Black fisherman makes history by winning Co-Angler Division
ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. – Japanese bass pro Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, landed his first top-five Wal-Mart FLW Tour appearance Friday, leading the field with a five-bass, 14-pound, 15-ounce effort. In the Co-Angler Division, Willie White of Powder Springs, Ga., made Operation Bass history as the first black angler in 22 years to win a tournament.
Omori, a 30-year-old former cook from Tokyo, caught four largemouth bass and one spotted bass weighing more than 5-pounds using a crankbait to advance to Saturday’s final round where he will fish against four other finalists for a top award of $100,000.
“I’ve been catching about 15 keepers each day,” said Omori, who started fishing local Japanese bass tournaments in 1985 before moving to Texas to pursue a professional bass fishing career in America. “I just got a big bite today.”
Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., who has finished 10th or better at six of the last 10 Wal-Mart FLW Tour stops, advanced to the final round in second place with five bass weighing 12 pounds, 2 ounces. Aaron Martens of Castaic, Calif., (five bass, 12-2); Ricky Shumpert of Lexington, S.C., (five bass, 9-8); and Guido Hibdon of Gravois Mills, Mo., (five bass, 8-9) rounded out the five pros advancing to the final round.
White won the Co-Angler Division Friday and collected $15,000 with four bass weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces that he caught on a finesse worm. He advanced to the final day of co-angler competition in second place after catching two bass weighing 7 pounds on opening day and five bass weighing 9 pounds, 4 ounces on day two.
Co-angler Chris Rand of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., finished second with three bass weighing 5 pounds, 3 ounces after making the top-10 cut in third. Seiji Kato, one of four Japanese bass pros fishing the tournament as part of an international angler exchange, finished third with three bass weighing 3 pounds, 5 ounces. He made the top-10 cut in seventh place.
Wesley Burnett of Hot Springs, Ark., (three bass, 3-0) and Ralph Myhlhousen of Council Bluffs, Iowa, (two bass, 3-0) finished fourth and fifth respectively. Burnett took fourth based on finishing the opening round ahead of Myhlhousen.
Catch weights in both divisions were erased Friday and will be cleared again Saturday for the final pro shootout.
Overall, 64 bass weighing 105 pounds, 3 ounces were caught Friday including seven five-bass limits. All of the bass were released alive.
Competition continues at 6:30 a.m. Saturday at Wind Creek State Park in Alexander City followed by the final weigh-in at 3:30 p.m. at the Wal-Mart Supercenter located on Highway 280 West in Alexander City. A Family Fun Zone featuring fishing seminars, free product samples, interactive displays and children’s games will open in the Wal-Mart parking lot starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.