Takahiro Omori turned a victory in last July's CITGO Bassmaster Classic into a confidence-builder.
The Japanese pro added another first-place trophy to his case on Sunday, winning the season-opening CITGO Bassmaster Tour event at central Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga.
Omori took the tournament lead on the second day and was never really threatened, despite the fact that he caught only four fish on Sunday weighing eight pounds, one ounce. The Emory, Texas, resident had a four-day total of 50 pounds, 11 ounces to win the $100,000 first-place prize money and take the early lead in the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
“It's a great start to the season,” Omori said, waving a Japanese flag and holding up the first place trophy. “I'm speechless. I feel like I’m fishing my best ever. I had a great week. It was awesome. I tried to just focus on my own fishing. I didn't think I had it won.”
David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., was the lone angler among the Super Six finalists to come through with a five-fish limit on the final day, but it wasn’t enough to catch Omori. Walker finished with a total weight of 48-7.
Jeff Reynolds of Platter, Okla., was third with 42-1, Ron Shuffield of Bismark, Ark., finished fourth with 37-8, Terry Scroggins of Palatka, Fla., was fifth with 36-6, and 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle rounded out the top six at 35-15.
Omori said things have definitely changed for him since winning the Classic, and the added attention he’s received has made it hard to focus on the 2005 season. He received a hero's welcome in Japan following his Classic victory on Lake Wylie last summer and made hundreds of off-season appearances.
“There was so much attention after the Classic,” he said. “I was so busy. It was very, very difficult. I had to get refreshed. I did it by turning off my cell phone.”
Omori threw a gold and black lipless crankbait over the grass on Lake Kissimmee to claim victory.
“I knew he was going to be difficult to catch,'' Walker said of Omori and Sunday’s final round. “I didn't get the big fish I needed to win. You can't win out here when you're catching two and three pounders.”
Walker was the only angler to make a run at Omori, briefly taking the final round lead on the weigh-in stage before Omori's fish hit the scales.
Reynolds had four fish totaling 8-13 on the final day. He caught his first keeper on his second cast of the morning. His second bite didn’t come until four hours later.
“I'm just tickled to death,'' Reynolds said of his third place finish.
Shuffield caught two bass in the last round that weighed 3-14. He fished the north side of Lake Kissimmee to claim fourth place.
Terry Scroggins’ two final round bass weighed three and a half pounds and were enough to lift him from sixth place into fifth.
Gerald Swindle fell from a tie for third place into sixth place with a single bass that weighed 2-5.
“This was tough,” Swindle said. “I was swinging at a high fastball and striking out a lot. I was looking at it as a six-boat tournament, and I finished dead last.”
David Mansue of Robbinsville, N.J., wasn’t fishing in the final round, but was nonetheless a winner at the Tour opener. Mansue caught the tournament’s biggest bass, a nine-pound, four-ounce largemouth that earned him $1,000 as the Purolator Big Bass of Day One and another $1,000 as the biggest lunker of the tournament.
In addition to his first-place prize money, Takahiro Omori took home another $1,000 from CITGO for taking the early lead in the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year race and another $1,000 from Busch for having the top weight on Day Two of the tournament. If Omori’s 17-pound, 15-ounce catch on Day Two is one of the ten best of the Tour and Elite 50 seasons, he’ll be invited to the $200,000 Busch Shootout.
The Busch Heavyweight catch of Day Four belonged to Jeff Reynolds whose eight-pound, 13-ounce catch was one bass short of a limit. His catch moved him into third place in the tournament and earned him an extra $1,000 from Busch.
Reynolds bag was anchored by the Purolator Big Bass Award winner for the final round. His three-pound, seven-ounce largemouth was the best brought to the scales on Sunday and gained him $1,000 from Purolator.
Arizona’s Andre Moore grabbed the early lead in the Toyota Rookie of the Year race with his 14th-place finish. Pennsylvania’s Dave Wolak is second after finishing 24th.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, BankOne and Cialis (tadalafil).
Local Sponsors include Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention & Visitors Bureau Central Florida Sports Commission.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.