Bassmaster Elite Series pro Takahiro Omori surged to the lead of the 2015 Bassmaster Classic today on the strength of a 16-pound, 11-ounce stringer. But the 2004 Classic champ is only 2 ounces ahead of Day 1 leader Dean Rojas.
“Yesterday, we were like two hours late starting — and when I got to my first spot, I caught five fish just like that,” said Omori, whose two-day total is 31-11. “We started at normal time today. So when I get to my spot, it was too dark. I was thinking there were no fish left out here.
“So I just hung around and stuck with it, and I caught most of my fish by noon. I ended up catching about 10 keepers today.”
Only the top 25 anglers will fish tomorrow’s finale, and it promises to be a slug fest, with less than 4 pounds separating the top 10 anglers.
Rojas has a two-day bag weighing 31-9, while former Bassmaster Classic winner Michael Iaconelli is in third with 31 pounds even. Defending Classic champ Randy Howell is in fourth but only a pound out of the lead with 30-11.
Louisiana’s contingent of competitors ended their 2015 Classic run today, with Gonzales’ Greg Hackney only managing two fish for 6 pounds, 15 ounces. He ended up just out of the top 25.
Pierre Part’s Cliff Crochet continued his Day 1 struggle, catching two fish worth 7-2 today to put him in 46th place. Brett Pruett of Monroe landed only two fish over his two days of competition, ending up in 50th with 7-11.
Although Omori wouldn’t say much about how he’s catching his fish, the former champions said every bass he’s brought to the scales this week has come from one 200-yard stretch of water. He added that he’s familiarized himself with every inch of the area so he can work it over thoroughly in tomorrow’s final round.
Omori said he wants to avoid getting too excited about a chance to win a second Classic, but he admitted it’s not just another day of fishing.
“I just want to do my things right,” he said. “I don’t want to jerk a hook-set too hard and break my line or get too excited and miss something because I was being too crazy.
“I just want to enjoy the moment and have another great day.”
Omori can’t afford many mistakes with an angler like Rojas trailing him by just 2 ounces heading into the final round. Rojas, the Day 1 leader with 21-2 Friday, managed just 10-7 Saturday, but he remains squarely in contention for his first Classic title.
“I’m having the time of my life, and I feel like I’m doing everything right,” Rojas said. “I’ve caught every single fish that has bit this week. So I’m just going to go out and do the same things tomorrow that I’ve done the first two days.
“If it happens, it happens. That’s the way I always approach it.”
Rojas’s first-day catch was anchored by a 5-11 largemouth that took big bass honors for the day. His Saturday catch was missing that kicker.
“I didn’t get the big bite today that I was hoping for,” Rojas said. “But I’ve got another day to go out and try to find it again.”
Iaconelli dealt with a frustrating moment Friday when a fish he estimated at more than 3 pounds struck short on a jerk bait, preventing him from weighing in a five-bass limit. But he said the moment encouraged him just enough to make him go back to his shallow pattern Saturday — and that’s where the foundation came for the Saturday limit of 16-9 that lifted him into the Top 3.
“The first hour of each day — which was mostly shot on Friday because of the late start — I’m fishing what I call the ‘weapon bite,’” Iaconelli said. “I’m fishing the backs of drains and pockets where the blue backs are coming back out. They’ve been back there all night. They come back out, and the bass ambush them.
“The problem is finding the pocket with the bait because it only happens if you see the bait and the birds. So I run three or four pockets real quick. I buzz in there five or 10 minutes. If I don’t see anything, I go to the next pocket.”
Iaconelli said he finally identified the right area this morning when he saw a loon flying out of a pocket.
“I caught two in there on a jerk bait, a deep Shadow Rap,” Iaconelli said. “One was a 2-pounder and one was a 4-pounder. That was a great way to start. Because when I go out deep, my biggest issue is I’m getting very few bites.
“I’m literally hitting 50 or 60 places a day, and I know I’m going to get maybe 10 bites. So if you can get out there and already have two, three or four in your live well, that’s big.”
Rain is likely for Sunday’s final round, and Iaconelli said that could actually help his early-morning pattern. Instead of moving deep at 9 a.m., he said he might be able to extend the pattern as late as 10:30.