BEST BAITS YOU DON'T KNOW
Editors note: iBass360 pro guide Ryan Said, sat down with Thomas Kanemoto, co-founder of 1st Gen Fishing. Thomas grew up fishing reservoirs around Sacramento with his dad and brother Nick using everything from split shot rigs to jigs on offshore structure. At the age of 17, he began fishing tournaments with his brother on the CA Delta. Thomas has worked for G Pucci & Sons, manufacturers of P-Line, Beckman for 9 years, so he knows the ins and outs of the industry. He is excited to continue to develop the new bass bait brand with his brother, 1st Gen Fishing.
“Under the radar” is probably the best way to describe 1st Gen Fishing- a new bass fishing tackle brand and brainchild of Thomas and Nick Kanemoto. The 1st Gen brand is part of the G. Pucci & Sons family of tackle manufacturers that includes P-line, Beckman Nets, and Pucci terminal tackle. Why “under the radar”? So far, they have decided to keep advertising to a minimum and instead focus on creating a portfolio of distinct versions of proven fish catching designs, distinctions they believe give fishermen an edge.
At first glance it may look like theirs are “me too” products matching the lineups of other big brands, but a closer inspection reveals that everything in their lineup has significant, well thought out, and innovative performance “twists” that make these baits unlike anything currently on the market. The old adage says, someone is always coming up with a better mousetrap. The products from 1st Gen Fishing follow that adage by providing unique performance in a very crowded industry.
Like most fishermen, Thomas Kanemoto and brother Nick were always tinkering with their tackle. Thomas, who worked for G. Pucci, had some real skills in this area. But it was when they landed on a design that is now the 1st Gen Jaw Dropper jig head they knew they had stumbled
onto something unique. They designed the Jaw Dropper with a lead molded lip to try to give three- and four-inch boot tail swimbaits more swimming action. They figured the lip would help the popular styled soft plastic have action like a crankbait.
When retrieved at a slow speed it did provide a crankbait style swimming action, but what was even more intriguing was that when Nick put a straight stubby Ned rig style plastic on the head and dropped it into his pool, he noticed that every time he snapped the rod, the lip on the Jaw Dropper would make the bait dart to the side as opposed to straight ahead like a traditional Ned head. They had essentially created a jig head that would “walk the dog” on the bottom of the lake, definitely a “first” in the industry.
At the same time, Nick was also tinkering with a new twist on a spinnerbait by using some of the subtle features of the underspin jig. He added a titanium wire to the topside of the jig head on like a spinnerbait, but with a very small willow like an underspin. The result was what is now the 1st Gen Top Spin. It provides all the subtle action of an underspin, but with more lift for times when you want subtly and flash swimming above fish without the intensity level of a spinnerbait.
Thomas and Nick knew they had a couple of winners, so Thomas approached his management at G. Pucci with both the Top Spin and Jaw Dropper, emphasizing their unique characteristics. Having been tackle makers for decades, Pucci management recognized the innovative designs and jumped on the opportunity to move the designs into production. Nick had made the first samples by hand, but he understood that success in distribution would require a full-sized organization like G. Pucci with their extensive manufacturing resources. Pucci wanted to highlight these innovative products and decided to add a fourth brand name as the best way to enter the market.
Since each of these products were markedly different from anything on the market, they decided on the name 1st Gen Fishing, since each product was the first of its generation. They debuted 1st Gen and their products at the ICAST 2021, the fishing industry’s premier trade show, in preparation for a big launch in 2022. Today all their products can be found at Tackle Warehouse as well as high-end local tackle retailers. Some of their products can also be found on Amazon.
There’s More to the Story
The Jaw Dropper has already made a name for itself in tournament circles. In 2022 Thomas took 6th place in the prestigious year-end Apex Pro Tour Championship on Folsom lake in California by rigging a three-inch boot tail swimbait on the Jaw Dropper, and by putting Jaw Dropper heads on an Alabama rig. While he caught fish swimming the singular swimbait, he also found another innovative way to fish it. When he would slowly (very slowly) retrieve the bait along the bottom on light line, the lip of the Jaw Dropper would catch the bottom of the lake which both stirred up silt thereby attracting fish to the commotion, and it caused the bait to stand up on end, almost somersaulting the bait when caught on rocks and debris on the bottom. This gives the bait look of vulnerability, making it more attractive to fish- something you can’t get with a traditional swimbait head.
Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Bryan Schmitt brought the Jaw Dropper to the attention of an even wider audience when he used it to take 2nd place at the 2023 Bassmaster Classic. Schmitt rigged a finesse worm on the Jaw Dropper and used the lipped jig to “walk the dog” with the worm around brush piles and rocky bars on the main river. Using the Jaw Dropper as part of a trio of baits, Schmitt was one of only five in fifty-five angler field to weigh a five-fish limit every day of the event. The Jaw Dropper was an integral part of a strategy that left Schmitt's only 1- 10 short of Bass Fishing’s ultimate prize.
Anglers are continuing to innovate with the unique Jaw Dropper action. One recent report Thomas received was that anglers are using the Jaw Dropper on a Damiki-style rig for vertical jigging. The Jaw Dropper already has a 90-degree eye and a Mustad Ultra Point hook making it perfect for this technique. What anglers really found unique is that the lip causes the bait to spin in a circle when the rod is snapped or popped- just like a dying bait fish or like one attempting to escape. As a one-two punch, a jigging spoon, and a Damiki-rigged bait on a Jaw Dropper have been deadly on suspended fish.
Now for the Latest
While the Jaw Dropper and Top Spin got 1st Gen off the ground, Thomas and Nick were by no means finished “tinkering”. Which each bait they fished they kept coming back to the question “What can we do different?”
One of the most “fish-catching” baits in recent years has been the bladed jig. The success of the Z-man Jackhammer has been undeniable. Its success can be attributed largely to two features- the patented blade to head attachment that allows the blade to hit the head resulting in a distinct noise, and the bait’s hunting behavior during the retrieve. Thomas and Nick have worked on how to achieve those features using a split ring between the blade and the head so as not to infringe on the patent while still incorporating the bladed jig’s unique characteristics.
The result is the 1st Gen Copperhead Bladed Jig. They molded two copper BB’s into the head of the jig that protrude outward. The Copperhead achieves everything the Jackhammer can do with an added bonus. They found the clanging of the blade against the copper BB’s is significantly louder than a traditional Jackhammer. The Jackhammer usually gets a “push bite” from fish, meaning fish swim up behind the bait and push it forward. The brothers found that the Copperhead gets a vicious strike, like a spinnerbait strike, due to the louder noise. After two years of prototyping, 1st Gen has introduced the Copperhead bladed jig with a slightly larger blade to achieve the same action as the Jackhammer. It features a hand-tied skirt, wire bait keeper, and 5/0 hook. Thomas and Nick will be the first to tell you that the Jackhammer is still a staple in their tacklebox, but the Copperhead has become another invaluable tool alongside it. As an added bonus, for the same performance, it comes at a considerably lower price point.
1st Gen fishing has rounded out their skirted baits with three new additions: a spinnerbait, a buzzbait, and a hybrid combining the Top Spin with a swim jig. All three feature the same proven head design as the Top Spin and the same high quality skirts, hooks, and wire bait keepers. As with other 1st Gen offerings, each product has distinct features that set it apart from others on the market.
The Split Blade spinnerbait has unique coloring on the blade. One quarter of the blade features a color different from the predominant blade color along the horizontal seam so that every time the blade rotates, you get an additional pop of color. Think of the multi-colored lights flashing behind you the last time you exceeded the speed limit- they definitely get your attention. No other spinnerbait on the market offers this and it is sure to turn a few “bassheads”.
1st Gen’s buzzbait offering is a double buzz. Anglers are often intimidated by the bulk of a double buzzbait. 1st Gen has gone to great lengths to provide a very compact double buzz. There are two versions, one with traditional metal blades and one with first-of-its-kind plastic blades. The metal version includes super loud squeaky clackers that can accommodate toad-style soft plastics. The double counter-rotating blades allow it to track true on the retrieve. The plastic blade version is the first to allow super slow retrieves, much slower than traditional buzzbaits, for fish that need a little more convincing. The plastic blades also provide a “plopping” sound that metal buzzbaits can’t match, making it perfect for dead calm days when buzzbaits are not usually the first choice.
The 1st Gen FlashX Bladed Swim Jig leverages the Top Spin design and features a small titanium wire arm with a small blade. The arm provides a level of weedless-ness, and it’s perfect for calmer days when a full bladed spinnerbait is too much flash. Unlike a spinnerbait, the FlashX can be skipped like a jig, giving those bass deep under docks or overhangs a look they have not seen from a spinning blade. It’s an ideal shad spawn bait with just enough flash to get attention while still maintaining a natural appeal.
Just the Beginning
The first generation of 1st Gen Fishing’s baits are just the beginning. The “tinkering” continues unabated. Although nothing has been officially released, during our conversation Thomas says he feels like they are have filled out their skirted bait lineup, and are ready with fresh ideas to take on the world of hard baits. He indicated that Nick has some interesting balsa crankbaits designs already carved and is exploring ways to effectively bring them to production sometime in the near future. Whatever they decide to do next, we can expect baits with high quality manufacturing and components, that will provide an edge to set it apart in catching performance.
1.) Thomas demonstrates the Jaw Dropper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxenl0pjX4k
2.) Thomas demos the Copperhead https://www.westernbass.com/forum/topic143445.html
Ryan Said is a tournament angler and U.S. Coast Guard licensed guide on Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. He books trips through Marcels Guide Service - a 10+ year affiliation. In 2011, after winning the Bassmaster Northern Open points championship, Ryan had the honor of fishing the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite series trail. He has fished the Bassmaster Open Series several times, as well as the Costa (now Toyota) Series. Ryan, an engineer and high school math teacher, is pro team for Dobyns Rods, Lews Reels, P-Line, Blackfish Gear and Costa Sunglasses.