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Ted Takasaki A Plain Old Fisherman
Seldom do you find something you love to do in your lifetime and even less seldom are you able to make a living doing what you love to do. Ted Takasaki is one of those lucky people. His dad took him fishing when he was young. They fished for bluegills, perch and bass. “I didn’t catch the fever back then. It wasn’t until a college friend, who loved to fish, took me fishing after college that I really got excited about the sport. He was the one who really got me ‘hooked’.”
Ted grew up in Chatsworth, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois in 1982. After college he moved, along with his good friend and future fishing partner, John Campbell, to Chicago. They both took jobs working for Hewlett Packard. John’s family was from Spencer, Iowa so they took many trips to West Lake Okoboji. Ted remembers, “We caught our first walleye at Okoboji and also my first Muskie. We would drive all the way from Chicago to Okoboji and camp out to fish the lake. We hung out at the White Oaks bait shop and met a lot of great people.”
Ted and John started taking fishing classes once a week. Spence Petros, Editor of Fishing Facts Magazine) taught the courses. “We really got into it. We were reading books and would go to Canada to practice what we learned. Finally in 1988, we decided to fish our first walleye tournament. We did not do well. We did not catch one fish. The conditions were terrible. The water was terribly muddy. We called it the Mud Bowl. Out of 200 teams, only 83 fish were caught.”
“Our second tournament did not go much better. We were not alone in our misery, as for both tournaments out of 200 teams; an average of only 25 teams caught a fish. So our first year was not productive. Luckily we did not quit our day job. We continued to work for HP. In 1989, we decided to fish a whole circuit (four tournaments). We purchased a boat together and qualified for the end of the year championship tournament (MWC-Master Walleye Circuit). Only the top 50 teams got invited. It was held by Dubuque on the Mississippi River. Usually you practice a few days ahead of the tournament. However, my dad had a heart attack and passed away the day before the tournament. I left so that I could take care of my mom. The daily individual possession limit of fish you could keep back then on the Mississippi was ten. For the tournament, each two man team was allowed to weigh ten fish. John was told at the rules meeting the night before the 1st day that he could weigh ten, so I stayed home to take care of affairs. Just before John launched in the morning, John was told that he could catch and bring 10 fish in, but only weigh five fish (because he was only half of the team). John went out and caught ten fish by himself and weighed his best five. I came back the 2nd day and we caught eight fish with six fish the last day. We ended up in fourth place slightly behind the winner. If they would have let John weigh the other five fish he caught on the first day we would have won the tournament. There were about 2,000 screaming fans in the stadium when we rolled in to weigh the fish. That was when I decided I wanted to do this full-time and was the defining momoment which changed my life and career.”
“I worked hard to cultivate sponsors and grow my business but most people told me to not quit my day job. I took their advice and did not quit. I was a good enough sales person (worked there 18 years) that I always met my quota and was still able to fish on weekends and use my vacation time to fish tournaments. There were multiple circuits that were forming at the time. In 1991 both John and I were fishing a lot and we were named Team of the Year for the MWC in 1991.”
Ted’s current sponsors include Lund Boats, Mercury Outboard engines, Lindy Fishing Tackle, Minnkota Motors, Hummingbird Electronics, St. Croix Rods, Ardent Reels, Fish On Rod Holders, GA Johnson Construction, Off Shore Tackle, TUF Line and The Lodge Fish Houses. “As I improved, I earned more sponsors. In 1993, I earned the Top Gun Angler for the PWT (Professional Walleye Trail). 1998 was the pinnacle of my career for fishing walleye tournaments. That year the PWT increased the purse to $100,000, an unheard of amount of money at the time. I won the first $100,000 payout in walleye tournament fishing history that year.”
Ted’s current boat is a Lund 208 Pro V GL. “This is a great boat. Lund definitely designed it right. I began using this boat in 2009 and have cashed a check at most of the tournaments since then. Ted pulls his boat with a GMC 3/4 ton Sierra extended cab with an 8-foot bed and topper. Commenting on his boat and truck Ted says, “To be successful in this business, it is important to have the right equipment and Lund and GMC are definitely the right equipment for me.”
equipment for me.” Takasak Sportfishing Promotions is Ted’s business. According to Ted, “HP taught us a lot about marketing, business plans, and it helped me to grow my new fishing business. I earn money from doing well in tournaments, earning sponsors, doing seminars and general self-promotion. I knew I couldn’t make a living fishing tournaments 100% of the time but I wanted to make a living in the fishing business.” After winning the first $100,000 tournament he called the President of Lindy Fishing Tackle (Nick Adams) and told him he won it using one of their jigs (Fuzz-E-Grub jig). “Nick told me he was retiring and was looking for a replacement. I became worried about losing my sponsor because I had a strong relationship with him. I asked him ‘what about me’? He replied ‘what about you?’. After a couple of weeks passed, he called me back and said the Board would like to meet with me. I put together a resume, a strategic plan and after a full-day interview, I was offered and accepted the position of President and moved to Brainerd, Minnesota. This was perfect for me. We doubled revenue and quadrupled profits over the next 10 years. I learned a lot about people and how to manage them all while I was able to continue to cultivate my fishing business. I continued to do seminars, and fish tournaments for the next 10 years. They were great years. I did well in tournaments and Lindy’s profits were growing. So now in 2007, the shareholders were all getting up in age. Business succession was the biggest challenge to the company and the Board decided that Lindy was not capitalized enough to buy out all of the shareholders. They decided to sell the company and the deal was closed in February of 2008. I managed the company through the transition and left the company in November of 2010 and Lindy would remain my sponsor. As of November, 2010, I have achieved my lifelong goal of becoming a 100% professional fisherman.”
“Although I started fishing at an early age, I did not catch my first walleye until after college (fishing on West Lake Okoboji). I am an unlikely professional fisherman. I grew up in a tiny town. Mom and dad did not have any money. There wasn’t a walleye within 50 miles of my town and now I earn my living catching them. I was lucky but you really create your own luck. My dream had come true.”
Ted moved back to Sioux Falls in July of 2010. He has appeared on many fishing shows and people now recognize him. Ted writes a monthly fishing column for the Argus Leader and travels all over the upper Midwest speaking at seminars and making appearances at fishing shows.
Soo Sports from Sioux Falls and Swenson Marine of Chamberlain are both local Lund boat dealers that he works with. “They asked me to help at the Great Outdoors show but I had another commitment. I will be out of town 12 of the next 16 weekends working sport shows all over the Midwest. I make appearances, perform seminars, and fish tournaments as a way to make a living.”
Ted’s favorite waters to fish include:
1. Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana-“It is beautiful, desolate, and has big fish in it.”
2. Lake Erie in Ohio-“I have had a great tournament record over the years on Lake Erie and it too has big fish in it.”
3. Red River in Manitoba-“This is an easy river to fish and has the most interesting looking walleyes that I have ever seen (Greenbacks).
4. Lake of the Woods in Minnesota- “I have caught all kinds of walleyes all throughout the season on this lake.”
5. Bay of Quinte in Ontario-“BIG FISH!”
Ted also ice fishes but it is more as a hobby. The Lodge Fish Houses (built in Brookings, SD by Distinct Builders) is one of his sponsors. They were his first ice-fishing sponsor. GA Johnson construction (a local Sioux Falls builder) built his home and is also a sponsor for Ted. “Endorsements are advertising for my sponsors. I also do a lot of writing and speaking and talk about my sponsors’ products.
In order for a product to sell, it has to have several things. It’s like a three legged stool. You have to have a good product that does what it is suppose to do. It is the seat and sits on top of the three legs: the first leg is distribution - it has to be accessible for people to buy. Next is awareness: people need to know about your product. The third leg is credibility. Most of the time I fill two of those requirements: create awareness and credibility. For example, I am a endorser and spokesperson for my sponsors. It is important to be able to successfully market their products. I represent great companies and I am lucky to represent these great companies wherever I go. You combine that with my business experience as a President of a company, I not only understand the fishing, I also understand the business side of sponsorships. This helps me communicate with high-level executives as well as everyday Joe Fisherman.” One of Ted’s goals and aspirations going forward is to achieve Angler of the Year for AIM (Angler Insight Marketing)or the FLW Walleye Tour. “I have not won either of these awards. Another goal is to increase my company’s revenue by 10% per year. This business has been good to me and if I can continue to grow and diversify my sponsors I feel I will be able to achieve my goals.
My advice for people that would want to follow in my footsteps is: number one they have to have a goal and they have to be passionate. You have to be driven to be successful. You need to know where you are going so you need a plan (goal). Have a dream. You will need action items that will show you the steps you need to take to achieve your goal. This was my dream 21 years ago and I have achieved my dream and these things have helped me along the way. I want to continue to gain exposure to my sponsors and to give back to my industry. I will be addressing 10,000 Boy Scouts this summer and I will be talking about how they can become successful by following these steps to success. I want to inspire young kids to do what they want to do…whatever that is. To be able to do what you love to do for a living is great. There are not very many people that can do that. I want to inspire more people to achieve their dreams. I would like to become a motivational speaker and a business consultant. That will complete my lifelong goals. I speak at an average of 50 seminars a year and am very comfortable in front of people. My strengths are in communicating with people. I can relate to many people on a lot of levels. I have never worried about money because I know if I can help other people get what they want, I will get what I need. I learned this philosophy while teaching Dale Carnegie courses when I was at HP.” Ted Takasaki: just a plain old fisherman…who loves to compete.