A bevy of BASS winners past and future fished the 1998 Bassmaster New Mexico Western Invitational on Elephant Butte Reservoir. Included among their ranks were Ish Monroe (4th), Skeet Reese (11th), Mike Reynolds (21st), Aaron Martens (25th), Mike Folkestad (T31st ), John Murray (42nd), Byron Velvick (53rd), James Niggemeyer (90th) and Robert Lee (T135th). The field was also full of western studs like Larry Hopper, Gary Yamamoto, Bill Siementel, Greg Hines, Rich Tauber and Don Iovino.
Despite the fact that it was a stacked field, this was one of the rare Bassmaster tournaments where a local won. On a stingy lake that produced only five cumulative catches over 20 pounds in the course of three days, Elephant Butte, NM resident Dennis Hoy claimed the crown, beating runner-up Rich Iannolo by over four pounds.
It was Hoy’s only Top 20 finish with BASS, but it was significant to the history of tournament fishing for another reason. Do you know what it was?
For a hint, look down the standings sheet to 23rd place.
If the name Seiji Kato is familiar to you, it’s likely because of his role as a lure designer with companies like Team Daiwa, Lucky Craft and most recently his own brand called Jackall.
While it was only 14 years ago, it seems hard to comprehend that there was a time that most American anglers weren’t familiar with Japanese lures. Now you can go into any decent tackle shop and see brands like Lucky Craft, Megabass, Ima and Jackall. Back then, they were a rarity.
Oddly enough, the Pointer contributed to another top five finish in this event as well. Hoy and Monroe, in first and second place respectively heading into the third and final day of competition, were paired up together for that day. Once Hoy had secured a limit, he reportedly cut off his only Pointer and gave it to his partner, effectively paying Kato’s generosity forward. Monroe ended up fourth overall.
On the television program depicting the Elephant Butte tournament, the Ponter got its due but Kato made waves by introducing the dropshot technique to a wide American audience for the first time. Nearly a decade later he won the co-angler side of an Elite Series tournament on Lake Amistad with the “flick shake” technique.
Understandably, the average American angler is now keenly aware of what is going on in Japan.