Eighteen years ago, Kotaro Kiriyama left Japan for America to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional bass angler. He knew no English, but knew he needed to fish BASS events if he wanted to make a name for himself. As of this past August 3 on Lake Erie, his dream was realized with his first BASS Elite Series win at Buffalo, N.Y. Having accomplished his dream, he now plans to pass on the opportunity to another aspiring Japanese angler through his Kota's American Dream tournament (www.KotaAmericanDream.com).
"I opened this tournament to give people in Japan the chance to come to America and live the same dream I am living," Kiriyama said. "I would like to connect people globally through the international language of bass fishing and create a borderless fishing world."
The winning team will get an all-expense paid trip to come to America and fish the Bass Cat Boats & Mercury Marine National Team Championship Tournament in Columbus, Miss., on the Tombigbee River, Nov. 14 and 15, and hopefully get their foot in the door of the American bass fishing world.
Kiriyama also hopes to expand both the U.S. and Japanese fishing markets through his tournament which places emphasis on international unity through fishing. He says he has made lots of friends through his fishing, and wants to share his experience with fellow anglers.
"I want to be an ambassador for international fishing and help people live their dreams of fishing with the best organization there is, BASS," Kiriyama said. "Winning a Bassmaster Elite event is a dream for lots of people in Japan."
Over 100 boats showed up August 24 for Kota's American Dream tournament at the Tone River, in Chiba, Japan, which is near Tokyo. One member of the wining team, Mr. Sugaya, believes wining Kota's American Dream is the first step in his road to American fishing success.
"I cannot believe I won this big tournament. I really want to take this chance to be in the U.S. with Kota. I have never been to the United States mainland before, so I have no idea what it looks like."
Sugaya also has high hopes for his first American appearance. His goals closely resemble Kiriyama's when he first set foot on American soil nearly two decades ago.
"I want to bring American bass fishing to Japan so anglers there can feel the American spirit. I want to find new ways to find bass and meet many people and make friends and tell stories to my friends in Japan. I also want to expand the fishing community internationally."
Kiriyama says his American Dream tournament would not have been possible without his many sponsors. When he came up with the idea for the tournament, he knew he needed support, so naturally he appealed to his sponsors to make his new dream a reality.
"I went to Rick Pierce from Bass Cat, and without hesitation he said he would help," Kiriyama said. "When I got Rick's support, I told all my other sponsors what Bass Cat was doing and they came on board as well. They are all very open-minded and want to help show other anglers what American bass fishing is like, too."
"The everyday Japanese guy doesn't have much of a chance to come here and experience American bass fishing," Pierce said. "Kota's a great guy, and he did such a great job planning this event, we were proud to be a part of it."
Jackall Lures, Shimano, X-Metal tungsten weights, Owner hooks, Gamma line, Starfish Game and DNA sunglasses all pitched in to cover 100 percent of the winning team's expenses for their trip to Mississippi.
Kiriyama has scheduled another American Dream tournament for next year to help another pair of Japanese anglers live the dream of fishing professionally in America.
"This is such a great opportunity for Japanese fishermen to live the same dream I'm enjoying right now," he said. "I want everyone to be able to experience bass fishing in the U.S. and want them to know BASS is the place to do it."
To learn more (if you speak and read Japanese), go to www.KotaAmericanDream.com.