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When Takahiro Omori was a young lad in Japan many years ago dreaming of coming to the U.S. to pursue a professional bass fishing career, he hoped to one day compete against the best of the best at the sport's highest levels.
That dream spurred the Tokyo-born angler to come up with a 15-year career plan to reach the sport's pinnacle, a plan that led Omori to risk it all by cashing in his savings, bringing his clothes and a single tackle box stateside, and landing in Texas in the early 1990s to begin his pro angling career.
By any measure, the quiet but fiercely competitive 42-year-old Omori has achieved that dream, arriving at the upper echelon of his sport to become not only an angler competing against bass fishing's best, but to also be one of bass fishing's best.
If he hadn't already, Omori announced his arrival at bass fishing's summit in the late summer of 2004 when he captured the Bassmaster Classic championship on Alabama's Lake Wylie in only his third Classic attempt.
When one looks at Tak's four other B.A.S.S. wins, one FLW triumph, nine Classic appearances, seven Forrest Wood Cup appearances, and combined career earnings of more than $2 million dollars, it becomes easy to see that Omori is well on his way to being one of the sport's best anglers of all-time.
And yet the Emory, Texas, pro is far from done, dreaming still of winning it big again and again on one of the sport's grandest stages.
A stage just like the one available to Omori and five other pros during the Championship Round of the Jack Links' Major League Fishing 2013 GEICO Challenge Cup on Florida's Lake Istokpoga.
To win his first ever MLF crown, Omori hopes to use his previous Florida experience - he won a B.A.S.S. event on Lake Toho in 2005 - to find some clean water.
If he can do so, look for Omori to make the leader board sing with his Lucky Craft baits, a T.O. jig, and his Gary Yamamoto soft plastics, all of which could help Tak cash in with one of the event’s biggest bass.
That's part of the strategy that helped the bass pro get on a hot streak during Omori's Sudden Death Round on Istokpoga. During that torrid stretch, he caught some big fish in quiet, clean backwaters and found his way into the Championship Round.
"I kind of like looking out for the bigger bites (like I got the other day)," said Omori, who used a last ditch big bass to claim his 2004 Classic crown in Alabama.
"So hopefully I can find some similar stuff today and I can catch a few more big ones (like I did earlier)."
To do so - given the compressed zone of competition, the challenging championship field of anglers, the pressure of real-time leader board updates, and the stained waters of Istokpoga brought on by the winds swirling around departing Hurricane Sandy - will require a lot of mental fortitude on Omori's part.
Zone 5: 3.7 miles primary shoreline, 3.1 miles island shoreline, 3,784 acres
No problem for an angler who risked it all and came to the U.S. speaking zero English some 20 years ago.
Ditto for a Japanese bass pro who has mastered the English language, blogs regularly about his fishing career (www.takahiroomori.com ), and who uses social media to communicate with his fans.
Nor is it a problem for an angler who has altered his diet, works out regularly to gain a physical edge, works hard at strengthening his mental toughness for tournament success, and who sought the guidance of experts at the IMG Performance Institute to maximize his performance on the water.
All of which should have Omori contending late in the third period as Outdoor Channel's television cameras record the footage.
"Of course (this could be won late in the day)," said Omori. "You've got to spend some time finding some good stuff out there (and have the patience to stay with it).
"But we never really know (how it will play out) until we get out there."
How important would a win on Major League Fishing's biggest stage be for Omori?
Very big says one of the sport's most genuine and likable competitors.
"That's another (career goal)," said Omori. "It's very fun stuff, fishing against not just anybody but the best guys in the world (out here)."
Winning the Challenge Cup would be another huge career boost for Omori and he plans to swing for the fences.
"Today (is big) and I will just go for it," smiled Tak. "Hopefully everything works out. It is going to be a very big deal for me (to win)."
Which, when matched against the backdrop of Omori's already impressive career accomplishments in professional bass fishing, is saying something very big indeed.
All the while as Omori's numerous fans on both sides of the Pacific Ocean watch the Texas fishing star's every on the water move, decision and cast.
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