll just have to go back next year to check it all out again. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it. If you’re a tackle junkie it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever see.
The Megabass treatment
The trip to the Osaka was courtesy of the Megabass Japan Tackle Tour competition that took place in 2011. Entry into the competition was via a Megabass, Samurai Reaction or Unitika product purchase or tournament result.
The more products you bought and the more podium finishes you had, the more chances you had in the draw. It was only fitting that Megabass fan Matt Little had his name drawn out of the barrel, with the Gold Coast tackle fan buying a host of Megabass and Samurai Reaction products throughout 2011.
The item that won him the trip was a Megabass Luvito 256 reel. The reel purchase was also a win for the store that he bought it from, with Tony Moore from Sporty’s making the trip along with Paul, Michael and John Starkey from Frogleys Offshore, and me.Reads: 3560