By David A. Brown
October 9, 2013
As I pulled through the gates at the Inn at BK Ranch, I couldn’t conceal a grin of anticipation. Like many, I had wanted for quite some time to meet the owner and legendary bait maker Gary Yamamoto. And by “meet” I mean more than the 15 seconds I get with him when he comes off the tournament stage – fish bag in his right hand and his beloved long haired Chihuahua Bella lounging across his left forearm.
Well, through a recent media retreat, I finally got to meet Gary Yamamoto. It was nice, it was cordial and it was gracious. But you know what was really cool – I got to meet “Gary.”
At his Palestine, TX property, he and his lovely wife Beverly showered us with hospitality that included several meals of fresh Kobe beef from the Wagyu cattle that graze sloping fields between the ponds we fished. Now, some might assert that media event hosting inherently brings the big welcome. It does; but Gary treated us like family – cooking for us, serving us, laughing with us and clearly enjoying his unofficial role in this event’s coordination.
Gary’s private ponds offered plenty of photo material for forthcoming media projects, but this one felt as much like a vacation as it did the highly productive work trip it turned out to be. Memory making moments were many. Among them:Gary told us all about his Wagyu cattle operation and why the Kobe beef has such incredible taste, texture and health benefits.
We met Wataru Iwahori – the stick from Kawasaki City, Japan – and heard about his life-changing
opportunity of spending a year with Gary. (Wataru has undoubtedly learned much from his time visiting and fishing with Gary, but probably his biggest takeaway will be the difference between cooking sake and drinking sake. Ask Gary about that one sometime.)
I spent time each morning and afternoon snapping photos of the hummingbirds that buzz and aerially joust around the feeders Beverly keeps on the back deck. And, of course, we got a kick out of the prominent position Bella and her playmates Chica and Carmen hold at BK Ranch.
Yeah, we’re still talking about the same guy whose professional angler credits cross the Pacific from Japan’s vibrant tournament scene to America’s FLW and B.A.S.S. circuits; the same guy who has fished a pair of Bassmaster Classics and 4 Forrest Wood Cups, and the same guy who literally revolutionized the industry with that simple little worm called a Senko.
But beyond the business, beyond the international recognition, beyond the quiet, somewhat introverted personality belying the bigger-than-life reputation – beyond all this, there is a guy who just really digs fishing.
How do I know? Well, I got to see it live and in stereo. Yep, among the many wonderful experiences I’ve been blessed with, few will ever top the honor and sincere enjoyment of tracking Gary and his pro-staffer/pal Tom Monsoor as they strolled around one of the small ponds on BK Ranch and put his new topwater baits through a rigorous workout with some serious bass.
Taking nothing away from his undeniably impressive resume and upholding the respectful view I honestly have for the man, I can say to a certainty, that there’s a very refreshing chunk of regular guy inside this industry icon.
He’ll grin just as widely at a pound-and-a-halfer as he does a 6. We saw him catch both and he clearly enjoyed the totality of this morning’s experience.
He recoils bitterly when he misses a fish and mutters a few things I’d have to bleep out for a live
He talks smack. Oh boy, does he talk smack!
Five minutes after Gary released his biggest fish (that 6-pounder) on the Shibuki popper, Monsoor’s Tate’ walking bait fooled one flirting with 8. Did his fishing buddy congratulate him? Nope.
Any high fives? Uh-uh.
In true regular-guy form, Gary jabs: “See, you had to catch a bigger one just to out-do me!”
We all chuckled at that one, but it got better.
Shortly after relocating, Gary’s popper touches down and a big bass must have been sitting there watching it fall because the splash and the strike happened simultaneously. Gary sets the hook and misses.
Well, Monsoor fires a cast to the same spot and immediately draws the ire of his host.
“You have this whole pond and you cast right into my spot!”
By now, I’m about to hyperventilate from laughing so hard. But the show ain’t over yet.
Monsoor actually catches a fish right out of the same spot where Gary had just missed his.
Wow – that didn’t sit well.
Gary’s indignant response: “See, you only caught that fish because I got their attention.”
The only thing funnier, was an earlier moment when Gary stood ankle-deep in a muddy, weedy slop; leaning over and diligently working to revive his 6-pounder. The fish was a little slow to recharge its batteries, so Gary stayed with her to make sure she’d be able to swim away safely.
Here’s the good part. Gary stands up to stretch his back and right when he bends over to check on the fish, it kicks off and throws a tail full of mud and weed across his arms and shirt.
Okay, let’s regroup and analyze. First, in case you’re missing the vibe, this is all very tongue-in-cheek. The morning unfolded as I’ve described it, but don’t take Gary’s ornery responses as anything more than the good-natured ribbing that friends give one another.
That’s how regular guys roll. It’s nothing more than a subtle bonding tool that’s been going on for ages.
So what’s the point? Well, it’s very simple: The world knows Gary Yamamoto, but not many realize there’s a really funny, sincere, genuine and downright likeable guy who prefers that you call him Gary.
As a professional, I was honored to have met the former. As a person, I’m really happy I got to know the latter.