ALPENA, MI – Heading into the second of two Sudden Death Rounds at the 2018 Wiley X Summit Cup in Alpena, Michigan, the nine anglers competing for four spots in the Championship Round all suspected that they might experience a change of pace from the smallmouth-heavy fishing in their respective Elimination Rounds on Hubbard Lake.
But as Takahiro Omori surveyed the lake during the morning’s Drive Around, the 2004 Bassmaster Classic champion still felt like smallmouth would be his ticket to the 22-pound cut weight. Even after Omori plucked his first scorable fish of the day – a 4-pound, 5-ounce largemouth – off a piece of isolated wood, he was convinced that smallies would rule the day.
Little did he know that the day’s lake – Fletcher Pond, a 6,500-acre impoundment of the South Branch Thunder Bay River located due east of Alpena – had produced 48 largemouth on the first Sudden Death Round the day before, and that green fish would eventually be the key.
“I thought that first fish was just a fluke,” Omori admitted. “It was just one laydown tree, and I didn’t see any other places that looked like that, so I was still thinking smallmouth.”
SCORETRACKER wasn’t telling him anything different: Jeff Kriet had already caught five smallmouth and raced out to 15-0 in the first 30 minutes of competition, and Omori could see Kriet a short ways down the bank, casting a spinning rod and ringing up a fish every few minutes.
Omori surrendered the area to Kriet and moved on in search of more cover, and it turned out to be the smartest move of the day: Omori found a small stretch of matted grass and went to work with a jig and beaver-style trailer, catching six largemouth in less than an hour and eventually hitting the 22-pound mark to move on to the championship.
“I really didn’t think I’d catch that many largemouth, but once I went to that little grass area and started flipping, pitching and punching, I got a lot of bites in a short amount of time,” Omori said.
Kriet, meanwhile, had stalled out at 16-3, allowing Timmy Horton, Skeet Reese and Mike Iaconelli to cruise past him to the day’s cut weight and into the final round.
NOTES: Joining Omori, Horton, Reese and Iaconelli in the 2018 Wiley X Summit Cup Championship qualifiers are Sudden Death Round 1 anglers Jacob Wheeler, Aaron Martens, Jason Christie and Bobby Lane.