CELEBRATION, Fla. — Four BASS Elite anglers who hail from Japan are on the bubble of the Bassmaster American and have just one more tournament to try and secure their positions in the $1.8 million tournament, an unprecedented predicament for the group.
The pressure is on Alabama's Kotaro Kiriyama, Texans Yusuke Miyazaki and Takahiro Omori and California's Morizo Shimizu to qualify for the Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts, July 27-30, on Lake Wylie in Charlotte, N.C. The quartet is fishing this week's Champion's Choice on Lake Champlain in New York and must come up with high finishes to compete in the Bassmaster American.
"I am trying my best every day and I hope I will make it in," said Miyazaki. "That's the goal and it's why I keep working hard."
Only the top 40 anglers with the highest combined CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings over the last three years qualify and Miyazaki, like Kiriyama and Shimizu, is near the bottom.
Omori, meanwhile, is at the bottom of the top-10 all-time active BASS money winners, a list of athletes who also qualify to compete. Omori is especially interested in the tournament, as he became the first foreign national to win the CITGO Bassmaster Classic — bass fishing's most major event — at Wylie in 2004.
One angler who finds himself on the outside looking in after a 76th-place performance at the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors on Oneida Lake last week is Floridian Steve Daniel.
Daniel, a 23-year BASS veteran, knows the importance of qualifying for the Majors, three stand-alone events where the winner receives $250,000.
"I just missed the last one (the Bassmaster Memorial in Fort Worth, Texas in May) and it was heartbreaking," the 51-year-old said. "For a guy that is looking for a front-line sponsor, qualifying for the Majors is instrumental to my success."
Already qualifying for the American are Kevin VanDam via his 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic win, Aaron Martens on the strength of his 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year campaign and Dave Wolak for his 2005 Toyota Rookie of the Year season. Also qualifying is the leader of the 2006 Toyota Rookie of the Year race after the Lake Champlain event. The current leader is Alabama's Steve Kennedy.
All anglers who qualified based on previous announcements also are invited to fish in the specialty events.
In addition to the prize purse, the Majors boast same-day television coverage on ESPN2. Same-day coverage of the American will air on the final day on Sunday, July 30 at 7 p.m.
Additionally, Bassmaster.com will have complete coverage, a real-time leaderboard, live video of the weigh-ins and on-the-water live chats with anglers powered by Mobile ESPN.