By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Coming off a lousy 2017 campaign that got off to a horrific start, Takahiro Omori felt it was important for him to cash a paycheck (i.e. finish among the top 51) in this year's Bassmaster Elite Series opener at Alabama's Lake Martin.
He got paid, all right. And quite handsomely.
The former Classic champion won his second Elite event within two calendar years by finding and then brilliantly managing a small shallow-water area up the Tallapoosa River that he was forced to share with nobody. He took over the lead on day 2 and never let anyone get close to his weight total the rest of the way. He won a tight-weight limit-fest by 7 pounds a figure that would've been deemed almost impossible to achieve at this time last week.
"After the last day of practice on Wednesday, I read on BassFan and Bassmaster.com how tight the tournament was going to end and how everybody was going to catch a limit of (spotted bass)," he said. "I thought I'd made a mistake by not practicing deep, and by then it was too late.
"I rarely say I have to fish for a check, but I told (his marshal) on day 1 that this was one I have to survive. I never felt safe all through the event, even when I had a 4-pound lead going into the last day. I never knew what to expect if I had enough fish or how my backup stuff was going to work out.
"To end up winning by 7 pounds that's just crazy."
His 59 1/2-pound total over four days gave him his fifth career victory at the tour level and the $100,000 payday pushed his career B.A.S.S. earnings over the $2 million mark. He'll sit out next month's Classic, but has a big leg up on qualifying for next year's edition (which would be his 13th) a far cry from a year ago when he started the season with back-to-back 108th-place finishes.
Following are some of the specifics of his latest triumph.
Omori found the out-of-the-way place that would surrender most of his weight late on the second day of the three-day practice period. It was a creek mouth located nearly as far as he could run up the Tallapoosa just below the boulder-strewn rapids that require a jet boat to traverse.
"I'd never been that far before," said the winner of a 2001 FLW Tour event at Martin. I thought I might find some big spots because the current was so strong. I was thinking it might be like Lay Lake or the Alabama River.
"I caught some spots, but I never found any big ones."
On his way up he'd explored the back ends of quite a few creeks. They looked real fishy, but he had little success enticing bites.
That gave him the notion that the fish up there might still be in their winter mode and had not yet transitioned to pre-spawn, so he began checking out current breaks near the mouths of creeks.
"I made a couple casts on that one point (that would become his sweet spot) and caught fish on both of them. They were both like 2-pounders. I never caught anything like that on the first day of practice."
> Day 1: 5, 18-02
> Day 2: 5, 14-09
> Day 3: 5, 12-13
> Day 4: 5, 14-00
Omori's spot was about a 15-minute run from the take-off and he was the first boat to leave the Wind Creek Marina launch on day 1. He was thrilled when he arrived and shut down and heard no other engines heading his way.
The mouth of the creek was about two boat lengths wide and largemouths were stacked up where the current formed an eddy on the point. Using a Lucky Craft 1.5 square-bill crankbait in the T.O. craw color, he boxed 15 pounds within a half-hour a haul that included a fish that weighed nearly 5 1/2 and pulled out.
He was in 2nd place after the initial weigh-in, trailing only Florida's Cliff Prince, who'd caught nearly 13 pounds on back-to-back casts (a 6-11 and a 6-03). Prince fell way off the pace when he caught only three squeakers on day 2, however, and Omori, who sacked 14 1/2 pounds in the second round, was in command the rest of the way.
He added a few ounces to his advantage on day 3, and then caught the heaviest stringer of the tournament on the final day. The day-4 weigh-in served only to determine the order in which the other 11 finalists would line up behind him.
Omori spent less than a hour cranking his sweet spot on each of the first three days in an effort to conserve the fish there for the entirety of the derby.
After departing, he'd head downriver and use jigs (he employed both flipping and finesse models) to try for an upgrade or two. He kept an eye out for places that were similar to his honey hole, but never found any.
The maximum depth of the water around his cranking area was 5 or 6 feet and the level decreased with each succeeding day. The fish were sitting in 2 feet, and he parked his boat his boat close enough to the shoreline that the send held it in place while he made long casts to avoid spooking them.
His flipping targets included docks, laydowns, shallow trees any type of shallow cover he came across. He threw the finesse jig on rocky points, river-channel bends and other current breaks.
Winning Gear Notes
> Cranking gear: 7' medium-heavy Daiwa Tatula Takahiro Omori Signature Series rod, Daiwa Zillion casting reel (9:1 ratio, sold only in Japan), 20-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line, Lucky Craft 1.5 (T.O. craw).
> Flipping gear: 7'3" heavy-action Daiwa Tatula rod, same reel, 22-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon, homemade 3/8-ounce flipping jig (green-pumpkin/orange), 5" Yamamoto Double Tail Grub trailer (green-pumpking with tips of tails dyed orange).
> Finesse jig gear: Same rod, reel and line as crankbait, 1/4-ounce homemade jig with Eakins-style head (green-pumpkin), Strike KIng Twin Tail Menace Grub trailer (green-pumpkin).
> Omori makes his jigs using skirts manufactured by Minnesota-based Skirts Plus Corporation.
> He swapped out the standard hooks on the crankbaits in favor of No. 3 Gamakatsu Round Bend trebles..
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success "Day by day I did the best I could to manage that spot. I'd catch a good limit and then go somewhere else and upgrade with one or two more fish."
> Performance edge "I can't pinpoint one thing it was all my equipment packaged together."
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