Shark attack: Duluth's Kishida takes aim at bass
When he was about a fifth-grader, growing up in Osaka, Japan, Shark Kishida and some of his buddies decided to try carp fishing. They rode their bikes to a carp lake, threw out mushy concoctions called doughballs and waited.
That’s when the cool high school kid showed up.
“He had a bait-caster,” said Duluth’s Kishida. “He was throwing a spinnerbait, casting 10 times farther than we were. He caught a big old snakehead — it looks kind of like an eelpout. That day changed my fishing life.”
He and his buddies had to have baitcasters, and the rest is history. Well, history and a good chunk of world geography.
Kishida, 39, is now supervisor of the fishing department at Gander Mountain in Hermantown and an aspiring tournament bass angler. Last fall, he took 10th place at the Minnesota BASS Nation Tournament of Champions on the Mississippi River at Winona, Minn., earning him a spot on the 12-member BASS Minnesota State Team.
He’s been fishing bass competitively for 10 years. His goal is to one day fish in the Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of bass fishing that earlier this year earned winner Randy Howell a cool $300,000.
And Kishida would like to become a touring professional bass angler.
On Wednesday night, though, Kishida was tossing skirted jigs for largemouth bass on Fish Lake north of Duluth, and the bass weren’t particularly interested in playing the game. Wearing his sponsor-splashed fishing shirt and throwing jigs from the bow platform of a Z-8 Nitro bass boat worth $50,000, Kishida talked about the road from Osaka to Duluth.
For a lot of years, the “bass” in Kishida’s life had a lot more to do with a musical score than something that swam underwater. At 16, Kishida left Osaka as an exchange student bound for Fargo, N.D., where he graduated from high school. He picked up his nickname there, too. His real name is Sharaku Kishida, but friends decided to shorten it for him.
A trumpet player since his youth, he majored in music at North Dakota State University, then went on to earn his master’s degree in trumpet performance at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.
He probably owns more fishing rods than trumpets, but not by much. He owns 10 trumpets and has played gigs with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and for the University of Minnesota Duluth. But after earning his master’s degree and working at a Bass Pro Shops store in Cincinnati, his focus turned to fishing. He moved to Duluth to become a Gander Mountain fishing associate in 2008.
He understands that bass fishing, the most popular kind of fishing in America, isn’t going to displace walleye fishing as the big deal in Minnesota. Walleye fishing and bass fishing have two different appeals, he said.
“It’s meat-eaters versus money-catchers,” said Kishida, a stocky guy with close-cropped hair who casts like a machine. “They fish walleyes because they taste good. I agree. But in bass fishing, it’s all you. Live-bait fishing (for walleyes), you toss it out, and they come to you. Bass fishing, you have to get them to come to you.”
Whether fishing in local bass club leagues for little money or bigger tournaments for more money, Kishida is driven to win.
“You want to catch those dollar bills swimming down there. That’s the way I look at it,” he said, flinging another jig into a patch of lily pads.
Bass fishing in the Duluth area is an untapped resource, Kishida said. He fishes local lakes in the Duluth Bass Club’s league. One night last summer, he and his fishing partner, Roger Olson of Superior, weighed five fish that totaled more than 20 pounds.
Earlier this summer, Kishida and Olson won the new bass-fishing division at the Kolar Toyota ALS Walleye Tournament on Island Lake against 35 teams. They weighed five smallmouth bass that totaled just more than 15 pounds. And they took big-fish honors with a smallmouth that weighed 4.03 pounds. They earned $500 for winning the bass division and another $500 for the big fish.
“Everyone says that when a tournament starts, I become an animal,” Kishida said with a smile. “I don’t eat. I don’t drink. I don’t look at the clock.”
“He’s definitely a competitor,” said Doug Pirila of Proctor, tournament director for the Duluth Bass Club. “He goes out and fishes hard. He wants to win it. He puts his game face on.”
Even fishing for no money on Fish Lake on Wednesday evening, Kishida was intense. He had five rods rigged and lying ready on his bow deck with various baits attached. Working his trolling motor with one foot, he whipped cast after cast toward the shoreline. He had virtually no down time. His jig was almost always in the strike zone. Up against cattails. In a pocket among the reeds. Bouncing off a rock and plopping into the water.
“It’s a game,” he said, “It’s win or lose, right?”
He shot another cast into a foot-wide slot between a dock and a pontoon boat.
“His casting skills are unbelievable,” Olson, his fishing partner, said. “He’s just a fantastic bass fisherman, and I’ve fished with a lot of guys.”
As intense as he is, Kishida also is philosophical and easy to be around. He seems genuinely happy. He hopes to stay in Duluth for the foreseeable future. During the winters, he teaches snowboarding at Spirit Mountain. He and his ex-wife have a 10-year-old son, and Kishida doesn’t want to be far away from him.
“He’s just a great person,” Olson said. “He’s compassionate. He’s well-liked. And he has a passion for bass fishing that I don’t think anybody else in the Duluth-Superior area has.”
Wednesday night, Kishida picked up a couple of small largemouths on the jig and skirt combo, but those weren’t the kind of fish he was looking for. Toward sunset, he managed a 15-inch largemouth on an Outkast finesse jig.
“A decent keeper,” Kishida said, admiring the bass.
He tossed it back in the lake. Maybe it would grow up. If it does, it has a good chance of encountering a Shark somewhere down the line.