CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Takahiro Omori hefted the Classic trophy overhead, bass fishing crowned its first non-American world champion.
The 33-year-old Tokyo native, who came to America in 1992 to become a professional angler despite knowing only one person and little English, caught his two largest bass with fewer than five minutes remaining in the competition to nail down the $200,000 top prize, trophy and title.
"This is the best day of my life," said Omori, who pounded the stage repeatedly and cried openly before the 13,200 spectators in the Charlotte Coliseum.
"I've waited 18 years for my dream to come true — since I was 15.
"The money is great, but it's not about the money. It's the trophy, really. It's awesome."
Omori's final round catch of 13-8 gave him a three-day total of 39 pounds, 2 ounces and a 2 ¾-pound margin over Californian Aaron Martens' 33-6, who finished second in the Classic for the second time in three years.
• Takahiro Omori was just the second Classic champion to lead on Day 1, lose his lead on the second day (to Dean Rojas), then go on to win the event. Guido Hibdon in 1988 was the other.
• Michael Iaconelli took big bass honors twice in the 2004 Classic. It was only the second time in Classic history that an angler won more than one big bass award in the same Classic. The other was in 2002 when Jay Yelas won big bass honors all three days.
• By qualifying for the 2004 Classic as a pro, Michigan's Art Ferguson became the only angler in BASS to qualify for the Classic more than once through the Federation (1990 and 1999) and more than once as a pro (2000 and 2004).
Top 6 finishers
1. Takahiro Omori Emory, Texas 39-02
2. Aaron Martens Castaic, Calif. 36-06
3. Kevin VanDam Kalamazoo, Mich. 35-11
4. Dean Rojas Grand Saline, Texas 35-05
5. Kelly Jordon Mineola, Texas 34-07
6. Jason Quinn Clover, S.C. 33-1