Most would assume the fraternity of bass fishermen surrounding a world record largemouth would be ecstatic about the bragging rights granted by such a catch. This is not exactly the case in Japan, where Manabu Kurita is awaiting confirmation from the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) on the 22-pound, 4.97-ounce potential record he caught from Lake Biwa in July.
"We are very proud that a world record class fish was caught in Japan," says Naoki Kobayashi, senior editor of Basser Magazine, one of the most popular fishing publications in the country. "However, the giant fish brings into focus just how well bass are doing in our country, which may be bad for the future of bass fishing," he continues.
In Japan, largemouth and smallmouth bass are an invasive species. The government is trying to eradicate these non-native fish from Japanese waters. Depending on the prefecture (Japanese state), fines for releasing bass after being caught can be incredibly high. In the Shiga Prefecture, where Biwa is located, an angler ticketed for releasing a bass could face a $5,000 penalty.
"Because commercial fishing remains a big priority here, our government, after hearing of the giant bass, could increase its efforts to destroy the species," Kobayashi continues.
Based on the monumental size of Kurita's fish, Kobayashi and other anglers in the country worry that the government may redouble its efforts to get rid of largemouth because of the species' impact on native Japanese fish. A 22-pound bass can eat a lot of ayu, a popular food fish in the country and one targeted by commercial fishermen on Lake Biwa.
Michi Oba, a freelance writer and editor for Rod&Reel, another popular Japanese fishing magazine, isn't quite as worried.
"There are many bigger problems in this country than largemouth bass. I think the government is so focused on the economy and how to develop new jobs, that they hardly notice Mr. Kurita's fish," Oba explains.
"I think that Mr. Kurita's big bass has turned more heads in America than in Japan," Oba continues. "Fishermen here know that bass on Biwa get very big."
Oba believes the habitat and forage base on Lake Biwa, which along with ayu includes bluegill, crawfish, funa (small carp) and hasu (native shiners), is the reason bass will continue to thrive in the lake.
"The grass on Biwa is very good. The food chain for bass is strong. I believe largemouth will thrive in Biwa for a long time, regardless of government efforts to get rid of the fish."