Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hotshot by Isao Matsumoto

If I am asked who is the best handmade lure maker ever in Japan, I would say Isao Matsumoto is the man. Of course, Kazuma Izumi, the maker of H.M.K.L, has opened the gate of natural type handmade lure making, but Isao brought his original lures to the art level.

Hotshot 5cm

Mr. Isao Matsumoto was born in Kagawa in 1957. His father was a master craftsman of fishing rods and running a small fishing store called "Saogiku". Same as his father, Isao got into the world of fishing and succeeded his father's business.

 We just impressed Isao's craftsmanship in the details.

He enjoyed many types of fishing, but loved stream fishing the most. As he was dexterous and not satisfied with ready-made tackles, it was natural for Isao to start making handmade lures, too. His lures became famous for people around him so started selling his original lures named "Hotshot" on the second floor of his small shop.

Everybody who first saw Isao's handmade lures was shocked at their perfection levels without exception. Tstsuya Uehara, one of the current leading lure makers and a pupil of Isao, harks back his first impression about Hotshot as follows; "It was an unforgettably impressive moment when I saw Hotshot first time. They were totally different from other handmade lures in terms of the depth of production. Generally if you have a careful look at handmade lures, you will find some flaws. However, you may be just impressed in case of Hotshot. I still cannot find how Isao made Hotshot in some part of his producing techniques."

Isao produced a variety types of lures, but what he was specialized were minnows for trouts in small streams. The sizes of these minnows are 4 - 7 cm (2 - 3 inches) and Isao put all of his passion and efforts to these tiny minnows (all Hotshot shown in this posting are less than  5cm).
Especially, his painting skill was simply magnificent. Have a look at the backside of the below picture. The widths of these tiny mesh painting are less than 0.2mm each. Isao always did his painting work in the daytime, under the natural sunlight, and at his north side window of his room. 

The size of backside mesh painting is less than 0.2mm widths
Eyes are also his handmade (glass-made)

 Please don't misunderstand that Isao was just good at making tiny lures.

Not only the coloring, Isao tried various measures on Hotshot. Unlike lures for lake fishing, lures for narrow streams are very difficult to produce since they should be small but stable in the rapid flow. Some anglers who use Hotshot say they often experience situations by no lures but Hotshot they can fish. Others also say that the shape of Hotshot lessens the air resistance and absorbs the impact to rocks. However, we cannot find secrets of Hotshot anymore because Isao died by brain-stem hemorrhage on March 31, 2006 when he was 49...

Masterpieces of Isao's later years, "Hotshot Unlimited" model.
The wooden box is also his handmade.

He released very limited number of Hotshot to the market, and of course the number does not increase anymore, it's very difficult to obtain Hotshot nowadays. Especially, Unlimited models are rarely traded in the market and the price will be started from $1,500 or more. But it is sure Hotshot deserves it. If you have it, you will get soul-shaking experience with its quality.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

WOODBAIT by Tatsumi Endoh

WOODBAIT, made by Tatsumi Endoh, were the first "real" type minnows in Japan. Originally Tatsumi was a furniture worker but started selling his lures around 1985. Of course, there had already been other real type lures at that time, but WOODBAIT were very unique because of their three-dimensional shapes.

Not same as other typical handmade minnows, WOODBAIT are made from agathis wood, not balsa wood. 

What his great point is that he has been producing high-quality lures for more than 25 years. 

WOODBAIT were presented to George W Bush in 2008 as Tatsumi's friend heard President Bush loves bass fishing and arranged this compliment through American Embassy.

WOODBAIT are sold around $100 - $150 constantly in the market. You can purchase them from a couple of fishing stores' websites.

Friday, January 7, 2011

RIVET by Masahiro Hiramoto

Masahiro Hiramoto, a 58 years-old, was born and brought up in Kanagawa. His hometown was very close to Lake Tsukui, one of the most popular lakes for lure fishing in Japan. Therefore, it was quite natural for him to be familiar with lure fishing.

Old RIVET (Camber Type, 1987)

It was the influence from H.M.K.L why Masahiro's has started handmade lure making. But soon, he became a top-level handmade lure maker. What made him famous was camber type minnows with real fish skin.

Fish skin is put on the back side
He was also dedicated to writings about fishing-related books. "The Minnow Making" (introduced in H.M.K.L posting) was actually planned by Masahiro.

Silver Foil Finished Type (Present)

At the peak time in the late 1980s, Masahiro had more than 1,000 pieces of back orders, however, he fell sick and stopped making them for a long time.

Pencil Bait Type (Present)

Fortunately, as he recovered from the illness, he has come back to the handmade lure making world in 2001. Currently he is taking orders via his website on an irregular base. They are very expensive ($100 - $700 each), but every time they are sold out quickly. His old RIVET are also traded with premium among collectors. 

  Shell Finish Type (Present)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

MARO Lure Product by Yuji Minami

Mr. Yuji Minami, a 56 year-old, is also a pioneer of Japanese handmade lure making. He started lure & fly fishing when he was 20 years old, and he soon absorbed in them. It was the early 1970s and the beginning of the first boom of lure & fly fishing in Japan.

Yuji's interest in fishing brought him to open a specialized lure & fly fishing store, "King Fisher" with his two other friends in 1980. At the same time, he start making his original handmade lures named "MARO". MARO lures soon got attention as their beautiful shapes and really "good" for fish. Especially its pencil type topwater lure, "MARO Pen", was a legendary killer lure for bass fishers.


MARO old lures are very rare because Yuji didn't make so many lures after 1990 due to his health problem. 

When he was 40 years old (in 1994), he has moved to Hokkaido, where the north part of Japan with rich nature, and Yuji has started a small fishing shop. Maro lures became things of the past.

However, Yuji has restarted his lure making from this year after 20 years silence. You can order his Maro lures by on-line, but probably you have to wait for at least one year, as he has already had a lot of back orders...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Murase Minnow by Tatsuya Murase

Mr. Tatsuya Murase, 57 years old, has started his lure making career in 1970's. His home ground is Lake Ashio-ko, Hakome, where one of the originations of lake trout fishing in Japan. Therefore, Murase Minnow has been developed for trout fishing at lakes. Judging from its shape (the straight line of its berry side), you will understand that Murase Minnow is designed for long-distance casting.

Tatsuya has not changed the shape of Murase Minnow so much for more than 30 years, but tried different materials like balsa, plastic and wood (the present version is made from balsa).

Same as HMKL, Murase Minnow is one of the pioneers of Japanese handmade lures. Tatsuya is also a co-author of the book "The Minnow Making".

Currently he operates his own craft shop and produces not only lures but also fish mounts. You can buy Murase Minnow directly from his shop (BTO and domestic order only). The price is between $50 and $120.

H.M.K.L by Kazuma Izumi

Mr. Kazuma Izumi, a 55 year-old Japanese legend, has started his lure making career when he was in middle school. He is probably the first guy in the world to start making real-type balsa wood handmade minnows with aluminum foil finish.

He tells his traumatic experience for the reason why he has started making this type of lures.
"It was a bad day for fishing. I was trying to get bass using various types of lures but no bite at all. I got bored and changed to a Rapala minnow I picked up at the lake. And guess what, so many bites came to the lure. I was shocked and realized the power of real-type minnows. So if I can make more real minnows than Rapala... That was my start making H.M.K.L lures." Kazuma named his lure brand as H.M.K.L (Hand Made Kazuma Lure).

In 1980's, lure fishing got very popular in Japan. At the same time, lure fishers paid big attention to handmade lures since they were good, beautiful, and valuable. H.M.K.L had already been rarely offered in markets at that time due to its popularity and low production, but it became legend when Kazuma published a famous book "The Minnow Making" with other three handmade lure makers in 1984. In this book, he disclosed all the process how to make H.M.K.L without stint. Many people admired his originality and creativity.

Kazuma was also the first Japanese guy to participated in B.A.S.S. in the US (1987 to 1991). You may know him because he made famous "POP-R Izumi Version" at the request of Zell Roland. Also, Gary Klein loved Izumi's spinerbaits which were the first fish-type spinerbaits with eyes.

Currently Kazuma is operating his own shop in Tokyo and producing plastic H.M.K.L lures. Unfortunately, he rarely makes balsa handmade minnows anymore so his old handmade ones are very difficult to obtain and traded with premium ($300 - $2,000) by collectors.