Kenta Kimura fears only one thing as he leads the top 12 into the final day of the Grand Lake Bassmaster Central Open with a chance at his first-ever B.A.S.S. win – heartbreak.
“I was leading the first two days on the Red River last year. I fell off the final day and I don’t want to do that again,” he said with a shake of his head.
The final day at Bossier City in June 2018 left the angler from Osaka, Japan, in 4th place.
“I don’t need any heartbreak anymore,” he said. “I’m going for another 20 pounds tomorrow.”
Kimura shot into first place with 20-06 on day 1, but was disappointed with his day-2 bag, another five-fish limit that weighed 14-04. Kimura said he thought it was only “about 11.”
His two-day total of 34-10 gives him a 2-04 advantage over Bob Downey, who found a couple keepers in the last minutes of the day to land in 2nd place. The field narrows to the top 12 for Saturday’s final round with the weigh-in set for 4 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow, Okla.
“I didn’t think I would still be in the lead,” Kimura said.
Oklahoma has been good to Kimura on a final day before. The second week of September 2014, he was in 6th place in the final Open of the season on the Arkansas River at Muskogee. His performance that day scored him his only 2nd-place finish to date, and he was sandwiched between two of Oklahoma’s top tour veterans in Mark Tyler of Vian, and Tommy Biffle of Wagoner.
Kimura said he will stick with what’s been working for the final round and just change baits and techniques as the fish dictate. Clouds held fast over Grand Lake Friday and mid-morning saw some steady rains.
Bag weights across the field dropped from day 1, but the final holds more promise with fewer competitors on the water and a forecast that calls for a return to a sunny, windy day.
Downey’s confidence seemed shaken no matter what the leaderboard said.
“I caught two big ones in the last 10 minutes today. One of them was way down in a bush, and I was in up to my armpits to pull him out. Before that, I wasn’t even going to make the cut,” he said with a shake of his head.
Downey said he’s either going to have to come up with a different plan or count on the reduced number of competitors on the water.
“Maybe with fewer boats out there I’ll be able to hit more of the stuff I was patterning,” he said.
The final Central Open of the season not only offers a cash prize and a possible berth in the 2020 Bassmaster Classic, but marks the final chance to gain Angler of the Year points and make the top 5 to qualify for an invitation to the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Springville, Ala., angler Wes Logan secured the Central Division Angler of the Year title Friday with a two-day weight of 30 pounds that has him in 5th place.
Here are the totals for the 12 anglers who'll fish on the final day:
1. Kenta Kimura: 34-10
2. Bob Downey: 32-06
3. Taku Ito: 31-05
4. Caleb Kuphall: 31-02
5. Wes Logan: 30-00
6. Kyle Dorsett: 29-13
7. Cade Laufenberg: 29-07
8. Thomas Canady: 27-12
9. Masayuki Matsushita: 27-05
10. Joseph Webster: 27-05
11. Philip Atkins: 26-14
12. Toby Hartsell: 26-14