The bass fishing world has been waiting on the edge of its collective seat for the past two weeks, waiting for the International Game Fish Association to announce whether or not Japan's Manabu Kurita will be certified as holder of the new world record largemouth bass. As of this writing, IGFA is waiting for a response from the Japanese Game Fish Association concerning the rumor that Kurita was fishing in a restricted area when he boated the giant bass. Perhaps the following information will clear up any questions about the catch.
Kurita caught the bass beneath the Biwako Oohashi bridge, which connects the west bank (Katata) of the giant lake to the eastern shore (Moriyama). The pilings of this bridge are numbered, giving anglers and boat captains a reference when navigating beneath the structure. It is illegal for anyone to stop between piling four and piling six, as this is the tallest portion of the bridge (it rises closer to the west bank to allow for high-mast boats) and all boat traffic is directed through this area.
It is important to note that the law states you cannot stop in this area (and that law is only in effect March 1 through Nov. 30). It is not illegal to troll this area or otherwise fish while moving. Whether or not Kurita was fishing within the no-stop area will be found out Friday during an interview with Kurita (Bassmaster.com has the exclusive interview).
Further supporting Kurita's innocence, July is a very popular month for tourists on Lake Biwa, and the boating traffic from sightseeing tours, commercial fishing boats and jet boats would have made the area virtually unfishable and extremely dangerous.
The rumor of his fishing in a restricted zone may well have come from local anglers, according to Takuji Naruo, a local fisherman and representative for Jackall Bros. Lures, whose office is located on the banks of the lake.
"Many bass anglers agreed to not fish any of the bridge pilings because it could be dangerous with big wakes from the sightseeing boats. And we also do not want to interfere with commercial fishing nets, which are often in the area. However, it is not at all illegal to fish there. The only government law concerning the bridge has to do with the area between pilings four and six. If you stop there, you may get a ticket," Naruo explains.
So, Kurita might have broken a gentleman's agreement between bass anglers on the lake, but he did not break the law. Once the JGFA explains this to the IGFA, barring any unexpected hiccups, Mr. Kurita's bass is likely to be granted world record status.