Is There Cause for Concern in the Japanese Domestic Market for Fishing Tackle

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I am enamored with Japanese Domestic Market for fishing tackle (JDM tackle), and I have been for decades. I have long been impressed with how Japanese companies approach making fishing gear. They have a rare quality and craftsmanship built into their products, and most are built to last for the investment you put into them. But they also will push the envelope on fun ideas, and I love that. However, some things I learned while visiting Japan this year made me wonder if there is cause for concern in the JDM fishing tackle scene.

After all, fishing tackle is simply about maximizing the enjoyment out of experiences you are passionate about. Whether that’s catching more fish or catching them in more fun ways. So when there are signs of trouble it makes you want to dig a little deeper.

I was fortunate to take a trip to Japan earlier this spring with my friends from Gamakatsu to visit their headquarters in Japan as well as attend the Osaka Tackle Show. I was able to visit with a ton of representatives from some of the most popular Japanese fishing companies as well as some of the newer and smaller up and coming brands on this trip.

I learned a lot about what is going on with tackle design in Japan as well as globally and the challenges they face. I also learned a lot about finding and purchasing Japanese fishing tackle the last few years. I thought I would share some of what I learned and is new with JDM tackle development, some better ways to find hard-to-find JDM Tackle and also some of my favorite new products from the Japanese Domestic Market.

If you’re into Japanese fishing tackle like I am, some of this you might already know, but hopefully anglers of all interests can benefit from knowing what is going on given so much innovation in fishing comes from the Japanese market.


It’s no secret that a lot of the innovation in fishing originates in Japan. Their fisheries are clear, pressured and complex and require a lot of technique and coaxing to catch fish consistently. So a lot of the really good anglers are always tinkering with baits, rigs, techniques and more all in an effort to trick weary, pressured fish.

That has led to the development of staple techniques like drop shot, wacky rigging, Neko rigging and lately mid-strolling to name a few in bass fishing circles. Even trout, iso, and ayu fishing in Japan has evolved into very technical gear and technique.

The concern here comes in the fact that the Japanese government wants to eradicate an invasive species. That species would be the largemouth bass. The government is on a mission to remove largemouth bass from their fisheries as they have had some detrimental impacts on some native forage bases.

But that adds an interesting wrinkle in to the development of Japanese domestic market fishing tackle if the country is attempting to get rid of one a fish that is critical for development of new products and techniques related to bass fishing. While most Japanese companies create products for a wide range of fishing, some companies like Gamakatsu do it on a global scale with European divisions, multiple Asian divisions and of course North American Divisions. So they have a lot of tackle development to juggle besides just bass fishing.

But still, this could have a ripple effect in the fishing industry. As a good portion of the tackle sales center around bass fishing. We were told that the number of companies attending related to bass fishing was down at the Osaka Tackle Show. The reason stated was because of the crackdown on bass fishing in the country. A lot of other brands only brought saltwater and trout offerings to the show.

It remains to be seen if expanded Japanese development will be done in other countries like the United States where there is an eager consumer base and lots of testing grounds to innovate from.


One of the issues has also been that a lot of the really cool fishing lures and tackle developed in Japan is pretty hard to acquire outside of Japan. While obviously big brands like Gamakatsu, Shimano, Daiwa, SPRO, Megabass, and others have large presences in the United States, there are large amounts of boutique and smaller brands that have little to no presence stateside yet.

Retailers like The Hook Up Tackle, Bait Finesse Empire, Tackle Warehouse, Carolina Fishing Tackle, Japan Import Tackle have made Japanese gear more available. But there is still so much that we don’t have access to here. Or maybe that not a lot of anglers know how to access.


Finding the hot new baits from Japan can be a little bit of the wild west at times on the Internet. Like try to find a 5-inch Sakamata Shad right now and you will see. One of the best places I’ve found to get Japanese fishing tackle, however, is a site called DigiTaka gives you access to thousands of JDM products, and a lot of the stuff you can’t find stateside. And even though the products are shipped from Japan, the shipping is impressive. I’ve had products arrive in under 7 days on multiple occasions.

The interface is pretty clean. You will probably need some assistance from Google to convert things like grams to ounces (you might work backwards putting in 1/16 ounce or 1/4 ounce and converting it to grams instead of the other way around. Because most folks don’t know off the top of their heads that 1.8 grams is 1/16 ounce or 3.4 grams in 1/8 ounce and can’t do the decimal to fraction conversions in their heads.

At the top is a button called Item Navi that will let you search by type of product or down the left side you can search by your favorite Japanese brands.

You can also save some money as the Yen converts favorably to the US dollar as well. Most folks don’t know there are pretty significant markups on US Prices for JDM products because it costs retailers and manufacturers a lot of money to get the products shipped overseas here in quantity.

I have found the Digitaka folks to be great to work with and have even made their acquaintances now after traveling to Japan.

There are some other ways folks get JDM tackle like Japanese auction sites, Japan’s eBay and other mechanisms like that. But pursue those at your own risk. I’m not ready to advocate for those methods just yet, as it’s hard to know what is good and what is legit without some assistance.


While traveling to Japan in February, I was able to visit several tackle shops like BunBun, which is there larger chain of fishing retail stores in Japan. The stores are incredibly impressive with tackle loaded and pack floor to ceiling and often many rows have sliding panels so they are actually stocked two sections deep on every row. We only had an hour in each store and honestly it would have taken me about 8 hours to see everything in any one store.

But I snagged a lot of baits and gear that I had not been able to find online and thought I’d share some of those to put on your radar. Some have trickled stateside and some are still pretty hard to find but should get easier after ICAST we hope.

Here’s a quick run down of some of the baits I picked up I’ve been fishing and really love.

  • D-Style Virola – This bait is made for the hover strolling, mid strolling technique. It comes in small to medium sizes (2 inches to 4 inches) and looks great in the water. I even got some small sizes for crappie fishing and they look dynamite. Some anglers told me this is what they Japanese anglers have migrated to instead of the Sakamata Shad.
  • Galapagos Grace – I met the guys from Galapagos at the Osaka show and was super impressed with their two joint glide baits called the Grace. They were launching the bigger one at the show but I was able to pick up a few of the 240F models. They are made as floaters but you can add lead strips to them to make them slow sinks. They look dynamite on a glide. The extra joint helps the tail articulate more on the glide.
  • Galapagos Highroll – the other Gá bait I loved was their Highroll which is another mid strolling bait. This one is made to thread the jig head thru a strip on the back so the jighead actually rides like a spine. It looks so good in the water.
  • Ryugi Deep Tracer – This crazy looking contraption looks similar to a Lindy Rig and it’s made to fish glide baits at depth without snagging on the bottom or cover. I plan to play with it a bunch this summer.
  • Deps Sakamata Shad – The craze over the Sakamata Shad is still ongoing so I loaded up on packs of them while at the tackle shops in Japan. I have been throwing it for a couple of years so I knew to load up when I saw them.
  • Deps Bull Flat – This little gem is a fun bait creature bait to flip and pitch and I’ve been loving the small size for BFS fishing and rigging on drop shots and swing head rigs.
  • Bass Puzzle Grass Piece – This is part vibrating jig and part short arm spinnerbait and has a cool unique action in the water.
  • Trefle Creation Rafeal JT – My friends from BunBun sent me some of these to try and they are very cool jointed jerk baits that have lots of applications from straight reeling to some FFS applications as well.
  • Trefle Creation Mirage JT – This unique glide/swimbait has a fixation joint that gives this a swim similar to how a cat walks. It’s a fun bait I’ve been fishing over bluegill beds lately with success.


The drop shot has arguably added more bass to anglers boats than maybe any other technique out there short of a Texas rigged worm. And I haven’t picked up a drop shot in 4 years. No reason other than I don’t enjoy it. I don’t use a spinning rod as much. I use baitcasters for almost everything save for fishing 2-pound line for trout and panfish.

I gravitated to Bait Finesse System years ago as a way to present finesse baits on lighter lines but still present them where I would fish heavier conventional tackle. It has added a new wrinkle to my fishing and I can’t fully explain why I enjoy the pursuit so much more, but I do. I use BFS gear to trout fish, crappie fish, bass fish, and everything in between. At the end of the day, I like tricking fish. I like throwing big swimbaits to do it. But I equally enjoy tricking big fish on light line tactics as well.

But I’m not one of those guys that advocates for you using a baitcaster over a spinning reel. If you love your spinning rods, that’s great. I also am not trying to convince anyone to go buy more expensive gear. That’s not the purpose here. I am for buying gear that you think will add more to your personal enjoyment of fishing. And maybe even make it more fun. For me a lot of my fun comes from seeing fish and interacting with them and getting them to bite. That often requires a finesse approach. And makes it a lot of fun for me.

I think we all get enjoyment from things differently. What really trips one guys trigger, isn’t interesting at all to the next guy. And that’s great. What I am an advocate for is options. And right now we have a tremendous amount of options thanks to anglers and companies continuing to innovate.

Japanese innovations have added a lot of ways to trick weary and pressured fish, and I, for one, hope that innovation continues to push the envelope on better gear, better presentations and more consistent fishing for everyone.

We need Japanese innovation in fishing. We need lots of options and good gear that lasts. While there is a certain mystique about hard to find tackle or gear, I do hope that the Japanese domestic fishing tackle becomes more available and the flow of information back and forth stays open to make for better fishing for everyone.