How it began
When Gary Yamamoto opened a campground in Page, Ariz., he wanted to fish nearby Lake Powell.
So he bought a boat and set out to learn how to catch bass in the clear, deep reservoir.
He didn’t want to fish with the big, cumbersome baits some used. Instead, he wanted to throw finesse lures that could be used on light line.
There was only one problem: Color selection.
“There were grubs on the market, but there weren’t many colors,” Yamamoto said. “So I called Gene Larew
(who had a nationally known lure company) and he agreed to make up some for me in different colors. The only catch was that I had to buy $5,000 of each color.
"Well, that was a lot of money for someone just getting started. But I was serious enough that I bought $25,000 worth of grubs.”
Turns out, it was a great investment. Yamamoto found success on those grubs, started doing well in tournaments and began experimenting with combining the bodies of those Larew grubs with the plastic skirts from another company, Twin-Ts.
When Twin-Ts went out of business, Yamamoto bought it and gained his own plastic injection equipment. And Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits was born.
One of Yamamoto’s first big successes was the Hula Grub
, a skirted grub with either a twin or single tail.
His baits were initially the rage in Japan. Though Yamamoto is an American citizen – he was born to Japanese immigrants in Hawaii–his ancestry brought him fame in Japan.
“Bass fishing was in its infancy in Japan at the time, and there was a lot of demand for smaller baits like grubs, short plastic worms, things like that,” he said. “I was instrumental in bringing tournament fishing to Japan.”
But Yamamoto wanted to get widespread exposure of his lures in the United States. To do that, he knew he would have to move from Arizona to the heart of American bass country, Texas.
That strategy worked, and soon Yamamoto Custom Baits became household name for bass fishermen.