Classic champ keeps on cranking

Day Three standings

Kissimmee, Fla. — Takahiro Omori is defying convention — zigging when the rest of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour pros seem to be zagging.

And it's working!

The 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion is fishing central Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga fast, while his fellow competitors are trying it slowly — too slowly it seems.

Following the third day of the season opening event, Omori, of Emory, Texas, holds a healthy lead of 5 pounds, 10 ounces heading into Sunday's Super Six finale. On Saturday, he caught five bass that weighed 11 pounds, 5 ounces for a three-day total of 14 bass and 42 pounds, 10 ounces.

David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., is in second place with 37 pounds, while defending CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle of Hayden, Ala., is tied with Ron Shuffield of Bismarck, Ark., for third with 33-10. Jeff Reynolds of Platter, Okla., is fifth (33-5) and Terry Scroggins of Palatka, Fla., rounds out the top six (32-14).

Missing the cut for the final round were Scott Rook of Little Rock, Ark. (29-7), Kevin Wirth of Crestwood, Ky. (28-10), Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas (27-13), Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla. (26-11), Woo Daves of Spring Grove, Va. (24-1), and Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich. (22-10).

The fishing conditions matched the inconsistent weather that's made nearly every angler question his ability. It was sunny in the morning and windy and overcast in the afternoon. Kriet, Daves and VanDam caught only one fish each.

"I'm giving everything I've got," Omori said. "I'm fishing hard. I did all I had to do."

From the launch point, Omori headed south to Kissimmee Lake, where he quickly landed six fish on a crankbait. He caught two more fish on Toho.

"I was making more casts, that's all I did," Omori said. "The fish went shallow in the morning."

Walker remained in second with a Day Three catch of 11-8, caught by flipping the vegetation on Lake Toho.

"Tak had big fish both days," Walker said of Friday and Saturday fishing. "I need to make a move without him catching the big one. It's tough."

Swindle had today's Busch Heavyweight catch (12 pounds, four ounces) and also took Purolator Big Bass honors. His lunker largemouth weighed six pounds, three ounces and earned him $1,000 from Purolator. He earned another $1,000 from Busch by virtue of bringing the biggest catch to the scales.

If Swindle's Day Three weight from Toho is one of the 10 heaviest during the Tour and Elite 50 seasons, he'll earn an invitation to the Busch Shootout.

Swindle made the biggest move on Day Three, moving from ninth into a tie for third. Jeff Reynolds fell from 11th to fifth.

Despite his success, Swindle was skeptical about his chances to repeat on Sunday.

"I felt clueless out there," Swindle said. "It was scary. They wouldn't bite. I've got a lot of things to figure out on the lake."

Swindle caught his big fish in the first 20 minutes of the day on a spinnerbait. He had three more by midday, working the canals, but didn't fill out his five-fish limit until the final half hour.

Ron Shuffield isn't sure Omori can be caught on the final day.

"It would take a miracle," Shuffield said, "but on this lake, anything's possible."

Tom Burks of Avon, Ind., won the three-day non-boater title with a weight of 48-7. Burks won a Triton bass boat with Mercury motor and CITGO gas for a year. Fishing with Walker on the final day, he bagged a strong three-fish limit. In addition to the grand prize, Burks also picked up the final Purolator Big Bass Award for the non-boaters, earning an additional $500.

"I fished with three great pros, but I also fished really well," Burks said.

Scott Hughes of Plant City, Fla. was second on the non-boater side with 44-4, and Doug Borer of Lincoln, Neb., was third with 40-0.

The CastingKids program, presented by CITGO, was held in conjunction with the BASS Sponsor Expo at Kissimmee Lakefront Park. Bryce Pendas of Kissimmee, Fla., won the 7 to 10-year-old age division with a total of 90 points while fellow Kissimmee youth Timothy Tapia won the 11 to 14-year-old age group with 110 points.

"I was a little bit nervous," said Pendas. "This is my first time competing in CastingKids, but I'm not scared about going to the State competition. I know I can cast now! Going on the stage was my favorite part," he smiled.

Tapia says his victory will change his entertainment habits. "Now that I've won, I'll start fishing a lot more," he said. "I'm excited about going to the State 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.