JACKSON, Miss. — Kento Kimura’s commute to the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open #3 on Ross Barnett Reservoir took 7,000 miles. The global trip from Japan wasn’t his first. It won’t be his last.
Kimura, of Kyoto in central Japan, completed his first full season on the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open tour with a 4th-place finish on Ross Barnett. Unlike other top 12-finishers, he left with his paycheck. It couldn’t be sent in the mail. That’s because Kimura is a Japanese citizen without a U.S. address.
Kimura has one goal in mind – and hopes the long commutes pay off over time.
“I want to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series,” he said. “It’s been my dream for so long.”
Certainly, he wants to follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Takahiro Omori and win the Bassmaster Classic.
“I want to do that but in America you have to take this sport in steps,” he admitted. “It’s much more competitive here than in Japan.”
He took those first steps 15 years ago. That’s when a 16-year-old Kimura entered his first bass tournament in Japan. Dreams of a career as an American bass pro came to mind. Wisely, Kimura kept reality in focus.
Kimura made his first trip to connect with American bass fishing in 2005. That’s when he fished as a co-angler for the first time on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. He continued making progress in Japan and eventually started a pro career there.
Kimura’s career prospered and he became a lure designer for Optimum Bait Co. That job is one reason for the global commutes.
“I must be there to test the baits,” he said. “I also guide there 200 days each year.”
In a sense, Kimura is living both ends of a dream. He tests baits on Lake Biwa, recognized as Japan’s top bass fishery. The commitment also presents a logistical challenge. He keeps a boat in each country. Here, the rig is at a friend’s home in Oklahoma.
He came to Ross Barnett with high hopes. That’s because the same frog he designed for Deps Bait Co. was his choice of bait for this tournament. It produced a win in a Japanese pro tournament earlier in the year.
Admittedly, river fishing is a challenge. He fared poorly at the first two events held on the Red River and the Arkansas River. Kimura is confident that success will eventually come his way.
“The fish are the same in both countries but there still are challenges that I must improve on,” he said. “I’ll be back next season to do better.”
Kimura plans to fish the Open season with the same goal in mind.
“This is the greatest sport in the world,” he said. “Only in America can you realize a dream and live it.”