UPCOMING EVENT: ABU GARCIA COLLEGE FISHING - 2020 - Harris Chain of Lakes

Kato lends Far-East flavor to co-angler victory

Kato lends Far-East flavor to co-angler victory
Co-angler Masafumi Kato caught five bass Friday weighing 9 pounds, 14 ounces to score his first tournament win.

FLORENCE, Ala. - It's hard to believe that only one year ago, Masafumi Kato was working at a gas station in his native Japan trying to save up enough money to come to the United States to pursue his ambitious goal of becoming a professional bass angler. But while it may have sounded like a crazy scheme at the time, Kato never gave up his dream. And today it paid off - literally and figuratively. With a host of well-wishers cheering him on, including roommate and FLW co-angler Jason Knapp, Kato produced a stunning 9-pound, 14-ounce catch in today's finals to win the co-angler title and claim victory on Wheeler Lake.

"I was very nervous," said Kato, who won the event despite being the first of 10 co-anglers to step onto the weigh-in stage during today's competition. "But it's the happiest day of my career. I've never won this much money before."

For his efforts, Kato was rewarded with the top prize of $40,000 - more than enough to justify his ambitious trip to America.

"That's more than $5 million yen," said Kato, who eked out a place in the finals after securing the last qualifying spot by a mere 6 ounces. "I can't wait to call my family. They don't even know I made the finals."

To be sure, it was an amazing week for Kato in nearly every respect. Not only did he prove victorious in today's competition, but he also got to fish with some of his longtime pro idols including the likes of Rick Clunn, Kevin VanDam and Scott Martin.

"That was very good," said Kato.

Kato even managed to fish every tournament this year as a co-angler on the FLW Tour despite the fact that he only had a three-month visa to stay in the United States.

"He had to leave right before the Beaver Lake tournament," said Knapp, who took Kato under his wing at the beginning of the season. "But he came back a few weeks later and was able to fish every tournament of the year."

With the help of Knapp, Kato's instantly became one of the best feel-good stories of the year on the FLW Tour.

"He sold everything he had and came over to the United States without knowing anyone," said Knapp. "He really didn't have a place to stay, so I took him back to Pennsylvania with me. I told him that he could stay with me as long as he needed to. He taught me some Japanese and I took him to a bunch of club tournaments. It's really worked out well."

Ormand gets emotionally charged second-place finish

Although Alex Ormand of Bessemer City, N.C., put everything on the line in today's finals, he came up just a little short of the title. But while the outcome was bittersweet, Ormand had nothing to be ashamed of.

"I'll tell you what, I couldn't have fished any harder today," said Ormand, who was almost overcome with emotion on several occasions during the final weigh-in. "I really fished my heart out today."

Although he netted a respectable 8-pound, 12-ounce limit, he was largely defeated by the fact that he was only able to record four keepers in the finals.

"The wind really messed things up, and I never really had a shot at that fifth fish," said Ormand. "But I had a great partner today - Tim Horton - and he did everything he could to help me out. He was the consummate professional."

Ormand won $20,000 for his efforts.

Greer happy with performance

Using a catch of 8 pounds, 8 ounces, Kelly Greer of Green Forest, Ark., netted the second top-10 finish of the 2003 season and won $10,000 for finishing the day in third place.

"I was a good day," said Greer. "And I got to fish with Kevin VanDam and Gary Klein this week. So overall, I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out."

Best of the rest

Simon Morrow of Alexander City, Ala., used a total catch of 6 pounds, 12 ounces to finish the tournament in fourth place. However, he acknowledged that the windy conditions played a big part in today's outcome.

"It was tough out there today," said Morrow, who won $8,000 in prize money. "I don't know what was going on. We just didn't get the bites today. Something changed out there and we really didn't adapt."

Fifth place belonged to Robert Bogard Jr. of Conway, Ark. Bogard used a 5-pound, 9-ounce catch to claim $7,000 in winnings.

Rounding out the top 10 co-angler finalists were Eric Ambort (sixth) of Mabelvale, Ark., with a catch of 4 pounds, 8 ounces; Mike McAdoo (seventh) of Murfreesboro, Tenn., with a catch of 3 pounds, 11 ounces; Darell Craft (eighth) of Morristown, Tenn., with a catch of 2 pounds, 10 ounces; Brantley Peoples (ninth) of Raleigh, N.C., with a catch of 12 ounces; and Lonnie Fuller Jr. (10th) with a catch of 0 ounces.

Tomorrow's pro takeoff is scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. at Joe Wheeler State Park, located at 4401 McLean Drive in Rogersville, Ala.

FLW co-angler action resumes at the FLW Championship, slated for Sept. 10-13 on the James River in Richmond, Va.

Related links:

Photos
Co-angler results
Results of day-three pairings
Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Open, Day 3
Press release

Tags: gary-mortenson  co-angler-headline  2003-06-18-wheeler-lake 

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