Although Takahiro Omori first came to Lake Fork in 1992 and calls the lake home, when Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour General Tire Stage Three Presented by TrueTimber tournament comes to the lake March 13-18, he does not think he will have a home lake advantage.
“I am really excited about it not just because I have a house there, but also because it is one of the best lakes in the country. But I am only home a couple months of the year and I don’t fish much when I am home. I only fish Fork about two days a year,” said the 49-year-old Omori.
Therefore, when Omori begins fishing in what will be his first individual tournament on Fork, he plans to approach it like he would any other tournament across the country. The only difference is that at the end of the day, he will get to sleep in his own bed.
Reached at the recent MLF event on Lake Okeechobee where he made the championship round after winning his division, Omori had been away from East Texas so long he did not know the lake has risen more than 2 feet to pool level.
The upstart in the professional bass fishing world at just two years old, MLF Bass Pro Tour tournaments are unique in that all of them are catch-and-release events with competitors getting credit for every bass 2 pounds and larger. The tournaments are also like three events in one. The six days of fishing begins with two 40-fishermen groups fishing two alternate days.
“My approach is to fish it like any new lake, like any other tournament. I will fish it for the weather and conditions for that lake. Coming to fish it in March should be good. That is one of the best times to fish Lake Fork. I hope the weather is good and warm,” Omori said.
The fisherman said as expected the lake has changed dramatically since he first arrived with the disappearance of timber and more recently the loss of hydrilla and the addition of white bass.
“Fork keeps changing. The bass fishing is up and down. There has not been an 18-pounder since the state record (1992). You can still catch a lot of 4-, 5-, 6-pounders. It is just a natural thing to change. I am not saying anything bad about it,” Omori said.
In fact, when conditions are right, he ranks it in the top five out of the 100 or so lakes he has fished nationwide for quality of bass fishing.
“I hope everything settles down before we get to the tournament,” Omori said of the rising water. “I am good either way though. It is the same for everybody.”
In a tournament oddity, if Omori makes the championship round, it will not be on Lake Fork. The 10 fishermen competing in the Wednesday round will actually be moving down the road to fish 1,800-acre Lake Athens.
Prepared to sight fish if the big bass have moved shallow or to work staging fish deeper, Omori said one of the good things about MLF tournaments is its catch-and-release rule for all fish.
“We weigh them in the boat. It takes about 25 seconds to put the fish back in the lake,” he said.
As a competitor, Omori said he likes the idea of fewer fishermen being on the lake each day because it means the circuit can fish smaller lakes comfortably. The no-limit format also allows fishermen catching a lot of smaller fish to be able to compete with someone who catches a few larger bass.
Omori joined a number of anglers who switched from BASS to MLF in 2018. He started his pro career with BASS in 1992 and fished a total of 296 tournaments, winning seven including the 2004 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Wylie, North Carolina. He had more than $2 million in career earnings. He has another win on the FLW tour, where he has also earned more than $573,000.
Along with fishing the MLF Pro Tour, Omori also fishes its popular made-for-television Cup events.
Omori likes the MLF online platform that allows fans to keep up with the event in real time without having to be at the lake. The catch-and-release also sends a good conservation message.
Although he grew up in Japan, his younger years were like many youth here filled with sports during the week and then sneaking off on his bike to nearby fishing lakes with friends on the weekends.
After high school he became the Japanese fishing version of an American ski bum, choosing to live in a tent lakeside to bass fish instead of attending college. Attracted by the bass fishing, he eventually found his way to America and Texas. Lake Fork became his anchor because of the fishing and because of Joe and Toshiko Axton, owners of Bass City Marina at the time. The Axtons were influential in Omori’s first years here because he was able to communicate easily with Mrs. Axton who is also Japanese. Also, the Axtons had developed a business hosting vacationing Japanese fishermen wanting to fish Fork, which was a perfect fit for Omori to work as a guide.
Whether it was because of the language barrier or whatever, Omori was known in the early years as one of the most focused fishermen competing. He was famous for living in his van on the road and was the epitome of eat, sleep, fish.
Omori is one of three area fishermen in the tournament. Kelly Jordon of Tyler and Jeff Sprague of Point are also very familiar with Lake Fork.
At least for this tournament, Omori is guaranteed a win whether it is in the form of a paycheck or a couple night’s sleep in his own bed.
For more information on the tournament, go online to www.ma jorleaguefishing.com.