Kissimmee, Fla. — Japanese pro Takahiro Omori ended the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tour season on top with a victory in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
Omori is starting the 2005 season in the same position.
His 17-pound, 15-ounce, Day-Two catch moved Omori to the top of the leader board in the CITGO Bassmaster Tour's season-opening event on Lake Toho near Kissimmee, Fla.
Omori's five-fish limit, the heaviest in two days of fishing, gives him a lead of nearly 6 pounds going into Saturday's semifinal round of 12 anglers.
"It's good to have a lead like that," said Omori, the first foreign national to win the Classic. "I just have to keep fishing hard."
Omori, who now lives in Texas, used a crankbait to catch Friday's big limit. Many anglers said the key to success at Toho was to slow down their lure presentation, but not Omori.
"It depends," he said. "Sometimes you have to fish fast."
David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., qualified for the semifinals in second place with a two-day total of 25 pounds, eight ounces, and Terry Scroggins of Palatka, Fla., took the third semifinal spot with a cumulative weight of 24-15.
Anglers' weights from Thursday and Friday will be added to Saturday's semifinal weights to determine the six finalists for Sunday.
William Norris II of Ocoee, Fla., leads the amateur division with 33-2, which included the weight of his pro partners from the first two days. Amateur competition concludes Saturday.
Though Omori's lead seems comfortable, many predict that any of the semifinalists could make up lots of ground because of the numerous lunkers for which Toho is famous.
"I can tell you this: It's anybody's ballgame," said Kevin Wirth of Crestwood, Ky., the first-day leader who fell to eighth on Friday.
Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla., finished fourth in the opening round with a total weight of 24-13. He's followed by Ron Shuffield of Bismarck, Ark., who made a big move from 54th to fifth with a second-day catch that weighed 17-11. That pushed his total to 24-7.
"This sport is all about big bites," Shuffield said, "and I was fortunate enough to get those today."
Shuffield wasn't the only pro to make a big move on Thursday, and he wasn't the only Arkansas pro to make a move, either.
Scott Rook of Little Rock moved up more than 60 places to grab the sixth qualifying spot with a two-day total of 22-11. Rook caught 17-12 on Thursday.
"I ran down to Lake Kissimmee the first day and didn't have much time because of the fog delay," Rook said. "But I decided to go back there today to see if there were any fish in there, and I found them."
The semifinal round will be filled with star power, as four of the past five Classic winners and the reigning Angler of the Year will fish Saturday.
Woo Daves of Spring Grove, Va., the 2000 Classic champion, had 22-6 for seventh; Jay Yelas, the 2002 Classic winner, posted 21-2 for 10th; and 2001 Classic champ Kevin VanDam took the 12th and final qualifying spot with a two-day total of 20-7. VanDam actually tied for 12th with Kenyon Hill of Norman, Okla., but VanDam advanced because he posted the heaviest single-day catch.
"I barely made it in," VanDam said, "but I made it, and I'm going to make the most of it."
Reigning Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle of Hayden, Ala., will be in the semifinal after catching 21-6 over the first two days.
2003 Classic champ, Michael Iaconelli, caught the day's biggest bass, an eight-pound, four-ounce lunker that won the daily Purolator Big Bass award of $1,000.
The event concludes on Sunday when six finalists battle it out for the top prize of $100,000 and the early lead in the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year competition.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, BankOne and Cialis (tadalafil).
Local sponsors include Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention & Visitors Bureau Central Florida Sports Commission.