Outdoors

Bassmaster fishermen are ready for a Classic duel in final round

Takahiro Omori and Dean Rojas have been in this spot before.

One-two in the standings going into the final round of the Bassmaster Classic At Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. Everything on the line for the biggest title in pro bass fishing. Big-time pressure.

Omori, who moved from Japan to compete on the U.S. pro tour, hopes the outcome is the same. He won the 2004 Classic, after trailing Rojas going into the championship round.

This year, the roles are reversed. Omori leads the Classic with a two-day total of 31 pounds, 11 ounces after catching 16 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to jump into the top spot. Rojas, who lives in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., is only 2 ounces behind.

Now they’re both ready for another showdown.

“That was my best moment,” Omori said of the 2004 Classic. “It was something I’ll never forget.”

Rojas is still trying to forget. He fell to fourth place in that championship tournament on Lake Wylie in North Carolina.

“That was disappointing,” he said. “I had a shot to win my first Classic and I couldn’t pull it off.

“But I feel good about this one. It’s going to be a shootout. I can’t wait to get out there.

“To win this Classic would mean everything. It’s been my childhood dream to hoist that trophy.”

Omori and Rojas will have to worry about much more than each other in Sunday’s final round. Only 1 pound separates the top four fishermen. Michael Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J., the winner of the 2003 Classic, is in third place with 31 pounds even. Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., the champion of the 2014 Classic, is fourth with 29 pounds, 14 ounces.

Howell is bidding to become only the third fisherman to win back-to-back Classics. Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., and Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., already are members of that elite club.

“Before last year, it was my dream to just win a Classic,” Howell said. “To do it back-to-back would be unbelievable.”

To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to bfrazee@kcstar.com.

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