An 18 tournament schedule can be a lot for any angler to handle, but Kenta Kimura had one goal when he signed up to fish the full slate of 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by Mossy Oak Fishing along with his Bassmaster Elite Series schedule.
“I’m just trying to be a better fisherman,” Kimura said.
The Elite Series sophomore has definitely shown his potential in 2022 after a disappointing 69th-place showing in his rookie season. In fact, it can be argued that no one had a hotter finish to the Bassmaster tournament season than Kimura.
Between the Elite Series and the Opens, the Japanese pro logged eight top 20 finishes and made the Top 10 cut in four Opens and the Elite Series event on Pickwick. That’s after winning the Northern Open at the James River in April.
And don’t forget his fifth-place finish at the Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain way back in February and a ninth-place showing at the second Elite on the Harris Chain.
After an inconsistent start to the season on the Elites, Kimura jumped into 16th in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, double qualifying for the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic at Knoxville March 24-26. He also added a fifth-place finish in the overall Opens Angler of the Year point race to his resume.
“For me, I had a simpler approach. I have been fishing for 30 years so I should know a little bit about it. I’ve started trusting myself more,” Kimura said after notching a spot in the final day cut at the Central Open at Sam Rayburn.
Like many rookies do when they enter the Elite Series, Kimura fell into the trap of following the crowd. He tried to fish like the rest of the field, not like how he is comfortable fishing. This year, especially in the Opens, he has employed several unique Japanese presentations. When it came down to winning the James River, with no experience on tidal fisheries, he tied on his trusty buzzbait.
“Like Brandon Palaniuk said, it is all about mindset,” Kimura said. “When I didn’t catch them like last year, I was doing it the same way everybody else was doing it. I needed to trust myself and do things more simply.”
Along with a simpler approach to tournaments, Kimura has adjusted the way he practices for the Opens. Instead of spending a week or more on these bodies of water, he has cut down his practice time significantly, opting to focus more on changing with the bass as the tournament progresses.
“To me, I used to fish hard when I was just fishing the Opens, and I would practice like a week. What I changed this year, I am not practicing (that much),” he explained. “I am trying to pick it up the day before the tournament and the first day of the tournament. I just try to find where I am going to start and just try to create it each day.”
With confidence building after a successful 2022 season, Kimura will make his first Bassmaster Classic appearance of his career next season in Knoxville, where having confidence in himself will go a long way in such a pressure-packed event.