ICAST 2022 I had the pleasure of talking with Hiroshi Nishine, founder of Nishine Lure Works. This is the history of Hiroshi and how he started as a lure maker in Japan and came to design some of the most iconic lures in history.

If you’re a Japanese lure afficionado, you’re going to like today’s video post, Hiroshi Nishine – Nishine Lure Works.  Hiroshi’s company has been around since 2006 but it has only been in the last few years that Nishine Lure Works has been noticed in the U.S.  Hiroshi’s story is much deeper than him moving to Canada to start a lure manufacturing company and we, along with Hiroshi, are going to tell you that story.

A Dream

Hiroshi Nishine was born in Tottori, Japan in 1971.  Since he was a child, he’s been obsessed with fishing but when he turned 12 years old, he became fixated on lure fishing and lure making.  The lure making at first wasn’t because he wanted to craft something, but, like most 12-year-olds, he didn’t have the money to buy lures.

He started down the path of lure making by buying a book written by one of Japan’s most famous lure designers, Kazuma Izumi.  From this book he taught himself the techniques of Izumi and continued making lures through junior high and high school.

Upon graduating high school, Hiroshi had no desire to go to college.  He just wanted to make lures, but he had no idea how to go about it and knew that not many lure designers could make a living at the craft.  So, like any 18-year-old kid, he worked enough to get $1,000 and set off on his bicycle with a bean bag, tent and one rod to fish all over northern Japan to learn all he could about the fish.

During his travels Hiroshi made a fateful stop at a tackle shop in the town of Shizuoka where he found a lure made by legendary Japanese lure crafter Tatsumi Endo.  In Hiroshi’s eye, the lure was perfect and so realistic.  In his heart he wanted to make lures of that quality.  He purchased the lure with what little money he had.

Eventually Hiroshi ran out of money and had to come to grips with getting a job.  He turned to construction work but shortly after he started, he asked himself, “what am I doing?  I want to be a lure builder.”  He opened his tacklebox and there it was, Mr. Endo’s red crankbait staring at him.  The next day Hiroshi wrote Mr. Endo a letter asking to be his apprentice.

Soon after receiving his letter, Mr. Endo called Hiroshi and told him that he doesn’t take on apprentices.  Hiroshi didn’t let that defeat stop him.  He continued to write Mr. Endo and finally after three attempts, Mr. Endo accepted Hiroshi as his first apprentice.

The Long Road

Once Hiroshi got to Mr. Endo’s house, he realized he had no money and no place to live.  As an apprentice, he would not be paid, his payment was in the knowledge he would gain from his master.  Hiroshi begged Mr. Endo to allow him to sleep in a rundown minivan that was in Mr. Endo’s backyard and there his full apprenticeship started.  The year was 1990 and he was 19 years old.

For two and a half years, Hiroshi slept in the van and worked with Mr. Endo learning all he could from the master lure maker.  Then, Mr. Endo moved his shop.  In that move, Hiroshi was allowed to move into the shop, which was no bigger and 30 feet by 30 feet.  The shop would become his home and workplace for the next four years.

When Hiroshi first signed up for the apprenticeship, Mr. Endo told him it would be a ten-year commitment.  By the end of 6 -1/2 years, Mr. Endo told Hiroshi he should establish his own company.  With that he was given a certificate and Hiroshi was on his way.

Dream Rush

Once he was freed from his apprenticeship, Hiroshi travelled to world famous lake Biwa to start his company.  There he found a small house 50 steps from the lake that would become his shop and home.  With the lake so close, he was able to fish nearly every day while designing his own lures at his newly established Nishine Workshop.  The year was 1996.

His first baits were all carved out of balsa and were sold under the Dream Rush brand.  He made walking topwater baits as well as minnow lures.  Here’s a link to some of his creations.  In order to read in English, use Google Translate.

His Dream Rush tackle brand would only last two years as Hiroshi had the opportunity to move to British Columbia, Canada with a friend who owned a hotel and wanted to break into the fishing tourism market.  But there were many obstacles Hiroshi would have to overcome in his new country.  Namely he didn’t speak any English.

His difficulty with the language wasn’t the worst, though.  After three months living in the hotel his friend owned, she lost the hotel and Hiroshi was out on his own in a foreign country where he didn’t speak the language nor have any money.

So, what does a lure designer do when he finds himself in that position?  He makes lures, of course.

Hiroshi was able to move into a small house and there he designed a jigging spoon that enabled him to feed himself.  The spoon was so effective that he was able to start selling them to the local tackle shop and make some money to survive on.  To supplement his tackle money, he also took to selling mushrooms, which is a funny story in itself.

Shimano and Tru-Tungsten

During all this turmoil, Hiroshi was contacted by Shimano Japan to design lures.  He ended up designing a number of lures for Shimano between 2000 and 2003, of which the most famous is the Triple Impact, a topwater lure unlike any other topwater bait ever designed.  Other lures he developed were crankbaits, a variety of ocean lures, and the Undulator vibration bait.

By the time he left Shimano, things were looking up for him.  Then in 2005 he became the designer for Tru-Tungsten.  During his tenure with Tru-Tungsten, he designed the Tru-Life swimbait, a jointed swimbait that had an adjustable weight system that allowed different rates of fall for the bait.

Nishine Lure Works

After designing the Tru-Life swimbait, Hiroshi decided it was time to start his own company, Nishine Lure Works, in 2006.  His experience working with Shimano and other companies, allowed Hiroshi to branch out from wood lures to more of a mass-produced product utilizing plastic and urethane foams.  His first bait was a flat-sided crankbait made from foam for the Japanese market.  Still, sticking to his roots, Hiroshi carved all of his master designs out of wood, down to the scale finish.  From that wood master the molds are made.

Having success with his company in Japan allowed Hiroshi to expand his mind and design of more baits.  His use of blades on topwater baits and crankbaits takes lure design to a whole other level.

The Future

Hiroshi’s childhood dream was to become a lure maker.  His teenage dream was to study under Tatsumi Endo. His adult dream was to have his own lure manufacturing business.  He’s achieved all those dreams through hard work and perseverance.  Today, his dream is to make people happy by catching fish on his lures.  I think his final dream will also be granted.

The Shimano Japan Triple Impact acquired a cult following in the U.S. in the early 2000s. Today it's a collector's item that still catches fish.
Another of Hiroshi Nishine's designs was the Tru-Tungsten Tru-Life swimbait. This was the first swimbait that had an adjustable weight system. Photo Terry Battisti.

To view the full interview, click on the video below.  Hiroshi’s story is a true success story anyway you look at it.