CLEWISTON, Fla. – Robert Kimbrough is a big fan of Derek Yamamoto. All week long Yamamoto’s Kinami Baits have been popular go-to lures in Wal-Mart FLW Tour competition at Lake Okeechobee, probably no more so than for Kimbrough. In Friday’s final round in the Co-angler Division, Kimbrough won the $15,000 title by using a Kinami bait – and he beat Yamamoto in doing so.
In fact, Kimbrough applied the lure-design expertise of the entire Yamamoto family in claiming the win. Thursday in the opening round, Kimbrough caught an enormous 21-pound sack of bass from the back of the boat using mainly a Senko, which is designed by Derek Yamamoto’s father, longtime pro angler and lure designer Gary Yamamoto. Friday he switched to a Kinami Flash, which is designed by Derek Yamamoto. With it, Kimbrough caught three bass weighing 7 pounds, 1 ounce and beat the younger Yamamoto by 9 ounces.
“All of their baits are what caught my fish this week,” said Kimbrough, a 48-year-old store manager from Vero Beach, Fla., competing in his first FLW tournament. “This is awesome, especially since I was 13th on the waiting list to fish this week.”
Kimbrough, who fished with pro Chris McCall Friday, worked his watermelon-colored Kinami Flash around blow-down grass and reeds in the windy conditions in South Bay.
“He was flipping, and I was fishing the outside,” Kimbrough said. “We fished some popular water. There were a lot of beds, but most of them had been plucked clean. It was funny, where I fished today, I fish all the time.”
The key to Kimbrough’s winning three-fish sack was his kicker bass. Due to the conditions, most of the co-angler finalists could only manage to bring 1- or 2-pound fish to the scale – including runner-up Yamamoto, who caught a five-bass limit that weighed just 6-8 – but Kimbrough hooked into a nice 4 1/2-pound bass that made all the difference.
“It was really slow when we started,” Kimbrough said. “I was throwing a spinnerbait. Then I slowed down and went with the Kinami bait. I know you have to fish slow on this lake especially with cold fronts like this.”
“It’s sad when you come to one of the world’s best big-bass lakes and all you catch are little ones,” he said.
Ken Keirsey of Owasso, Okla., finished in third place ($4,000) with a five-bass weight of 5 pounds, 11 ounces. Keirsey is the Co-angler Division champion from the 2003 FLW Championship at the James River.
“It was a tough day,” he said. “The wind really hurt us, and it was pretty cold out there.”
Day-one leader Mark Martin of Vidor, Texas, finished in fourth place ($3,000) with three bass weighing 5 pounds even, and Jeff Baffa of Tinley Park, Ill., finished fifth ($2,500) with three bass weighing 3 pounds even.
Rounding out the top 10 co-angler finishers at Lake Okeechobee are Alex Ormand of Bessemer City, N.C., (sixth place, $2,200) with three bass weighing 2 pounds, 6 ounces; Ken Murphy of Meridian, Miss., (seventh, $2,000) with one bass weighing 1-0; Keith Pace of Monticello, Ark., (eighth, $1,800) with two bass weighing 1-0; Simon Morrow of Alexander City, Ala., (ninth, $1,600) with one bass weighing 0-13; and Alan Paczkowski of Henrico, N.C., (10th, $1,400) with no bass.
The final day of FLW Tour competition at Lake Okeechobee begins at 7 a.m. EST as the 10 pro finalists take off from Roland Martin’s Marina located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston. The heaviest two-day weight from Friday and Saturday combined will determine the tournament’s $100,000 winner.