Interview with Major Craft fishing rods, Japan

My profound thanks to James at Nice Fish! (UK Major Craft distributors, plus Sunline and Seaspin) for helping me get this interview with Koichiro Hamano of Major Craft in Japan. Hamano is the Overseas Division Manager & Major Craft America corp. President at Major Craft and of course my thanks to him as well for providing these answers to my questions. If you read this blog then you will have gathered that I have a serious thing for Major Craft fishing rods (as per here for example), indeed I must credit the 9’ Skyroad especially for doing so much to change what I thought about lure rods for the way we fish and how much rod we can get for our money.

I am fascinated to learn a bit about how Major Craft go about their business, and I am amazed for example at how much information they are sourcing from the marketplace to help develop products that anglers want. OK, so this might sound logical and you would think it has to happen all the time to make decent fishing tackle that we actually want, but believe me, I have seen some stuff here in the UK over the years that has left me pretty amazed, let’s put it that way. Anyway, enough from me, here’s Major Craft Japan.

Please tell us a bit about how Major Craft the company started up. How big is your company, how many employees etc.?

Mr. Tsugio Mori (President) established Major Craft on 15th February, 2001.  Before then, he has been working in fishing industries for 30 years.  He was always thinking about the PRICE of fishing tackle.  Bass fishing was very popular in Bubble economy. Then many fishing rods, lures & etc. was imported from US and the price was very high due to super low exchange rate of yen. When Japanese manufacturing started to produce fishing goods, they have also set their price range as same as US products.  But people still bought the product due to the bubble era. After that the price has become low, but it was never low enough. It was because people in japan always had a mind that High Price Product is High Quality. Mr. Tsugio Mori thought this wasn’t correct and wanted to produce products with affordable price & high quality. He created the brand Major Craft, designing high quality products with affordable price. The brand satisfied many anglers, and also changed their mind for fishing products. It didn’t take long for Major Craft to become one of the biggest fishing brands in Japan. Now the brand is widely supported by anglers all over the world. Major Craft have 21 employees in Japan.

Who designs your sea bass rods for shore fishing? Please tell us a bit about how a new rod is thought of, designed and then tested before going on sale.

Our rod designer is Mr. Tetsu Kawakami & Mr Kei Hisamoto.  Mr. Kawakami is designing the outlooking of rod and Mr. Hisamoto is designing the blanks. We have the knowledge about sea bass fishing. We change the guides & reel seat if FUJI release new products. But the fishing style is developing daily. Our sales staff are going around many shops every day and try to get some information for new idea.  And our pro staff Mr. Tatsuki Hirose is going fishing for 130~150 days in one year!! He also talk to some anglers, captain & shop staff. Anyway we keep getting some new ideas. Then we make some samples. Then Mr. Kawakami or Hirose go to TEST. We make sample many time until we can accept the action.

Does Major Craft make their own rods, or do you design them and then outsource the actual building to another company? How do you make such good rods that are not very expensive?

Yes, we have two designers as I said. And then we order to China OEM factory and our own factory in Vietnam. Why can we make affordable price? There are many reasons. One of them is our order quantity. The sales of Basspara, Solpara & Trapara is good because of the price. The order quantity is 1000 to 2000pcs per model. That’s why. And we have more reason. But we can’t speak here. Company secret.

What are your thoughts on certain lure rod lengths and what works best for certain shore fishing situations - bays, estuaries, open coast, rocks, rough weather etc.? I believe that here in the UK we tend to use shorter lure rods than you do in Japan.

The length depends on each situation.  If I use seabass rod in bay, the length should be around 8’0’’. If in beach or rocks, it should be more than 9 - 9’6’’. If I use in small river (estuaries), I might use short rod.  I love bream fishing. I’m using 7’6’’ LRF rod. LRF rod is not so strong. But I can catch a sea bass also.  Of course the size of seabass is not so big. Anyway if we need to cast far, we use longer rod. In bay, we don’t need to cast far. We need accuracy.

Why do you tend to have slightly longer rod handles on the cheaper sea bass rods? The handle length (reel to butt) on a 9’ Crostage is very different to that on say a 9’ Truzer - why?

Crostage seabass model was developed for seabass but Crostage is versatile rod.  It means bait fisherman also use it in Japan.  Truzer & Skyroad seabass model is specialized only for lure sea bass fishing.  When we use the rod in the water (wading), the grip should be short.  If it is long, it’s clumsy to use. That’s why.

Regular, Regular Fast, Fast etc. - what do you mean with regards to the rod actions? What are you trying to describe?

As a company you bring out new rods very often - when for example are you looking to upgrade/replace the Skyroad, X-Ride and Truzer ranges? How are you going to make a better range of budget rods than the Skyroad range?

We don’t replace their range now.  Maybe we don’t do 2016 & 2017.  But I don’t know 2018.  If FUJI release new guides and reel seat, we might release new or replace.

Please tell us about the surf/flatfish models that you have in some of the rod ranges - how does your flatfish fishing differ from sea bass fishing?

When we fish in surf, we want to use a lightweight lure.  And we have to cast far.  If we use seabass rod, we can’t cast far.  The action of surf rod is different from seabass rod.  The action is Regular slow. The rod bow like cane. Then we can cast lightweight lures also. But the method of surf (flat fish) fishing is changing recently. It’s becoming more technical. Do you know “WIND” method? We use the method on bottom. So we need Regular or regular fast action. But If the action is 100% same as sea bass, we can’t cast a lightweight lure. So the action is little bit slower than seabass.

As a company and where you fit into the rod market, do you ever see Major Craft making sea bass rods that would compare in price to say the Daiwa Branzino? How much better can a sea bass rod be than the Truzer for example?

Now we’re planning to make REAL High-end rod. But I can’t say the detail now. Daiwa Branzino??  We can’t use AGS.  But I believe we can make the best blanks.

Please tell us about your new, “entry level” Firstcast range of sea bass rods (starting to appear in the UK right now) - how do they compare to say the older Crostage range?

The guide of First Cast is Fuji O ring. Turel is K guide + SIC ring.  First Cast has an action more like Skyroad & N-One with split eva handle where Turel is little more stiff with full eva handle. And the guide number on the First Cast is smaller in number. (ex. Solpara have 7pcs ==> First Cast 6pcs). But the First Cast rod is perfect for fisherman looking for upgrade but don’t want spend lots of money.

Thank you very much for your time - anything else you would like to say to fishermen here in the UK?

Thank you very much for using our products. We will keep releasing the best possible products. Thanks & Best Regards, Hamano.

And of course we won the Grand Slam. How on earth can a country with the player numbers and resources that we have not won a Grand Slam for thirteen years though? Whatever the case, it’s a damn fine start I reckon to a new era of English rugby, and my hope is that this young team go on to some great things under our esteemed Aussie coach. The French were always going to do everything they could to disrupt our Grand Slam ambitions, but we came through, and I reckon the confidence from winning some decent silverware at last is going to get us going places once again. Exciting times ahead? How about that England run chase in the Twenty20 against South Africa the other day? I was convinced we were down and out, and then we chase down 230 to win. Don’t you love sport’s capacity to shock?