GROVE, Okla. — Kenta Kimura fears only one thing as he leads the Top 12 into the final day of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees 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 fourth 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 pounds, 6 ounces on Day 1, but was disappointed with his Day 2 bag, another five-fish limit that weighed 14-4. Kimura said he thought is was only “about 11.”
His two-day total of 34-10 gives him a 2-pound, 4-ounce advantage over Bob Downey, who found a couple keepers in the last minutes of the day to land in second place. The field narrows to the Top 12 pros and co-anglers 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 sixth place on the final Open of the season on the Arkansas River at Muskogee. His performance that day scored him his only second-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.
“I had to change it up where I fished,” Kimura said. “They just weren’t where they were yesterday, but my co-angler got them.”
Indeed, his co-angler, Adam Boyd of Humble, Texas, landed three fish for 11-5 and shot up to fourth place with the second-largest co-angler bag of the day.
“That guy is full of energy,” Boyd said. “Run and gun, 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there, non-stop.”
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 less boats out there I’ll be able to hit more of the stuff I was patterning,” he said.
This 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 fifth place.
Others in the Angler of the Year running also are fishing Saturday. Taku Ito of Chiba, Japan, in third place with 31-5, and Caleb Kuphall in fourth with 31-2 have secured their Top 5 finishes and invitations to fish the Elite Series in 2020, but the lack to points to catch Logan.
“I changed up everything,” Logan said. “It was the same area just a different bait with the rain and the wind, and I caught four in about an hour then it slowed down.”
Ito had a near repeat of his Day 1 with an early flurry of fish mostly caught in the first two hours of the day.
His confidence, too, was a little bit lower heading into the final day. “I feel... maybe OK,” he said.
Co-angler Jay Przekurat held onto the lead as well but also left the weigh-in stage with a humble demeanor as he, like Downey, caught his last two fish — his biggest two fish — in the final 10 minutes.
Takeoff Saturday is 6:45 a.m. CT at Wolf Creek Park and Boat Ramp in Grove, and weigh-in begins at 4 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow.
Grove Convention & Tourism Bureau is the local host for this event.