Genuine Hard Rock Fishing in Japan!
If you’ve been following me on Social Media lately, or indeed you already discovered this new blog, you may have picked up that I have a growing hard-on for HRF once again. Last season was decent when the UK weather allowed. Combined with a relatively new passion for following the US Bass tournaments and the successful techniques being used (where HRF originates from), HRF has been pushed back towards the front of the queue in my angling priorities. Hence the time investment in this new website.
So when I was trying to convince myself if I could afford my third trip to Japan, this February, a more concerted review of Japanese Hard Rock Fishing played its part in my decision to go. My plan was really just to review the most recent HRF tackle at the Osaka Fishing Show and the many great tackle shops Japan has to offer. But little did I know that my friend Masa had something special in store for me.
You will find Masa elsewhere on the pages of this website and its LRF sister-site. He reminded me that we’ve known each other for nearly 10 years now. Some of my favourite fishing memories are hurtling around the UK in my van, trying to highlight to Masa some of the fishing we have here.
Anyway, the effort was certainly reciprocated and we enjoyed some varied saltwater fishing in multiple locations, despite my poor timing making Masa work hard. Turns out, February is a poor month for fishing wherever you are in the Northern hemisphere!
The main event was some Hard Rockfishing. I wish I could divulge the entire story because it defies belief in terms of where the target fish are located, but I’m sworn to secrecy. The capture of the large Black Soi you see here is special even by Japan’s epic standards. Hardly anything is standard about their capture; the location; the time of year; the size!
But I can explain what sort of technique Masa instructed me to use.
Despite fishing rocks (obviously) I was delighted to see we were using Jighead with an open hook (not weedless). By now I hope you realise my fishing is less about populist views and more about challenging the norm, to push things forward. You will find a lot of content about weedless presentations on this site because I feel it’s most useful to do so. But the reality is I despise weedless. There are times where you have to use it. Normally down to the ground and the prevailing conditions. But the reality is the hook-up rate is less than 50%. In fishing success terms, that’s enormous! I could buy a hyper rod for £500 and I would only expect it to improve my success by under 5%. Consequently you should consider when to use weedless rigging very carefully. Unless your main focus is not to lose fishing tackle (may I suggest taking up Golf!)
Anyway, Masa’s recommendation to fish an open jighead was exactly the kind of reason why I wanted to revisit Japan. To challenge our popular beliefs and learn from the best. In some sense I received some substantiation in my own choices to fish Jighead for wrasse. Which was nice for me.
On said jighead I was recommended to rig a 5-6-inch curly tail worm. This had almost the opposite effect on me as the jighead choice because I don’t fish curly tail worms very often these days. But again, this is why I absolutely love visiting Japan. And I have ultimate faith in Masa’s decision making.
The other interesting point to Masa’s lure choice was the colour. We were fishing at night, as I was reminded, a lot of Japanese rockfishing is. A useful reminder in the differences between their rock fishing and our own. Because our major rockfish, the Ballan Wrasse, doesn’t hunt after dark. The lure colour was an off-white with a faint glow to it. Masa was very specific in highlighting that it was a ‘faint’ glow. I haven’t considered the illumination strength of the lures I’m fishing. But now I will.
The lure colour also addresses a long-standing question I’ve had about Japanese fishing lures and the colour choice. Like me, I’m sure you’ve come across freshwater, saltwater and even species specific colours in the same Japanese lure. I’ve always been curious about this. But this event at least answered some of it, because HRF is often night fishing. And freshwater bass fishing generally isn’t.
The technique was slow retrieve. Kind of Linear. Masa explained that you needed to be a certain distance away from the rocks where the Black Soi hunted. Too far away and you wouldn’t get hit. Too close and you’d obviously snag up. We had a fairly large area to prospect and we covered the same ground several times. It felt a bit like the canal. I knew I had to get the lure within striking distance of a hungry fish. The distance felt comparable to that of lazy, canal Perch. Regardless, it took a while for me to dial myself in. I did snag up multiple times before I understood the layup of the rocks we were fishing. But I’m glad to say I was able to ping the lures back out using the bow & arrow technique.
As is often the case when fishing foreign lands for foreign species, I felt my guide was holding back to try and give me some advantage. Masa was already two fish to my zero and I could sense there was a time constraint. To be entirely honest, I was having a great time just being there, watching Masa fish methodically and seeing these incredible fish in such an alien environment. If fishing had ended at 2-0 I still would have slept very well (although with some slight shame in failing Masa’s hard work). But then it happened!
In a split second, something in the retrieve had changed, and the angler reflex had thankfully reacted before my brain had acknowledged what had happened. Fish on!
It was a close-quarters battle. Like any good guide, Masa had already loaded me up with advice before the event happened. I knew I needed to keep the sizable fish away from the rocks from which it came. It was wrasse-style hit-n-hold! I missed my Nebulas. There’s nothing wrong with my travel rod. It just doesn’t compete on usage hours. So I played the fish out a bit more gingerly than perhaps I normally would. For Masa’s sake at least, the hook hold held and the large soi lay at our feet. In typical, Anglo-Japanese dialogue we exchanged short pleasantries. “So cool!” “So cool!”
And that was the end of the evening. A strange feeling of contentment mixed with some kind of politeness that’s hard to explain. I’d achieved the frankly unthinkable success of a proper rockfish in February, in Japan. I weirdly felt that to keep fishing would be unpolite to Masa (he wouldn’t have minded!), the Japanese and indeed Mother Nature for generously gifting me this experience. So we called it a day and moved on to our next adventure.