Saturday, April 13, 2024

Fujita’s furious comeback leads to Bassmaster Elite Series victory at Toledo Bend

Date:

Japan’s Kyoya Fujita has won the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend with a four-day total of 100 pounds, 13 ounces. 

Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.

February 25, 2024

Fujita’s furious comeback leads to Bassmaster Elite Series victory at Toledo Bend

Elite_eventLogo_2024_ToledoBend.png

MANY, La. — Kyoya Fujita’s ultimate goal for 2024 is to win the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.

Winning the first tournament of the season is certainly an impressive way to start that campaign.

With 100 pounds, 13 ounces, Fujita claimed the victory at the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend. Along with the coveted century belt — an exclusive award given only to those who catch at least 100 pounds of bass in a four-day event — the Elite Series sophomore earned the $100,000 top prize and a blue trophy. 

“I was surprised,” Fujita said with the assistance of a translator. “I am looking to make every Championship Sunday this season. But winning tournaments are really hard things to do. I have been champion in Japan, but I know how hard it is to do. I’m happy with how it worked out. It’s a very good start.”

Entering the day 6 pounds behind Wisconsin pro Pat Schlapper, Fujita made a furious comeback in the final round by catching 28-13 — a bag almost entirely made up of 6-pounders and a total he wasn’t expecting after struggling the previous day.

“I thought there was a chance for me to win if Pat caught only 16 or 17 pounds and I could catch 22 or 23 pounds,” Fujita said. “If I can locate the bass, I am confident I can catch those bass. In my brain, my tactics, my fishing and my heart, I believe in myself.”

This win only adds reinforces his hard-earned nickname “Prince of Japanese Angling.” This is Fujita’s second Elite Series title in 10 events, with the first coming at Lake Champlain last August. Before coming to America, he won four Angler of the Year titles in Japan as well as six major tournaments.

Most of the week, Fujita stayed in one offshore spot in the mouth of Housen Bay and targeted prespawn bass suspended in deep standing timber. As the fishing pressure from Elite anglers and locals began to build, the bite began to suffer.

When that spot began to fizzle on Day 3, he moved to the creek right above Housen and caught suspended bass in 10 feet of water using his forward-facing sonar in the mouth of that creek. That spot produced multiple 6-pounders the final two days, several of which he believed to be postspawners.

“I practiced there and found some 3-pounders, but nothing special,” he said. “I think because of the wind situation (on Day 4), the bass came up there.”

In both areas, Fujita used a Jackall Drift Fry and a Deps Sakamata Shad and rigged them on either a 1/8-ounce or 3/16-ounce Keitech Super Round Jighead. When he located a bass on Garmin LiveScope, he would cast to it and then lightly shake the bait in front of the bass until it bit.

He rigged both baits on a 6-foot, 5-inch medium-light Daiwa Steez Real Control spinning rod paired with a Daiwa Exist reel which he spooled with 30-pound Daiwa braid main line and 16-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Fujita took the lead on Day 1 by catching 31-3 — a five-bass limit that earned him $2,000 for as the Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag of the Tournament. He fell to second after a Day 2 bag of 24-3 and then to third after catching 16-10 on Day 3.

During his Day 3 struggles, however, Fujita caught a late 6-pounder that pointed him in the right direction for Championship Sunday.

Fujita returned to his primary spot to open the final round — and while there weren’t many bass left in the area, he started the morning by landing a 6- and 5-pounder in the first two hours. He caught two more keepers in that area, but he could not manufacture another bite.

“I caught four nice ones at the first main area,” Fujita said. “There weren’t many bass this morning either, but there were less boats. Nobody was fishing around me. So, I was able to see them. When I saw the four big fish, I caught all of them. I didn’t fish for the smaller ones. After I caught those four, I didn’t see anything.”

After mid-morning, Fujita made a move to his secondary spot and landed another 6-pounder to fill his limit. His day only got better from there as he landed several more 6-pounders in the last three hours to seal his victory.

South Carolina pro Patrick Walters caught 29-0, the biggest bag of the final day, to jump into second place with a four-day total of 95-15. He anchored his big Sunday bag with an 8-4 largemouth that claimed Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day honors.

Walters opened the tournament with 19-11 before bringing 30-5 and 16-5 to the scales on Days 2 and 3. While a good start to his season, he had mixed feelings about the way the final day unfolded.

“It started out slow,” he said. “It took all day long. I caught my biggest one on my last cast. It was one here and one there and it took forever. But I had the bites to crack the biggest bag I’ve ever had in my life. I lost two hammers — two absolute giants — and a 4-pounder. I’m happy with the start, though.”

Using forward-facing sonar, Walters focused on a major creek channel and searched for bass in a wide area. The key was keeping the trolling motor down and covering water until he saw something he liked. A 3/16-ounce Damiki rig with a Fluke-style bait and a Neko-rigged Zoom Magnum Swamp Crawler were his key baits.

“I wouldn’t pick my trolling motor up for 5 miles,” Walters said. “I would follow the creek channel and then move to the flat. I would move to wherever I thought they were going.”

Entering the final day with the lead, Schlapper fell to third with a four-day total of 93-8 after landing just 14-14 on Sunday. The Wisconsin pro had three great days, landing 27-4 on Day 1 before adding 28-5 and 22-7 the next two days.

“I knew I was in trouble when I didn’t catch a couple good ones early,” he said. “It is what it is. I ran out of bass and didn’t adjust.”

Schlapper spent most of his time this week fishing the deep edge of a grass flat in Housen Bay. The majority of the bass he caught this week were roaming between 10 and 30 feet of water. While he combed a large area, Schlapper keyed on one particular sweet spot that produced multiple big bites each of the first three days.

“There was a drain that went in, a little gap they were funneling into,” he said. “The majority of the big ones I caught were within a 100 yards of the mouth of that drain. I think those bass were either in the grass or timber and would come out to that edge and sun themselves. All of the big ones I caught were up high in the water column, like 10 feet down.”

He caught almost every bass this week using a Damiki rig with a Queen Tackle tungsten jighead and a minnow-style bait. Garmin LiveScope was an important contributor as well. 

Schlapper said he did not see nearly as many bass as he’d seen the previous three days. The quality bass he did see on his forward-facing sonar did not bite. With a small limit and time running out, he punted and moved to a shallow grass flat and caught several nice bass with a bladed jig to salvage the day.

Fujita took the early lead in the Angler of the Year standings with 103 points, followed by Walters in second with 102. Schlapper is third with 101 points, followed by Tennessee rookie Robert Gee in fourth with 100 and Texas rookie Ben Milliken in fifth with 99.

Gee and Milliken sit atop the Dakota Lithium Rookie of the Year standings, followed by Alabama’s Wesley Gore in third with 93 points, Trey McKinney of Illinois in fourth with 92 and Maine’s Tyler Williams in fifth with 85.

South Carolina’s Bryan New earned a total of $3,000 for catching the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament, a 9-8 largemouth he landed on Day 1.

Virginia pro Ed Loughran III took home the $1,000 BassTrakk contingency bonus for most accurate weight recording this week.

Fujita earned an extra $4,000 for the Yamaha Power Pay contingency award while Walters earned a $2,500 bonus.

Oklahoma pro Luke Palmer earned $3,000 in Toyota Bonus Bucks, while rookie McKinney earned $2,000 in Bonus Bucks.

The event was hosted by Toledo Bend Lake Country and the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

2024 Elite #1 Toledo Bend Reservoir 2/22-2/25
Toledo Bend Reservoir, Many  LA.
(PROFESSIONAL) Standings Day 4

   Angler                   Hometown              No./lbs-oz  Pts   Total $$$

1.  Kyoya Fujita           Yamanashi CA JAPAN      20 100-13  103 $103,000.00
  Day 1: 5   31-03     Day 2: 5   24-03     Day 3: 5   16-10     Day 4: 5   28-13   
2.  Patrick Walters        Eutawville, SC          20  95-15  102  $36,000.00
  Day 1: 5   19-11     Day 2: 5   30-05     Day 3: 5   16-15     Day 4: 5   29-00   
3.  Pat Schlapper          Eleva, WI               20  93-08  101  $30,000.00
  Day 1: 5   27-04     Day 2: 5   28-05     Day 3: 5   22-07     Day 4: 5   15-08   
4.  Robert Gee             Knoxville, TN           20  90-05  100  $25,000.00
  Day 1: 5   29-00     Day 2: 5   22-10     Day 3: 5   17-13     Day 4: 5   20-14   
5.  Ben Milliken           New Caney, TX           20  89-11   99  $20,000.00
  Day 1: 5   22-09     Day 2: 5   18-00     Day 3: 5   26-13     Day 4: 5   22-05   
6.  Luke Palmer            Coalgate, OK            20  86-04   98  $19,000.00
  Day 1: 5   25-01     Day 2: 5   20-02     Day 3: 5   22-15     Day 4: 5   18-02   
7.  Chris Johnston         Otonabee Ontario CANADA 20  79-14   97  $19,000.00
  Day 1: 5   18-15     Day 2: 5   26-08     Day 3: 5   18-01     Day 4: 5   16-06   
8.  Cooper Gallant         Bowmanville Ontario CAN 20  76-14   96  $17,000.00
  Day 1: 5   17-04     Day 2: 5   19-01     Day 3: 5   24-09     Day 4: 5   16-00   
9.  Jordan Lee             Cullman, AL             20  75-08   95  $16,000.00
  Day 1: 5   22-12     Day 2: 5   23-14     Day 3: 5   14-02     Day 4: 5   14-12   
10. Alex Wetherell         Middletown, CT          20  73-08   94  $15,000.00
  Day 1: 5   21-14     Day 2: 5   19-13     Day 3: 5   19-10     Day 4: 5   12-03   
———————————————————————–

PHOENIX BOATS BIG BASS 
Day
 1   Bryan New                Leesville, SC       09-08      $1,000.00
 2   Chris Johnston           Otonabee Ontario CANADA09-03      $1,000.00
 3   Jay Przekurat            Plover, WI          07-15      $1,000.00
 4   Patrick Walters          Eutawville, SC      08-04      $1,000.00

———————————————————————–
PHOENIX BOATS BIG BASS
     Bryan New                Leesville, SC       09-08      $2,000.00
CRUSHCITY MONSTER BAG

     Kyoya Fujita             Lake Forest, CA     31-03      $2,000.00

———————————————————————–
Totals
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
 1        96       501      1726-01
 2        88       484      1602-02
 3        48       248       833-06
 4        10        50       193-15
———————————-
         242      1283      4355-08



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