Bassmaster Elite Series angler Kenta Kimura said earlier in the week he didn’t know what he was doing on the James River. But now that he’s won the Northern Open there with a three-day total of 65 pounds, his story looks less than convincing.
After a 17-pound limit on Day 1 put him in 19th place, the pro from Osaka, Japan added 23-05 a day later and moved up to second place. After weighing in at 24-11 — the second-heaviest sack of the event — Kimura edged out Keith Poche of Pike Road, Ala., by a 3-09 margin.
Kimura, who was fishing the James River for the first time, won the top prize of $52,500, as well as the $500 Garmin contingency bonus for being the top pro using Garmin products. He also secured a spot in the 2023 Bassmaster Classic, which will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee, from March 24-26.
“I really didn’t expect it because I had a horrible practice,” Kimura said. “I was going to be happy with 14 pounds a day, but I figured out some things.
“Some guys said it would take 18 pounds a day to make the cut, but I said, ‘No way.’ But this river is full of big fish. It may be the best river I’ve been on in the whole world. I love the James River.
Complicating his first trip to the James River, Kimura left last week’s Elite event on Lake Chickamauga with little time to train. But what he brought played a key role in his victory.
He caught several of his bass this week on the same DRT Tiny Klash bait he used to catch his 19-pound Day-2 bag on Chickamauga. The hinged swimbait with a side tail and an adjustable ABS plastic beak produced a 6-pounder in the final minutes of the tournament.
“I shot a 2-pounder with this fish,” Kimura said. “Without this fish, I would not have won.”
Kimura also caught bass on a Deps Evoke 2.0 spinnerbait and squarebill. These baits produced some of his borderline fish, but his other big fish bait was a 3/8 ounce buzzbait. Kimura added a Berkley creature bait trailer and removed the side appendages for a cleaner look.
“All over the world, the biggest fish love buzzbaits in a river,” he said. “Especially this place; all the fish are under pressure.
Kimura said he overcame his lack of James River experience with time management. He spent about half his practice in the popular Chickahominy River – a major tributary downstream – but couldn’t put together what he considered a winning plan.
In the end, Kimura did all of his damage within 5 miles of the launch site at Osborne Park & Boat Landing. He said one of his spots was at 30 seconds.
“Every time I fished rivers I go for a long run, but I stayed closer to give myself time to figure out what tide they liked,” he said. “Day 1 I was running around a lot of different places and I caught all my fish with the buzzbait. I had a good day, but it was only 19th place.
“Day two I caught a pretty easy limit on the squarebill and spinnerbait, but couldn’t get a big one, so I switched to the big swimbait. They really liked the taller profile.
Kimura concluded with a show of respect for his American competitors: “I want to thank the American fishermen. You have created a great sport. This is my dream. It’s what I’ve wanted to do all my life since I was little. »
Pocket was second with 61-07. After placing 14th on Day 1 with 17-06, he added 23-10 to take the Day 2 lead and closed the event with a Day 3 limit of 20-07.
Fishing from a 17 1/2-foot Gator Trax aluminum boat with a 90-horsepower Mercury outboard motor and pickup at low water, Poche committed to fishing the shallow tributaries, where he targeted spawning and pre-spawning bass with a Texas-rigged Berkley PowerBait. General and a Berkley Warpig lipless bait.
“It really loosened up (on day 2) and I could really see these beds right next to the shore,” Poche said. “The first day it was windy and today it was windy, so it was a bit more difficult.
“I was throwing this general weightless on a heavy Fenwick 7-3 rod and it was really hard today to pinpoint these spots. It was my first time here and this river really showed; I would really like to come back.”
John Soukup of Sapulpa, Okla., was third at 60-00. His daily weights were 21-09, 17-08 and 20-15.
Soukup spent his time targeting bedfish with a War Eagle Jiu-Jigsu Jig and Yum Craw Chunk trailer and prespawners with a Booyah Covert 3/8 oz spinnerbait. Day 3 ended with a difference maker.
“At the end of the day, about five minutes from the end, I did a cast and kept getting caught in a fishing line,” Soukup said. “Eventually I did another cast and it just stopped. I thought I was caught in that line, so I’m just tugging and tugging and tugging, trying to unhook it.
“The next thing I know is under the boat digging and now I think I have a catfish and I’m just trying to rip this thing apart. All of a sudden this thing comes and it’s this giant bass – a 6-04. It was just a gift. God blessed me on that one.
Here are the final Top 10 totals:
1.Kenta Kimura: 65-00
2.Keith Pocket: 24-11
3. John Soukup: 60-00
4. Alex Wetherell: 57-01
5. Koby Kreiger: 55-02
6. Brad Leuthner: 50-06
7. Bryan Schmitt: 48-14
8. Brian Post: 47-09
9. TJ Milton: 45-12
10. Kyoya Fujita: 45-12