“I’m excited to see where BASS and ESPN are headed,” Omori, 35, said. “I can’t wait to see the future and I definitely want to be a part of it when it happens.”
Omori was the first foreign national to win a CITGO Bassmaster Classic. He left his home Japan for America in 1992 and began work as a dishwasher to support his dream of fishing.
Although Omori’s credentials in the sport now are undeniable – he’s had six BASS wins, is the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion and recently won the Norfork Lake Bassmaster Central Open in October – Shimizu is a relative unknown with only 27 BASS tournaments under his belt. He most recently qualified for the BUSCH Shootout in September with the heaviest sack of the season, 30 pounds, 5 ounces. The three-year pro and resident of Osaka, Japan, caught that sack - and was fully embraced by fishing fans - at Lake Guntersville in Alabama during a 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour tournament. Despite his small English vocabulary, Shimizu armed himself with a photogenic smile and a veteran stage presence, working the crowd before narrowly falling to second behind Zell Rowland. It is Shimizu’s best BASS finish to date.
“I feel honored to be a part of the Bassmaster Elite Series,” Shimizu, 35, said through a translator. “I always wanted to fish in the best tournament circuit in the world, and this is why I am flying overseas to join. I am starting to feel that BASS is taking us to where bass fishing should be as a major professional sport.”
Shimizu and Omori will fish in a smaller field in 2006 and compete for nearly $11 million dollars in the tournament series, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, the Bassmaster Majors, the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year program and other contingencies. The Elite Series also will offer anglers an opportunity to promote themselves and provide more visibility to their sponsors through boat wraps.
Meanwhile, Shimizu has used his charm and Japanese roots to garner a number of impressive sponsorships, including non-endemic giant United Airlines, Mercury Marine, MotorGuide, Japanese companies Bait Breath, Gamakatsu International, Inc., Evergreen International Aviation Inc., Sunline Coach Co., Japanese marina V6 Marine, electronics provider Hondex and Champion Boats.
Omori’s sponsors include Ranger Boats, Yamaha Motor Corp., Daiwa Corp., Lucky Craft USA, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, Gamakatsu International, Inc. and Sunline Coach Co.
Although both still have deep roots in Japan, each has created a home based in America; Omori has lived in Emory, Texas, for the last 13 years and Shimizu lives in Murrieta, Calif.
“This is my life and my job,” Omori said. “I am so happy with the schedule next year. It is the best I have ever seen. There is going to be lots of big fish caught next year with these fisheries.”
The 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series schedule is:
The Southern Sprint #1 March 9-12 Battle on the Border - Lake Amistad, Del Rio, Texas #2 March 16-19 Lone Star Shootout - Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Jasper, Texas #3 March 30 – April 2 Santee-Cooper Showdown - Santee-Cooper, Manning, S.C. #4 April 20-23 Southern Challenge - Lake Guntersville, Guntersville , Ala. #5 May 4-7 Pride of Augusta - Clarks Hill Reservoir, Columbia County, Ga.
The Turn #6 June 1-4 Sooner Run - Grand Lake, Grove, Okla. #7 June15-18 Bluegrass Brawl - Kentucky Lake, Kentucky Dam Village, Ky.
The Northern Swing #8 July 6-9 Empire Chase – Oneida Lake, Syracuse, N.Y. #9 July 13-16 Champion’s Choice - Lake Champlain, Plattsburg, N.Y.
The Final Charge #10 Aug. 10-13 Capitol Clash - Potomac River, Charles County, Md. #11 Sep. 14-17 The Rock - Table Rock Lake, Kimberling City, Mo.
The 2006 Bassmaster Majors schedule is:
May 18-21 Bassmaster Memorial on Eagle Mountain Lake, Fort Worth, Texas July 27-30 Bassmaster American on Lake Wylie, Charlotte, N.C. Aug. 24-27 Bassmaster Legends on the Arkansas River, Little Rock, Ark.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.