BassMaster Elite on Lake Martin
DAY THREE on Lake Martin. February 10, 2018
While fishing Saturday’s semifinal round of the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Martin presented by Econo Lodge, Takahiro Omori caught a bass that had two crankbaits in its mouth.
One was a chartreuse colored bait that Omori had lost on an underwater tree branch Friday, and the other was the red bait he fished with most of the day Saturday.
In 287 events with B.A.S.S., Omori said he’s never had anything like that happen before. But it’s been a charmed tournament for the Japanese-born angler turned Texas resident.
Omori utilized one tiny spot on Lake Martin for the third straight day Saturday, landing a five-bass limit that weighed 12 pounds, 13 ounces. He’ll now lead the field into Championship Sunday with a three-day weight of 45-8 and a chance to claim his seventh career victory.
“That crankbait is just a once-in-a-lifetime story,” Omori said. “I think maybe what happened is that it got hung up and the fish ate it before. Then it ate the other bait today.
“Maybe that’s a sign that everything is going right.”
Omori has been traveling up the lake each day to a small nondescript spot that can’t be easily accessed. He has to trim his outboard up to get through some extremely shallow water and then use his Power-Pole shallow-water anchors to hold his boat in place while making continuous casts to an area about twice as wide as a bass boat.
So far, it’s been worth the trouble.
Omori landed 18-2 during Thursday’s first round and followed that with 14-9 Friday. He’s left with the fish still biting each day, and he’s hoping the spot has one more good day left in it.
“We won’t know until tomorrow,” he said. “I just plan to work on my tackle tonight, get a good night’s sleep and go right back there in the morning.”
His lead is anything but rock solid, with four anglers within about 6 pounds of the lead.
Rookie Roy Hawk caught five bass that weighed 12-10 Saturday and pushed his second-place total to 41-6. He said he might be even closer to the leader if it hadn’t been for one missed opportunity.
“I lost a really nice fish, one that was probably over 3 pounds,” Hawk said. “That one really hurt because I had two little, tiny 12 1/2-inchers that I really needed to get rid of.”
He said the big fish caught him off guard.
“I just flipped a jig in a bush and it was hung,” he said. “I was shaking it, and the fish either grabbed it off the bush or I pulled it off the bush and he ate it. I just didn’t get a good hook in it.”
Though Lake Martin is known for its massive population of spotted bass, Hawk has been targeting largemouth most of the week. All five of the fish he weighed Saturday — and 12 of the 15 he’s weighed this week — have been largemouth.
He admitted he had to work harder for them Saturday.
“It was a tougher day overall,” he said. “I had to fish a little bit differently to get them to bite. I may expand on what I’m doing a little bit tomorrow to try and make up some ground, but I’m basically going to keep doing my deal.”
Behind Omori and Hawk, Washington pro Luke Clausen caught 13-3 and pushed his three-day total to 41-3. Like Hawk, he said fishing was much tougher Saturday — thanks mostly to the heavily overcast conditions.
“I’m fishing deep, clear water, and I just didn’t see that many fish,” Clausen said. “When I did see them, it was hard to get them to bite. I probably caught 20 keepers or more Friday, but I only caught 10 today because the fish were so spread out.”
If it hadn’t been for a 3-6 spotted bass near the end of the day, Clausen said his total would have been much lower.
“I just didn’t have any five- to seven-fish spurts like I had Friday,” he said. “There were times when I would catch one and I would see more down there. But by the time I’d get a bait back in the water, they were gone.”
The Top 12 remaining anglers will now advance to Championship Sunday with a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize. Takeoff will be at 6:15 a.m. CT from Wind Creek State Park, with the weigh-in scheduled for 2:40 p.m. back at the park.
The Alexander City Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event.
2018 Bassmaster Elite At Lake Martin Presenting Sponsor: Econo Lodge
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Huk
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Lowrance, Phoenix Boats, T-H Marine, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Carhartt, Livingston Lures
About B.A.S.S. B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Series presented by Magellan Outdoors, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
DAY TWO on Lake Martin. Friday February 9th
Takahiro Omori surges to the lead with a two-day total of 32-11. More to Come!
DAY ONE on Lake Martin. Thursday February 8th
ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. —
Conventional wisdom says one big bass per day will give you a good shot at winning a tournament on Lake Martin.
So, when Florida angler Cliff Prince caught a pair of giants on back-to-back casts Thursday, he needed a quick breather to collect himself.
One weighed 6 pounds, 11 ounces, the other weighed 6-3, and they propelled Prince to a leading first-day weight of 19-13 in the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Martin presented by Econo Lodge.
“Back-to-back casts — it was unbelievable,” Prince said. “I had to sit down for a minute because I definitely wasn’t expecting it.”
Like many of the competitors in this week’s 110-angler field, Prince has very little experience on Lake Martin — and the three official practice days prior to the tournament weren’t exactly kind to him.
But before 9 a.m. Thursday, he idled past a spot that he recognized as a potential big-fish haven.
“I didn’t fish that spot in practice,” said Prince, who was tightlipped about exactly where and how he caught his fish. “But I knew I had gotten bit on another stretch like that. I figured if I caught a big one, it would be down that stretch — and I caught two.”
Unlike Prince, who has fished just 85 tournaments with B.A.S.S. — and none on Lake Martin — the two anglers just behind him in the standings have extensive experience on the fishery.
Takahiro Omori, a Japanese angler who now resides in Texas, earned checks in Bassmaster Invitationals held on Martin in 2001 and 2002. He also won an FLW Tour event on Martin in 2001, earning a $100,000 first-place prize.
Omori caught 18-2 Thursday to land in second place.
“I never even pre-fished this time, so it’s been at least 15 years since I was here,” Omori said. “I didn’t fish any of the same stuff from back then.”
His Day 1 performance, Omori said, far outpaced his practice results.
“I just had a great day,” he said. “My practice was only like 7 or 8 pounds a day. But today, I had a 5 1/2-pounder and a 4-pounder and caught maybe 10 more keepers. I had bites all day long.”
Kentucky angler Mark Menendez, who is in third with 17-9, has three checks in four previous B.A.S.S. events — and unlike Omori, he said he benefited Thursday from knowledge gained more than 15 years ago.
“I’ve spent my fair share of time here, and nothing’s changed,” Menendez said. “It’s the same old, same old.
“If there’s an area that you think you’re going to catch one in, you’ll go over there and catch one. Now, whether it’ll be a big one or not, that’s a roll of the dice.”
Menendez struck paydirt on the big-fish front twice Thursday.
“I had a 6-pounder and another one that was almost 5 — and on this pond, that really helps,” he said. “Anytime you get those bites here on Lake Martin, you’ve got to get them in the boat. They’re critical.”
Second-year Alabama pro Jesse Wiggins was fourth with 15-5, and California veteran Skeet Reese was fifth with 14-13. But the weights could change drastically throughout the leaderboard with a weather change in the forecast.
While Thursday was cool and mostly clear, warmer weather is scheduled to move into central Alabama with rain and thunderstorms the next three days.
Prince said he has a backup plan — just in case.
“It probably will change things,” he said. “But I’m catching them two different ways.
“I don’t know if I can duplicate what I did today, but I can at least catch some fish.”
The tournament will continue Friday, with the field being trimmed to the Top 51 for Saturday’s semifinal round. Only the Top 12 will advance to Championship Sunday with a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize.
Daily takeoffs will be held at 6:15 a.m. CT from Wind Creek State Park with weigh-ins scheduled back at the park for 2:40 p.m.
It’s been almost four months since Brandon Palaniuk raised the trophy at the final Bassmaster Elite Series event of 2017, but the long countdown to a new season is nearly done.
The 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series will make its first-ever visit next week to Lake Martin, a 44,000-acre impoundment on the Tallapoosa River, for the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Martin presented by Econo Lodge. Competition will take place Feb. 8-11, with daily takeoffs at 6:15 a.m. CT from Wind Creek State Park and weigh-ins back at the park each day at 2:30 p.m.
A 110-angler field will be battling for a $100,000 first-place prize.
Chad Miller, an Eclectic, Ala., angler who won the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Martin in November, said a number of styles could lead to success in the event.
“You can catch them right now in 1 foot of water all the way out to 40 feet of water,” Miller said. “I think it’s anybody’s ball game because of that. I think it could be won with 12 pounds a day — and if somebody can find a couple of 5-pounders, they can blow it away for sure.”
Miller said he recently caught a 5-pound spotted bass at Martin in less than 2 feet of water. But the bigger fish on the lake are usually largemouth, and the winning angler will likely need a good mixed bag each day.
That combination of species — coupled with the mystery surrounding the venue — will make for an interesting tournament dynamic.
During the offseason, B.A.S.S. officials enacted a rule that prohibits Elite Series competitors from accepting information from outside sources about fishing locations in lakes on the tournament schedule from outside sources. Since the 13-year-old Elite Series has never visited Lake Martin — and none of the B.A.S.S. Opens circuits have been there in more than a decade — less than half the anglers in this year’s Elite field have had significant experience on the lake.
“There are certainly some veterans in the field who have fished down there, but it’s been a long time for them,” said B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon. “You also have some local guys like Matt Herren, Greg Vinson and Kelley Jaye who have done a lot of fishing there.”
For those who fished competitively on Martin, whatever knowledge they bring to Thursday’s first round will have to have been compiled during the pre-practice period before the lake went off-limits on Jan. 8 or during the three official practice days Feb. 5-7.
“It’s definitely one of the more unknown commodities on the schedule this year,” Weldon said.
Ironically, Weldon knows the lake about as well as anyone, having won numerous major events there as a tournament angler. He also finished second in the 1999 Bassmaster Eastern Invitational on Martin, a year before he took over as regular tournament director for B.A.S.S.
“This is kind of a unique event for me as a tournament director, but also as a seasoned tournament angler on Lake Martin,” Weldon said. “I’ve fished there for 40 years now. I’ve fished literally hundreds of tournaments on that lake.”
Martin would normally be about 10 to 12 feet below full pool this time of year, but as of Wednesday, it was down less than 8 feet. Weldon said he believes it will take about 55 pounds to win the four-day event.
“It’s not going to be a Toledo Bend or Sam Rayburn-type tournament where you see a lot of 20-pound bags,” Weldon said. “A 20-pound bag could certainly happen, but I’m going to say it probably won’t. I think we could see a lot of 17- and 18-pound bags.”
With more than 700 miles of shoreline and a higher-than-normal lake level, Weldon said there will be plenty of room for the field to spread out — and like his friend Miller, he believes the tournament could be won with a variety of techniques.
“I fished a tournament on Jan. 6 when it was 19 degrees at takeoff,” Weldon said. “Our first fish came out of 2 feet of water, and we also caught fish 30-feet deep that day.”
With plenty of smaller spotted bass likely to come to the scales, the separating factor, he agreed, will be finding a big fish or two each day.
“You need that 3- to 5-pound kicker,” Weldon said. “If you can have one of those in your bag every day with a good limit of spots, you’ll be in the running.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what the lake can do.”