While Takahiro Omori is an American, a Texan no less, he’s still Japanese. His homeland and family are in his thoughts, in good times and bad.
During the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Wheeler Lake, Omori showed his concern for Japan, flying its flag even before he celebrated victory. On Bassmaster LIVE, he sent several messages in Japanese, hoping to encourage those suffering through earthquakes that killed dozens and displaced hundreds of thousands.
“I brought Japanese flag today,” he said. “The big earthquakes happened in Japan about two weeks ago. My thoughts are there … I’m so sad about it.”
Omori said he visited Japan as recently as last winter, spending time with his mother and sister. While doing an appearance on IKE LIVE late Sunday night, Omori said the words he sent to his countrymen were very similar to show host Mike Iaconelli’s motto.
“It’s kind of like a message, like Ike always says, ‘Never give up,’” Omori said. “Japan, keep fighting, never give up.”
Omori never did at Wheeler. He started 72nd after catching only 10 pounds, 7 ounces on Day 1. He then went out and busted the three biggest bags of the event.
Of all the Tennessee River lakes, Omori said Wheeler is the only one he really does well on. He finished third, 12th and 17th in the past three Elites there. The winning spot was the same one he and Randy Howell fished in 2011, but the fish didn’t appear there until Day 2 this time.
“I checked back the second day morning -- they was on,” he said.
Bags of 23-3 and 22-9 helped him climb within four pounds of the lead heading into Day 4. Omori saved his best (25-3) for last, even pulling out his 2004 Classic winning catchphrase, “I knew it.”
“I think I said it once or twice,” he told Ike. “Just everything went right today fishing. You never think you can win a tournament … I got 4 pounds behind yesterday.”
For Omori, who has fished professionally since coming to America in the early 1990s, it was his sixth B.A.S.S. tournament win. His last win came at the 2005 Open on Norfork Lake, so he admits he was due. While definitely sweet, Japan remains near and dear to him, especially when its people hurt.
“I really truly enjoy living in American,” he said, “but I still have Japanese flag.”
SO QUIET, YOU FORGET IT’S ON
Viewers of LIVE sent in notice that Omori quite possibly violated a rule that would disqualify him. Omori left the front deck to turn off his motor, and some fans suggested he might have broken a safety rule of not having a life vest on when the motor was running.
A little digging found that it was not an infraction -- the big motor just cannot be in gear. It still had folks like Ike co-host Pete Gluszek concerned. He told viewers the thought of Omori potentially losing on something like that almost made him sick.
“I was having a heart attack,” he said.
Omori said he hadn’t realized he had left the engine running, then told of another incident showing how quiet Yamaha engines are. On the second day of practice, he somehow had trailered his boat and pulled 50 yards up the ramp before James Niggemeyer noticed and hollered, “ ‘Hey TO, your engine is running!’ I could have blew my engine right there.”