Gary Yamamoto Interview
A candid discussion with Gary Yamamoto where he reveals details about his beginnings, and his future.
Glenn: Hey folks, Glenn May with BassResource.com and you'll never guess who I'm with. You all know Yamamoto baits, you've heard of the Senko. I'm with the man, Gary Yamamoto. This is the guy who started it all. Thanks for being with us today, Gary.
Gary: Oh, you're very welcome, it's a pleasure to be on your show and maybe we can show or teach something or show somebody something about what we've done.
Glenn: Well you guys have done a lot. You've been around for a long, long time. Tell me a little bit about how you got started.
Gary: Well, the basic start was that I was at Lake Powell, and fishing on weekends and I started throwing this little grub, and Mister Twister was probably the only grub available. And they had really three colors: black, white and chartreuse. And so I called Gene Larew at that time and I said, "Hey, can you make me different colors of bait?" And Gene's happy as can be, "Yeah, I can make you anything you want! And you only have to buy 5,000 of each color." I said, "Are you kidding me?" But as the story goes, I was stupid enough to buy 25,000 grubs, 5 different colors, but that was the start of my business. I had to sell it because I bought so many, and I sold it at my campground store, and I sold it out west, and probably fortune was in it because Japan was just getting started into bass fishing. And they were looking at the western magazines and my advertisement they saw and they contacted me and wanted to take my baits to Japan.
Glenn: Now about what year was this? Right around what time?
Gary: 1983 I believe, '83, '84. And then I had a buddy that was fishing with me and he says, "You know, if we welded this skirt onto the grub, it'll make it shine better, or more attractive." So that's how the Hula Grub started. So I was buying products from Gene Larew, and I was buying products from Twin Tees. And all of a sudden Twin Tees is going out of business, bankruptcy. "Oh my goodness." I just got started, you know? So I had to buy that company. And once I bought Twin Tees, I got the full line of bass fishing products, from spinner baits, buzz baits, all kinds of worms and what have you, and the manufacturing capability. And so I moved. I was driving from Page, Arizona to Los Angeles every week to go to work at the plant. And I said, "This is not gonna do."
Glenn: That's a long drive!
Gary: So I moved it to Page, and when I started off I rented two rental garage units, storage units, and built that as my factory. And then as things went on I bought another building and then it grew some more, so I had to buy a bigger building. So now we've got a pretty large facility.
Glenn: Now I've been fishing since I was a kid out west, so I was using Yamamoto products before they really became huge out in the market. And I remember some of those products, I actually used some of those, especially when finesse fishing first started coming out, split shot in particular. It was a huge deal to always have a grub on the back. But then, right about in the early 90's, out came this bait that looked like nothing. It was just this stick. And we were expected to fish this thing. I'm like, "C'mon, this can't catch fish, it doesn't have any appendages, it has no action, how can a fish want this?" But my buddy, I was in a tournament, he had a bag of it, I didn't, and he kicked my butt while fishing it. I'm like, "What are these things?" He goes, "This is the Senko, you gotta have this." So, and I did and it's turned out to be, it wasn't a flash in the pan kind of deal, this has been a phenom. People...every bass angler now has tried a Senko, they've all used it, and many of them use it consistently every day. But the design, the idea behind it, that's what's really fascinating. Tell me a little bit about where the idea came from, how you came up with the Senko.
Gary: Well the Senko was my effort to emulate the Slug-Go. I was in Florida and people cast that Slug-Go and jerk it around and we'd get hit. But it was really difficult to catch the fish on it because it was so hard, and so I said I wanted something that would be soft and my plastic that I could jerk around. So it was designed as a jerkbait. And it works. But then a buddy of mine says, all you have to do is cast it and let it sit and they'll come and eat it. You can't be... So the next tournament I fished was at Toledo Bend, and I saw a bed and a bass on it. I said, "All right, I'm gonna get him," and so I cast and I missed the bed by four feet. I said, "Oh my goodness, what are you gonna do?" The bait fell down, hit the side of his bed, not even in his bed, and I saw that fish come out, eat it, or pick it up, and go back to his bed. Hey this is something else. And no other bait will do that. So that's where I got my confidence in it, and now there is a... I guess a bass angler doesn't have a Senko in his tackle box he's really hasn't fished very much at all.
Glenn: Right. And there's so many ways to fish it now. Wacky rig is probably the most popular and well-known, but you can drop shot it, you can put it behind a split shot, you can put it on a jig head, there's so many different ways. You can put it on a trailer on some baits, I mean it's like the more you experiment with it, the more ways you find bass really are attracted to it. It's become an extremely popular bait. But you're not stopping there. You have more products that are coming out now, so tell me a little bit about what's coming out pretty soon for the consumer from Yamamoto.
Gary: Well really I'm not too much involved anymore with the new stuff. I have a time just trying to keep my own head and designs going, but I play around with the jig heads, and I spend quite a bit of time in saltwater, so I've played with the speckle trout and the red fish, and it doesn't matter whether it's a red fish or a bass, they'll eat those plastic baits. And so that's what I play around with and I have a big staff of people that are trying to design new things so they still think "new products, new sales." But the basis of all this company is that we sell the Hula Grub, which was one of my starting baits, the grub, the Senko. They're still the primary part of my business. And it's amazing, I travel all over and you see people saying, "Oh, I use the Senko and I love it." And then the other guy down the way says, "The Hula Grub caught me all these fish." And so I guess I'm fortunate my lures are not a come-and-go type of deal, they are for hopefully eternity, you know?
Glenn: Well, Gary, you sure have established that you're...the Yamamoto brand in the bass fishing community and other types of species that are out there, I don't think it's going anywhere soon. It's still some of the most popular baits that are out there. I just want to thank you for making such an impact on the industry, and helping anglers out there catch fish and enjoy the sport more and more, making it so easy. You've done a great job. Thank you so much for being with us today. Guys, Gary Yamamoto. You gotta use his products, you have to, because if you're not, then you’re not catching fish.