We all have our favorite pros. You’ll recognize mine as the old-school guys.
To me, power-fishing shallow water defines the sport. Competitors who stick to their guns and maximize this primary way of fishing have always been the ones I root for. So it’s no surprise that I cheered for anglers like Denny Brauer and George Cochran decades back. Today, I’ve transferred that energy to men with names like Hackney, Reese, Tharp and Christie. Old school.
But one of the best old-schoolers around routinely flies under the radar. He’s reached the pinnacle of the sport, won several times sticking to a basic game plan, and overcome what could be defined as the greatest obstacle ever posed to a full-time competitive angler. Today, he still remains one of my favorites.
Many of you know Omori’s story, though some may not understand the details. Born in Japan, Omori became obsessed with bass fishing at a young age. He met Gary Yamamoto when the lure designer was making a tour of the country, and learned of the American side of bass fishing. Through high school, Omori would absorb all he could about the professional fishing subculture in the United States, deciding then and there that it was the life for him. But Omori’s ideas didn’t conform to his parents’ ideals, and soon he found himself living in a tent on an island at a nearby lake, taking odd jobs to survive.
Recognizing professional tournament fishing as a viable career in the United States, Omori moved full-time to Texas in the early ’90s. He arrived with little money and unable to speak English, living in a vehicle and entirely focused on winning the Bassmaster Classic. It was a storybook scenario, including Omori visualizing the big win and pretending to pose with the trophy over and over again.
After nearly a decade of what must have been a horrible life on the road, Omori would, in fact, win the Classic. The details couldn’t have been scripted better. Omori’s win came power-fishing with a crankbait in the final hours of competition, exactly the way he’d visualized so many times. The excitement was nearly surreal. In fact, when looked at subjectively, Omori’s Classic win may be the most glaring example of intuitive fishing and mental determination our sport has ever known.
A movie about the events leading up to his win, called Bass Man, was our sport’s first true documentary, leaving viewers shaking their heads and wondering if this all really happened.
Well, it did. And 19 years later, Omori is still a major competitor on the Bass Pro Tour. He began his MLF campaign well a few years back, winning two MLF Cups and ticking his career dollars near the $3 million mark.
Omori’s entire life has been focused on professional fishing. He’s stayed in Texas, building a swimming pool early on at his home residence for the sole purpose of testing lures. Omori’s kept a headliner spot with numerous sponsors, most notably Daiwa, Lucky Craft and Gamakatsu, and continued to stick to his guns as a shallow-water power-fisherman.
I recently interviewed Omori for quick contributions to a magazine piece, but felt his story instead deserved a feature spot here. Funny, I’d known Omori for some time through the industry, but never really consulted with him for content.
Our conversation bounced around a bit. Wanting to hem him in on a particular subject, I found it far more interesting to let Takahiro just talk, and pick out the highlights after. Check out his unique viewpoints:
Omori exclusively uses ultra high-speed reels, with gear ratios as high as 10:1. He’s found that doing so gives him a heightened ability to generate reaction strikes when using his trademark power techniques.
Many of us can credit a favorite lipless crankbait technique to Omori, as he was one of the first to master early season “grass ripping” with his favorite lipless bait, the Daiwa T.D. Vibration. Somewhere in my archives, I have footage of an early Bassmaster event covering this exact scenario; I can still remember Omori’s giant catches. I’m thinking it was Toledo Bend, or maybe Rayburn; it doesn’t matter. Other anglers were finding out the effectiveness of ripping grass while Omori was refining the technique using braided line, new then to the world. Today, Omori still ranks this as one of his most productive techniques.
Speaking of lipless baits, Omori owns a few lures that he contends simply catch more fish than any others. His theory is that, after prolonged use, the rattle chambers within the bait change, possibly enlarging, giving the lure a different sound and vibration. Omori admits he has never been able to duplicate this scenario through man-made efforts, but still holds on to certain old, battle-scarred lures that far outperform identical versions right out of the package.
I found it particularly interesting that Omori admits to hardly ever using a Senko these days. While he’s still a big believer in Yamamoto’s other plastic offerings, Takahiro admitted that the Senko has lost its luster due to “everybody using it for so long.”
The biggest shocker of our conversation came when Omori admitted that he has “still never used forward-facing sonar.” The technology, he feels, adds nothing to his approach most places. This year, however, Omori “planned to try it”, as he feels his 2022 season was lackluster due to an inability to compete with anglers using LiveScope.
Omori still gets a lot of use from his test pool. Upon completion of an event where a particular lure performed well, he returns home and tests the bait, over and over. This is in stark contrast to anglers who mainly test new lures. Instead, Omori feels it necessary to learn more about proven producers, and attempts to recognize the subtle feel, possibly duplicating with other baits in his box.
I could talk to guys like Takahiro Omori for hours. The sheer amount of real-life data they’ve collected through time on the water are details most of us will never gain. I must admit, I hope Tak never finds what he’s looking for in his new depthfinder. Instead, I wish for another giant to crush his Jackhammer, propelling him to the finals. Chunking and winding, living the dream. The first coming true, and propelling another of the sport’s originals to icon status.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)