Young Guns: At Only 28, Joe Okada’s Riding High

Category: article

 Oct 12th, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Oct 12th, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Young Guns: At Only 28, Joe Okada’s Riding High
    As one of AIM’s bachelor pros, 28-year-old Joe Okada is sure to get teased when he steps onto the stage at an AIM Pro Walleye Series™ tournament.

    But no one teases him about that fact that Okada was riding a tide of top 10 finishes during the 2010 season with a definite upward trend. Or, that he’s looking forward to counting more coups in 2011.

Joe Okada, AIM Young Gun

    Okada knows his stuff, exuding a confidence that is often lacking in someone who’s only been fishing professionally for about six years. He backed up that confidence with four top 10 finishes this year in competition this year, including a sixth place at AIM’s South Dakota Walleye Classic in Akaska this August, third at the International Walleye Championships on Minnesota’s Lake Winnibigoshish and third place overall for Angler Of The Year.

    “I’ve never finished any higher than third yet. But I feel like it’s on the horizon. All I feel I need are a couple more things to go right and we’ll get there,” he says.

    “Once you’re in the top five it’s a series of events that need to go right, unless it’s a complete blowout. Most of the time, it’s a few small things that separate the top from the guys behind them,” Okada adds. “If you can just pick apart one or two things to help you down the road, it all adds up, including whether you have the confidence to stick it out with a presentation or at particular spot, or knowing when to pick up.”

    Like many of AIM’s young guns, Okada has wanted to fish professionally since he was no bigger than a tackle box. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was about six. Now the guys I’m fishing with are the ones I was watching on TV and reading about them.”

    Shortly after high school and before Okada earned his college degree in business management, he began guiding on the Madison Chain of Lakes and Lake Michigan in 2001, and he credits that experience to start dialing in his competitive edge.

    While he still guides, Okada says that guiding is a tough environment made even tougher by the recession, and he turned to the pro side and the promotional side of the sport to reach his long-term goals.

    His philosophy of tournament fishing? Simple. “You need to take a minimum of three things into consideration during each event. If you focus on those three things, for example, lure depth, speed and some other change that might have just triggered a bite; in other words what might have you or your boat just done to manipulate the lure to trigger a bite. If you can correlate that to what’s in the water, by the end of the day you should be in the hunt.

    “I’m most comfortable trolling. I fee like I’ve narrowed down techniques through the process of elimination, and that can become your strong suit pretty quickly.” Okada likes to tie his own harnesses. “I like playing around with really big blades and other custom ties. I troll cranks as much as harnesses though,” he adds. “But I also cashed a check in every tournament either trolling spinners, cranks or live bait rigging. It’s about as simple a delivery system as you can get.”

    Okada made his first professional casts fishing with his father, Dave Okada, in the Masters Walleye Circuit in 2004, fishing with him for five years, then moving on to the FLW in 2008-09, and the AIM circuit in 2010. And AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ format makes all the difference, he said.

    “I love the concept of catch and release and because AIM allows anglers to market themselves as individuals a bit better since there are no sponsor restrictions. As a pro, you can then work out individual deals with any company so you’re more marketable, and AIM’s rules are a lot more flexible.”

    Okada ran a 20-foot ranger for the 2010 season, and plans to seek more sponsors as his star rises.

    His advice for other young guns thinking about striking out into the pro ranks?

    “Don’t be afraid to approach any pro. I talk to a lot of established pros for advice, and getting a strong network is essential to develop the right contacts for the right advice.

    “Surround yourself with those people and really start to learn the actual game of competitive walleye fishing. That can come from becoming a coangler too, as you’re going to learn a lot from pros both on and off the water that way. That’s really how to get started.”

    You can contact one of AIM’s youngest pros on the circuit at www.joeokada.net.


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