Omori and Neal Hit Target Weight, Tharp and Ike Move on to Championship Round - Major League Fishing

Omori and Neal Hit Target Weight, Tharp and Ike Move on to Championship Round

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Randall Tharp is one of eight pros that will be fishing in the Championship Round of the 2020 Challenge Cup. Photo by Josh Gassmann
February 3, 2020 • Mason Prince • Cup Events

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. – Nine pros started the day on Bull Shoals Lake for Sudden Death Round 2 of the 2020 Lucas Oil Challenge Cup Presented by B&W Trailer Hitches, but only four are moving on to the Championship Round.

With the SIG SAUER Target Weight set at 25 pounds, most of the pros knew that it would be a difficult task to get to that mark. Still, two pros were able to surpass the target and two more caught enough weight to move on to the final round of the competition.

T.O. K.O.’s His Competition

In Elimination Round 3, we saw Takahiro Omori cruise to a dominating performance to earn a Sudden Death Round berth. While his Sudden Death Round lead wasn’t quite as commanding, Omori still had little trouble hitting the 25-pound Target Weight. The Japanese pro caught 14 bass for 25 pounds, 7 ounces and was the first angler to secure his spot in the Championship Round.

With an hour-and-a-half remaining in Period 3, Omori reeled in a 1-15 largemouth to push him over the mark.

“I feel really good,” Omori said after his Sudden Death Round victory. “I expected some topwater bites in the morning but I only caught one fish on topwater all day. Plan B was my pitching and flipping, luckily that worked out. Overall, I had a good day compared to some of the other guys. Those guys are the best of the best and they know what it takes to get to this point. To be the first guy to hit that target weight, it feels really great to do it against these quality professionals.”

Although Omori has been fishing in MLF events since their inception in 2011, he has yet to take home a trophy for his efforts. He hopes that changes in the Championship Round.

“I’ve been trying to win an MLF Cup event since Lake Amistad in 2011 and I haven’t been able to yet,” Omori said. “If we stay on Bull Shoals and these conditions continue, I think I have a really good shot at winning my first MLF Cup trophy.”

Takahiro Omori was the first to hit the SIG SAUER Target Weight during Sudden Death Round 2. Photo by Josh Gassmann

Neal the Real Deal

Another angler with MLF Cup experience who is looking for his first win is Michael Neal. The Tennessee pro hit the 25-pound mark with about 30 minutes remaining in Period 3. Neal was able to find success catching fish in the flooded vegetation below his boat. While Neal was able to bring in largemouth and smallmouth, the majority of his 19 scorable bass were spotted.

This will be Neal’s first Championship Round in an MLF Cup event.

Missed the Target, Still Moving On

Randall Tharp and Mike Iaconelli were unable to break the 25-pound threshold but still outpaced the rest of the competition to move on to the Championship Round. Tharp continued his non-wavering search for bigger bites and succeeded, landing four 2-pounders, one 3-pounder, and the biggest fish of the day at 4-1.

Iaconelli began Period 3 in fifth place, with only 11-14 on the day. Ike started his third period with a 2-11 largemouth he caught on a vibrating jig that assured him he was on the right track. With only 20 minutes remaining, Ike strung together a 3-8 and a 1-7 in a 10-minute span, giving him enough to weight to stay ahead of a surging Jordan Lee.

Championship Field Set

The four pros from Sudden Death Round 2 will be joined by the four qualifiers from Sudden Death Round 1 for the Championship Round. The eight anglers competing in the Championship Round are Brett Hite, Mike Iaconelli, Matt Lee, Andy Montgomery, Michael Neal, Takahiro Omori, Jeff Sprague and Randall Tharp.