Takumi "Taku" Ito talks abut how he got started bass fishing by an American bass fishing video game and how that introduced him to bass fishing. Photo Terry Battisti.

Takumi “Taku” Ito is another one of Japan’s elite anglers who have made the leap across the pond to compete on the world’s biggest stage. Ito came to the United States in late 2018 with the goal of making the Elite series through the Opens. In his first year competing in the Opens, 2019, Ito finished in 4th place for the AOY in the highly competitive Central Division. He punched his ticket to the Elites his first year.

So, who is Takumi Ito and how did he make the Elites his first try? Well, let’s look at his accomplishments in Japan.

Tonegawa Bass Club

Ito started fishing the Tone River (Tonegawa) Bass Club, an association like Bassmaster, in 2006. In his first year, Ito competed in what would be categorized as the amateur division. He only spent that first year as an amateur before moving up to the professional level in 2007. He competed in the events until he came to the U.S. in late 2018. During that time, Ito won 5 events and was AOY in 2015.

Hard Bait Only Tournaments

Ito also fished the H-1GPX series of events. This is a Hard Bait Only series with fields that average 130 anglers. Ito won four events in 2011 and the AOY in 2015.

By the end of 2015, you could say that Takumi Ito was becoming a phenom in his home country.

Lure magazine Shore-Based and Boat-Based Championships

Because of his success at Japan’s highest levels, Ito was invited to fish against the best anglers Japan had to offer in the way magazine-sponsored events. One of those magazines, Lure magazine, holds two events per year that pit the top anglers in the country against each other. One of those events is a shore fishing tournament, called Rikuo. Eight of Japan’s best anglers fish head-to-head and only four advance to the finals. The winner is crowned the Land-Based Champion for the year. Ito won the Land-Based Championship in 2016 and 2017, becoming the first person to ever win back-to-back championships for the event.

The other event sponsored by Lure magazine is the Boat-Based Championship, known as Teiou. This event is unique in that only the six best anglers are invited and they fish out of rented boats.  The qualifying round eliminates three anglers and the top three anglers move on to the Championship round, the winner being named the Boat-Based Champion. Ito won that event in both 2017 and 2018 and again was the first angler to win it back-to-back.

Basser Magazine All-Star Classic

Basser Magazine is Japan’s largest and oldest bass magazine. They too hold an event, the Basser All-Star Classic. This event is the most prestigious event in the country with only the top 20 anglers getting an invite. Ito fished the event in 2017 and placed 5th.

As you can see, prior to Ito moving to the U.S., his list of accomplishments in Japan were beyond stellar. He’d won multiple high-level events and AOYs. The next logical move for his career would be to test his skills against the U.S. anglers.

The Move to the U.S.

As stated above, Ito arrived in the U.S. in late 2018 and fished his first event, the last Bassmaster Central Open at Logan Martin, and placed 48th. He didn’t let that deter him, though, as he committed to all four events in 2019. He started off the year at Toledo Bend with a 2nd-place finish and then an eighth at Smith Lake. The Opens then went north to La Crosse, WI, where he had a bad tournament and finished in 66th. In order to fill his dream, he’d have to do well at the final event of the season at Grand Lake, OK. He placed 10th and punched his ticket to the Elites for 2020.

Nintendo's Super Black Bass 2 video game is what Taku interested in bass fishing as a child.

In his rookie year on the Elites, Ito had three top-10s and a top-30, enough to make his first Bassmaster Classic sitting in 23rd place for the year. In his sophomore year, Ito again had three top-10s but he capped the 2021 season off with a win at the St Lawrence River, becoming known as the Smallmouth Whisperer. Ito finished the year in 16th place for the AOY standings.

Since landing in the U.S., Ito’s fished 27 Bassmaster events and placed in the money 25 times. He has two Classic appearances, one win, one second, one third, and 10 top-10 finishes. That’s a record any angler would be proud of.

Nintendo Super Bass 2

But what got Ito interested in bass fishing in his home country is a bit unconventional – or maybe it isn’t. One of his favorite video games growing up was a U.S. bass fishing video game, Super Black Bass 2 by Nintendo. This video game hooked him on bass fishing before he even had a chance to go fishing for real. By the time he was able to go fishing, he knew he wanted to fish bass. In this case the video game is what got Taku out of the house and had prepared him to fish.

To hear Takumi Ito in his own words, describe how he started bass fishing, please click on the link below.

I would also like to give a big Thank You to Chie Ito, Taku’s wife, for giving me all the details of Taku’s career in Japan. If not for her, this piece would have been far shorter, and we would not have gotten to know Taku as well as we do now.  Thank You Chie!