past 20 years, Takahiro Omori has had the same dream countless times.
As soon as his head hits the pillow, the roar of a crowd beginsc
As he drifts off to sleep, he sees bass boats being towed into a coliseum,
one by one...
Suddenly he realizes why he is being shuffled back - the BASS staff is doing what it has done for years - staging the CITGO Bassmaster Classic final day weigh-in to be a dramatic shootout among the final contenders.
From there the dream's details get lost in an intoxicating tide of swirling emotions, but it always ends the same way-with him thrusting the CITGO Bassmaster Classic trophy above his head amid roaring crowds and a blitz of camera flashes.
It's a dream that sprouted in Omori's subconscious in 1985 when he was a teenager living in Japan. He would flip through American and Japanese fishing magazines idolizing Rick Clunn, Larry Nixon and Denny Brauer for their ability to make a living bass fishing.
dream that lured him over to America with no promise of shelter or money.
It's a dream that served as his only friend during numerous lonely nights
sleeping in the back of a truck in campgrounds across America. It's
a dream that became a reality on August 1, 2004, when Takahiro Omori
won the CITGO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Wylie in North Carolina and
forever became the first Japanese pro to win professional bass fishing's
most prestigious title. Except it did not happen exactly as Omori had
seen so many times in his late-night visions.
was a total surprise to me to win," he said shortly after his victory.
"Going into this Classic, I did not feel like I would win it -
it just happened."
If he did
not believe it then, he sure believed it seven days later when his sleep
had become a rare commodity. Besieged by photographers, reporters, sponsors
and friends, Omori had been up each night past midnight doing interviews,
slowly digesting the fact he was now a Classic title holder.
the CITGO Bassmaster Classic entails beating extremely long odds, but
coming from another country to try to win the Classic com-pounds those
foot on American soil for the first time in 1992 when he was just 21
was already sponsoring Masaki Shimono, Japan's version of Roland Martin,
on the BASS circuit during the '93-'94 season. But Shimono wanted to
fly back to Japan between tournaments and they had nowhere to keep Shimono's
boat and truck.
As part of the deal, Omori was allowed to fish the tournaments as a non-boater. In between tournaments, Omori would stay in the U.S. and use the boat to scout lakes for Shimono's future tournaments.
For the next two years, a 1985 Chevy Suburban (Shimono's truck) with 200,000 plus miles on the odometer was Omori's only home.
put three engines in that truck," he recalled. "It broke down
all the time. As soon as I got one thing fixed, something else would
break." His only company was a TV/VCR combo and a box full of VCR
tapes loaded with hours of vintage Bassmaster television shows.
I camped in a campground with electricity, I watched them over and over
to learn bass fishing in America," Omori said. "It helped
me learn English, too." What sounds like a vagrant lifestyle to
most Americans was heaven on earth to Omori.
then, winning a tournament did not mean success to me," Omori continued.
"Just being in the U.S. and fishing professional tournaments was
a success to me. I did not want to go back to Japan and work, so everyday
I was on a lake in America was a great day for me."
next several years, Omori continued to ramble across the U.S. chasing
his dream. Eventually more tournament winnings and sponsorship dollars
rolled in, but even then, he remained resourceful and frugal.
first six months of 2001, Omori won nearly $225,000. And just when it
was the unexpected death of his father.
Omori knew none of the victims, in some way he felt the pain of everybody
who lost a loved one.
next six months, Omori fell into a depression. He lost his appetite
and could not sleep. But more troubling to him was for the first time
in his life, he lost his passion for fishing.
As the reigning Classic champ, Omori does not think his life will be any different.
"Just because I won the Classic does not mean I'm going to change my fishing," he said. "Next year I want to fish everything: BASS Tour, E-50 and the FLW Tour."
So is there anything else on the horizon for this Japanese-born Classic champion other than bass fishing?
Interestingly enough, maybe so. "I have thought about going to a university to study something else," he offered. "Maybe Marine Biology - what do you think?"
Let's just hope he does not start having dreams about swimming with sharks in Australia...
Clunn Remembers Takahiro
In August, when Clunn watched Omori's Classic dream manifest into reality, it sent chills down his spine.
couldn't help but get emotional about it," Clunn revealed. "I
was really proud of him. The bar is constantly being raised in this
sport and I think Takahiro represents a new model for the aspiring bass
pro. His whole life is designed around becoming a better angler and
he's an example of the kind of dedication it takes to succeed in this
sport these days."
Jordon Collects Career Best Fifth-Place Finish
Lucky Craft Pro Staff member Kelly Jordon walked away from the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic satisfied - yet yearning for more.
The up-and-coming angling star, from Mineola, Texas, wrapped up fifth place on Lake Wylie, weighing-in 35 pounds and 5 ounces of bass in front of a lively Charlotte (NC) Coliseum throng.
In his familiar low-key style, Jordon talked about the highest finish of his Classic career, "I'm tickled to death," said Jordon, whose previous Classic best was a 20th in 2002. "But you're never satisfied until you win. Everyone wants to win. I thought I had the fish to win. What I caught today (the final day of the tournament), I thought I could have caught every day."
Since it was a mid-summer, shallow water pattern on Lake Wylie, getting a bite was challenging at times.
"It was tough out there," said Jordon, who found himself in 10th after a big second day haul of 11 pounds and 2 ounces. "I went four hours without a bite at one point. I did a little better by catching one about three and a half pounds. I just needed four more of his buddies to show up."
Special Weekend for Gerald Swindle
Gerald Swindle had a lot on his mind during the CITGO Bassmaster Classic last year. And who wouldn't in his position? He had just won bass fishing's coveted Angler of the Year title only three months before, pointing the spotlight of expectation and responsibility squarely in his direction.
It affected how he approached the Classic, as he wound up with only 3 pounds, eight ounces of bass.
"I was extremely disappointed with my fishing results at the Classic," Swindle said. "There was no one to blame but myself. I did have some bites, but they weren't good enough to really make a difference. I just didn't fish well.
"Fishing is a very humbling sport," continued the Hayden, Ala., resident. "I think what happened to me is a reminder no one is invincible. There are no guarantees I am going to go out there and catch them. It's a hard lesson learned and it's hard to swallow.
But fishing wasn't his only activity of the week either. Swindle's 'Night of Champions' speech will be remembered for a long time.
"I really had a hard time controlling my emotions and was totally absorbed in the moment," Swindle said. "I tried to speak about something I had dreamed about for my entire life. When I walked up on stage and looked out over the crowd, it finally hit home I had actually won Angler of the Year. The people giving me the standing ovation were the same people I had worked so hard to beat. I have so much respect for my fellow anglers.
"Once I had made my speech and felt the impact it had on me - it really put everything into perspective," Swindle continued. "I can't say enough for all the support I received from my fellow anglers, fans, Lucky Craft, CITGO and the great people over at BASS. I will never forget that particular moment."
Skeet Brings Home 11th
Long-time Lucky Craft member Skeet Reese captured the 11th slot in his fifth CITGO Bassmaster Classic last summer.
After getting off to a slow start in the first day of the tournament, he recognized a pattern that was familiar to him from pre-fish a month earlier and picked up momentum. Reese bagged 13 pounds and six ounces of bass on the third and final day, vaulting the California resident to his stellar finish.
"I can't complain, 11th place in the Classic isn't too bad," Reese said. "I only caught two or three fish the first day and it really hurt me. Typically, when you fish a lake a month in advance, it's usually a different lake when you return for the tournament. During practice, I caught a lot of fish on top water, but I didn't expect it to last. I spent a lot of time fishing humps, ridges and outside stuff - a typical summer pattern.
"Well, a week before the Classic it rained a lot and brought the water levels up," Reese said. "The shallow fish moved back up and stayed there the entire weekend. It was a lot like practice and it caught me off guard. A majority of my fish came on a Gunfish 115 Clear Laser Ghost. I had one tree at the very back of a creek in about a foot and a half of water, where a lot of my big fish were caught.
Reese talked about his big comeback and the Classic itself.
caught 13 pounds on the final day and that's what jumped me up to my
good finish," Reese said. "It was my fifth Classic. It was
a great tournament and the city of Charlotte was a tremendous hosts.
They not only catered to the angler, but to their families as well."