ALEXANDER CITY — Last week the B.A.S.S. Elite Series dropped anchor at Lake Martin for their season opener. For many of the 110 pro bass anglers the fishing was not what they had expected.
A handful of pros and some locals predicted a 10-pound average per day would be needed to remain near the top of the leaderboard. They were wrong.
Pundits also said spotted bass would dominate the limits, and a largemouth or two would definitely help an angler moved to the top. They were wrong again. The first day of competition saw the heaviest bag of the tournament at 19 pounds and some change. All largemouth.
The weather forecasts held true with heavy rains and moderating temperatures. The latter helps improve fishing, the former, not so much. Still, these are pro anglers. It is their job to figure out the fish, develop a pattern and catch them. Usually the pro anglers put together a game plan during the practice days leading up to the tournament.
“I did not have a very good practice time,” said Takahiro Omori, B.A.S.S. Elite pro from Emory, Texas, by way of Japan. “The area where I started on the first day, I had only caught a couple of small fish during practice. I really didn’t know what fish were there.”
Omori was referring to an area just off the main Tallapoosa River channel several miles upriver from the launch at Wind Creek State Park. He mentioned there was some current and a few stumps off the shoreline. This would be his starting point each of the four days of the event.
After the first day of competition, Omori was in second place with over 18 pounds of bass. He did not know if his area would hold up for the next three days. Day two saw cool temperature in the morning with some sun throughout the day. But, rain and lots of it, was forecast for the weekend.
“I caught most of my fish early on the day two,” Omori said. “I went long time before I caught another fish I could cull.”
After day two, Omori had a four-pound lead. He thought he might have a chance to win. But, some leaders from day one struggled to catch fish and other anglers further down the leaderboard were moving up. Omori decided to stay the course and continue to fish his area. He did not see any other competitors near his spot.
After the day three weigh-in the field was cut to the top 12 anglers. Omori was still on top with just over a four-pound lead. He said it was a grind to get a good limit. He would fish his area for a few hours and move down river to some creeks to try to cull up his weight.
Omori had some familiarity with Lake Martin. He had won a FLW Tour event in 2001. But, he hadn’t been back in eleven years. Omori said after the final weigh-in he did not pre-practice on the lake. Pre-practice allows the anglers to fish a tournament lake before the official off-limits period.
On the final day, Omori headed back one last time to his area up river. Early on he bagged a big largemouth bass weighing over four-pounds. The damage was done, but Omori wasn’t completely convinced he had enough weight to win.
“I only caught four bass today (Sunday) off my area where I had fished all week,” Omori said. “One more keeper would be good for me and I would feel better.”
He did pick up another keeper down river to finish out his limit of five bass. Still he wasn’t certain he had enough weight to win.
As the scales stopped with Omori’s bag of bass in place, he had more than enough to capture his seventh B.A.S.S. victory. His four-day total was 59.5 pounds over four days. Almost a 15-pound average. A feat many said would not be possible at the start of the tournament.
Omori’s lure of choice for most of his fish was a Lucky Craft 1.5 square bill crankbait. The color was a T.O. Craw (red). He replaced the back hooks with Gamakatsu treble hooks. Omori also flipped a 3/8-ounce homemade jig in green pumpkin/orange.
“I think the key was staying the area and making many casts,” Omori said. “I tried different lures, but the fish wanted something with a small profile.”
Changing retrieve speed and directions of retrieve was one of his keys to cranking the area. He would also bump some stumps. The water depth was only a few feet. He had to trim up his outboard to reach his spot. Each day the current was less, and the slower current scattered the fish.
Another key Omori said helped him win the tournament was his cranking reel. He used a high-speed Daiwa casting reel with a 9:1 gear ratio. But, the reel is only available in Japan. The faster speed allows for quicker take up of slack line.
Omori is no stranger to cranking. He was the first international angler to win the Bassmaster Classic in 2004 at Lake Wylie in South Carolina. He caught two largemouth bass with only minutes to spare on the final day. Omori’s previous Elite win was in 2016 on Lake Wheeler. His first tournament check came from an eighth-place finish on Lake Eufaula in 1993.
After the weigh-in and holding the champions trophy, Omori said he likes Alabama and may move here. But, he was joking with B.A.S.S. emcee Dave Mercer. With the win, Omori cashed a check for $101,000 dollars. Also, he became the only 15th B.A.S.S. pro to top the $2 million-dollar mark in tournament career winnings.
An unusual twist that happened to Omori on Saturday is he caught a fish with his chartreuse crankbaint in its jaw. He had broken off the fish the day before when he was trying a different color lure.
Alabama anglers finishing in the top 12 were Justin Lucas of Guntersville at sixth and Dustin Connell of Clanton. Connell is a former college angler where he fished for the University of Alabama. Last season he captured the Rookie of the Year on the Elite Series.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org.