Last fall when his career was considerably lower profile and the demands on his time were far fewer, Takahiro Omori was the tournament marathon man, competing in eight CITGO Bassmaster Opens on three different circuits.

As the reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, Omori’s fall has been spent traveling, handling media obligations and doing public appearances for his sponsors. In addition, scheduling conflicts caused by simultaneous Open events on different circuits and his qualification for the upcoming Busch Shootout also limited his opportunity to compete in the fall tournaments.

As a result, the Japanese pro experienced the longest layoff of his career before returning to action in last week’s Southern Open on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Columbus, Miss., where he finished 44th.But he was not happy with the results.

“I don’t fish last two and a half months and I fished bad,” he said. “My boat control, casting, everything was bad. I’ve never fished this long without a tournament. Two and a half months and no tournaments. I realize the last day of the tournament I missed so many casts and I couldn’t fish good. That was a weird feeling.

“Last year, I fished eight Opens and constantly I fished all year long. But I didn’t like how I was feeling just fishing bad.

“I enjoyed it, of course. (Since it was) only one Open, I didn’t have to worry about re-qualifying for the Tour or re-qualifying for the Classic or re-qualifying for the (Open) Championship. So I don’t have much motivation fishing just one tournament. But still, I fished hard.

“It’s a big difference fishing the Tour and just fishing one Open, especially because I couldn’t fish all three of them because of the Busch Shootout. Plus, the money doesn’t compare to the Tour. So I kind of didn’t have much motivation to fish just one Open.

“I used that one tournament to train myself. Good experience every tournament I fish. Hopefully it will help me in the future,”

Omori, who said his media and sponsor obligations have slowed considerably, said he will spent the next couple of months fishing as much as possible in preparation for the January launch of the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer.

“I’m going to fish a lot around home at Lake Fork,” he said. “Not fishing tournaments, but fish by myself, just training myself to just go out there and fish like I do normally. Try new baits or new techniques. And I also want to enjoy all of my free time at home. And just be myself.”

Still, the Classic champion admits that there is no substitute for tournament fishing.

“Tournament fishing to me is totally different than just fishing for fun,” he said. “Everything I do in a tournament I have a reason, like changing baits or changing techniques. To move to the next spot. It’s very concentrated and very intense. It’s very different.”

ONE-LEGGED MAN. Former Classic champion Woo Daves managed to finish third in last week’s Northern Open and hold onto his third-place position in the season-ending standings despite having just one good leg to stand on. Actually, it was one good foot.

Two weeks before the final Northern Open, the veteran Virginia pro was riding on the tailgate of a truck that was backing up when his left foot struck a stump that was well hidden in the grass. “It caught my toe and pushed my foot right into the bumper,” he said. “It twisted it around and I broke my big toe and chipped a couple of bones and pulled some ligaments loose.”

Daves fished the tournament in a walking cast, popping pain medication every four hours.

“At first I didn’t know if I could fish it,” he said. “Then I got to where I could get around a little and I told my doctor I needed to fish because I had a chance to make the top 20 (and qualify for the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship).

“Fishing sitting down was extremely hard. I sat down more this week than I have in 30 years. And trying to run the trolling motor in 30 mph wind and not being able to put any weight on my left foot, it was hilarious.

“The hard part was I had to crawl up to the front seat and pull myself up. Then I had to get the trolling motor over. Then I’d have to hop back on one foot to drive. I couldn’t move like I like to move. Fortunately, your partner could net your fish in the Opens. But I lost three or four fish during the tournament and I feel like I would have got two of them if I had been able to stand up because I could have gotten the boat around stuff and reached them. But there was no way I could get the boat to them to get them untangled.”

Now that he has qualified for the Open Championship in December, Daves has time for his foot to heal before returning to action. But the injury will impact his true passion — running the 45 rabbit dogs he owns.

“Hopefully I can get on a four-wheeler and ease around,” he said.

THE BACHELOR. For another couple of weeks, that is. Chris Daves, like his father a veteran BASS pro, will leave bachelorhood behind Nov. 6 when he and his fiancée, Patricia, marry in Spring Grove, Va.

Chris, 33, also qualified for the Open Championship by finishing 11th in the Northern Open standings.

WELCOME BACK TO THE WINNER’S CIRCLE. It was great to see Paul Elias, one of the sport’s longtime warriors, get back into the winner’s circle by winning last week’s Southern Open.

It had been nearly 16 years since the former Classic champion last hoisted the winner’s trophy (in the 1988 Bassmaster Top 100 tournament on Lake Okeechobee).

DID YOU KNOW? Oklahoma pro Kenyon Hill grabbed the 20th and final Northern Open invitation to the Open championship, edging out Virginia’s Tony Black and Jon Bondy of Canada by four points.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. California’s Mark Tyler will be 32 on Nov. 1. Missouri pro Tim Sainato turns 44 on Nov. 10. North Carolina’s Guy Eaker will be 64 on Nov. 23.

IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO… BASS winner Danny Correia of Massachusetts would likely be working in construction. He is a talented carpenter.

THEY SAID IT. “I read some stuff in some articles and I asked guys I respect and got 10 different answers. I said, ‘If we can't agree internally, it's going to be a heck of a lot of fun getting the country doing it.’ You go back to the 50 greatest athletes. If you don't agree with who won, who finished second, who finished third, the great part of it was everyone had an opinion.” Mark Quenzel, senior vice president of programming and production for ESPN, and father of the Greatest Angler Debate, on how the idea was hatched.

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