Perhaps the person who was most surprised by Shinichi Fukae's victory at the Wal-Mart Open (Beaver FLW) was Fukae himself. He had inside information: He knew he couldn't catch more than 12 pounds a day, and he thought he would need more than that to achieve his second win of 2006.

As he'd predicted, he didn't top the 12-pound mark on any of the 4 days. But he was right on it on day 2 to make the cut in the No. 8 position, and then caught the biggest bag on both of the final 2 days when an already-stingy bite became even tougher.

The win, combined with his season-opening triumph at Okeechobee, made him the first angler since Rick Clunn in 2000 to win more than one FLW Tour event in the same season and just the third to accomplish that feat (David Fritts won three times in 1997).

Here's how he did it.


The annual event in Rogers, Ark. had taken place in mid-April several times in recent years, and that calendar placement had turned it into a sight-fishing contest. There were a scant few fish on the beds this time around, but the vast majority were still in the pre-spawn state. Sight-fishing wasn't a major factor.

Fukae, a resident of Mineola, Texas by way of Osaka, Japan, practiced for 10 days. Midway through that period, he discovered a pattern that would allow him to catch a limit each day – fishing finesse worms in standing timber.

"I didn't practice for winning, I practiced to catch a limit each day," he said with translation help from friend Kazuki Kitajima, another Osaka native who now lives in nearby Fayetteville. "My consistency was pretty good – I could catch 12 pounds. The consistency (eventually) helped me win."


> Day 1: 5, 10-12
> Day 2: 5, 12-00 (10, 22-12)
> Day 3: 5, 11-03
> Day 4: 5, 9-13 (10-21-00)

The weather changed daily - from overcast and warm on day 1 to thunderstorms on day 2 to violent winds on day 3 to chilly, post-frontal conditions on day 4. Throughout it all, Fukae remained rock-solid, just as he'd done in his Okeechobee win.

Day 1 saw four 15-pound bags come to the scales, so he wasn't on the radar with his 10 3/4-pound stringer that put him in a three-way tie for 18th place. Things only got tougher from there though, and his reliable tactics were just the ticket as the big-bite, power-fishing techniques of other contenders began to wane.

Only two 15-pound sacks were caught on day 2, and he slipped into the Top 10 with his best bag of the tournament. His 11-03 stringer on day 3 was the only one in the field that topped 10 pounds, and he followed that up with a 9-13 on day 4 that was again the best of the day.

He spent all 4 days in the same area on the lower end of the lake, maneuvering his boat among the timber and working his worm through water that was 10 to 15 feet deep over a pea-gravel bottom. He caught no fewer than 13 keepers a day.

He weighed in a mixed bag each day – two largemouths, two smallmouths and a spotted bass on day 1, and a largemouth, a smallmouth and three spots on days 2, 3 and 4.

Winning Gear Notes

> Worm gear: 6'6" medium-light St. Croix rod, Shimano Sahara 3000 spinning reel, 8-pound Duel fluorocarbon line, 3/32- or 1/8-ounce custom jighead, 4" Gary Yamamoto Shad-Shaped Worm or 5" Gary Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm (green-pumpkin or cinnamon).

> He went to the 1/8-ounce jighead in the stiffest winds and to fish the deepest parts of his area (13 to 15 feet).


> Main factor in his success – "Just keep practicing. I think I'm getting sick from fishing too much."

> He had no backup plan to turn to if his finesse bite had petered out. "I was catching so many fish that I didn't think I'd need one."

> He's only 22nd in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race despite wins in two of the four events. He bombed at Pickwick (157th) and finished 72nd at Murray.

> BassFan News is brought to you by Rapala.