Posted by TEAM Z3 on 05/04/2014

Story by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush - Photos by Dave Rush 

Many, LA – Dean Rojas entered the final day of the Elite Series tournament on Toledo Bend holding on to a 2 pound, 10 ounce lead and looking to notch the third victory of his career on Toledo Bend after winning efforts on the fishery in 2001 and 2011.  

Rojas was well aware of the challenge ahead of him, and openly admitted on Saturday that he had benefited from an unexpected bonus kicker fish on the second and third tournament days to take over the lead.  “I know how important it is to get a big bite, and that’s what separates everything here,” said Rojas after the Day Three weigh-in. “I could catch 10-pounds tomorrow…I just don’t know.”  
On Sunday, Rojas was unable to find the quality that he needed to close out the tournament, and he finished in 6th place with 73-4 after crossing the stage with a small limit weighing 10-9. Rojas’ struggles left the door open for a number of the remaining competitors who began the day nipping at his heels.  

From the opening round on Thursday, Jacob Powroznik proved that he was a player on Toledo Bend.  The Virginia pro finished Day One in 3rd place, took over the tournament lead on Day Two, and slipped to 2nd place on Saturday after weighing-in just 11-13.  Despite losing the lead on Saturday, Powroznik was still optimistic about his chances.  “I stubbed my toe a little bit today but you can get good in a hurry here,” he stated.  

Powroznik rebounded on Sunday, coming in with a limit weighing 19-11 to win the tournament with a total weight of 79-12.  Thanks to a 5+ pound largemouth that he caught off a bed on literally his last cast of the day to cull a 1 ½-pounder, Powroznik outdistanced his closest competitor by 2 pounds, 6 ounces.    

Chad Morgenthaler brought in the heaviest limit of the day on Sunday weighing 21-14, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Powroznik.  He finished in 2nd place with a total weight of 77-6. Randall Tharp finished in 3rd place with 18-4 on the day and a total weight of 76-10.

Technically, the top three finishers on Toledo Bend this week are all considered 2014 Elite Series rookies, despite the fact that they have combined to fish a total of 150 FLW Tour tournaments, 13 Forrest Wood Cups, and 6 Bassmaster Classics.        

Mark Davis turned in his worst performance of the 2014 season this week on Toledo Bend, finishing in 4th place after starting the year with two 3rd place finishes and a 2nd place finish.   The current Toyota Angler Of the Year leader weighed-in 74-7 over four days.  Casey Ashley rounded out the Top 5 with a total weight of 73-12.  

In the TAOY race, Davis’ closest competitor is still Jared Lintner, who finished in 11th place on Sunday to give himself a season total of 350 TAOY points – 42 behind Davis.   Through four Elite Series tournaments, the Top 5 in the TAOY standings (Davis, Lintner, Faircloth, Powroznik, and Morgenthaler) all fished on Sunday at Toledo Bend.   

Tournament: Bassmaster Elite Series (Stop #4)
Location: Toledo Bend – Many, Louisiana
Winner: Jacob Powroznik (24-14, 23-6, 11-13, 19-11: 79-12)
2nd Place: Chad Morgenthaler (77-6)
Total weight separating 1st from 12th Place:  14-5

1st Place: Jacob Powroznik (24-14, 23-6, 11-13, 19-11: 79-12)
Powroznik on how he caught his fish each day of the tournament:
“The first day, I caught two 7-pounders and a 4-pounder on a jerkbait fishing the shad spawn.  The other two that I weighed-in on the first day came off beds.  On the second day, I caught one 5-pounder fishing the shad spawn and the other four came off beds.  Every fish that I weighed-in over the last two days I caught off beds.”   

Powroznik on catching his two kickers on Sunday:
“I worked on the 8-pounder for about an hour before I caught it, and I caught a 5-pounder on my last flip of the day.  I found it earlier and it (the spawning bass) wouldn’t do anything.  I eased back in there and the sun had gotten on the other side and it was shaded. I peeked in there and she was right on top of (the bed). I backed off in the shade and I only had about 10 minutes left to fish.

“It was 2:20 and I had until 2:25.  At 2:24, I ran back and looked at my clock and when I stood back up she was nose down (on the bait). I hopped it one time and she ate it and took off swimming. That was the highlight of my tournament. I culled a 1 ½-pounder with that fish, so it turned out to be the winning fish for me.  When I got in and everybody flocked to me, I knew that it was going to be close.

“I made a Top 10 on Old Hickory one time and I caught a 5-pounder on my last cast with a shaky head. Mike Iaconelli is a great inspiration because he always says to never give up and fish to the end and what happened to me today proves it.”

Powroznik on where he caught his fish this week:
“I caught some in Buck Creek today, but I stayed mostly around the Indian Mounds and Housen area this week.   When I first got here, mid lake was 67 or 68 degrees and now it’s 78 degrees.  Down there, it’s still 70-something degrees so it’s a little cooler down there because it’s a little deeper and clearer water.”  

Powroznik on bouncing back on Sunday after weighing-in a limit for just 11-13 on Saturday:
“Things turned around for me when I caught that 8-pounder (today).  I had burnt up the trolling motor and they (the bedding bass) were getting few and far between.  They had been worked over pretty hard all week with all the tournaments out here.  There aren’t that many up on the beds now and it was hard to find a big one.  When I did find her, she was a little spooky and I really had to put the mojo on her.”  

Powroznik’s primary equipment and lures:
- Texas-rigged 4” or 5” Berkley PowerBait Power Hawg in Green Pumpkin or Red Bug (sight fishing)
- Texas-rigged unnamed 4” white crawfish (used for final fish on Sunday)
- ½-ounce Elite Tungsten weight
- 4/0 Mustad hook
- 20 lb. test or 25 lb. test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon (used when sight fishing)  
- 8’ Abu Garcia Villain heavy action casting rod
- 7’11” Abu Garcia Veritas Heavy Action rod
- Abu Garcia MGX 7.9:1 baitcasting reel (used when sight fishing)
- Unnamed jerkbait (used on first two days)  
- 7’ Abu Garcia Veritas medium action casting rod (used with jerkbait)  
- 10 lb. test or 12 lb. test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line (used with jerkbait)
- Abu Garcia Premiere 6.4:1 baitcasting reel (used with jerkbait)  

Powroznik on his equipment and baits:
“My best bed fishing bait has always been a 4” or a big Power Hawg.  It’s a big ugly creature bait, but I like it because it falls straight down in the bed and doesn’t veer off to the left or right.

“Very seldom do I carry something white in the boat when I’m bed fishing because I like to throw natural colored bait.  I dug around in the boat and I found a random 4” craw that I just decided to try on the last bed fish of the day today.  She attacked it and it was just one of those things.

“There was grass around and the fish were bedding in holes, so you kind of had to change their minds when you hit them to get them out (of the grass). My go-to rods for bed fishing are the 8’ Villain and 7’11” Veritas.” 

Powroznik on the best decision that he made during the tournament:
“It would have to be scrapping the shad spawn deal this morning and going to the bank.  I knew that there were some good ones up there that could be caught, but I also know that finding them would be the tough part because this is a giant lake.”  

Powroznik on his prior experience fishing Toledo Bend in past years:
“I had only been on this lake one day in my life before this week. I can remember that it was really windy that day, so we launched in a little creek and just threw a plastic going down the bank.  We fished for about six or seven hours and that’s the only other time that I’ve ever seen Toledo Bend.”

Powroznik on what the victory means:
“It was like I won the lottery.  With this group of guys you don’t get many opportunities to win, so when you do, it’s like pulling the winning ticket.  Words cannot describe the way that it feels.” 

2nd Place: Chad Morgenthaler (18-15, 24-13, 11-12, 21-14: 77-6)
Morgenthaler on fishing with no regrets this week on Toledo Bend:
“That 11 pound, 12 ounce day that I had yesterday just absolutely destroyed me, so that still stings a little bit. To weigh in 25-pounds (on Friday) and then almost 22-pounds (Today), it just goes to show that you can’t stub your toes with these guys.  

“I fished the way that I knew I had to fish to win this thing.  I really struggled today until around noon.  That’s when the light switch turned, I got in the right area, and I caught five good ones.”  

Morgenthaler on his primary pattern throughout the tournament:
“I was fishing visible stuff in 3- to 4-foot of water.  The key was that there was milfoil right up against (the cover) and there was a little strip of water where the fish were bedding.  It was key that I was able to find that combination.”  

Morgenthaler on the importance of timing this week:
“It was all about timing. The golden hour for me was between 10:30 and 1:00 every day.  The first day things started happening around 11:30, the second day the bite started at 10:30, and today the bite started at around noon.   

“The only difference for me between the first two days and today was that I hit little wolf packs of bass on Thursday and Friday.  Today, I had to fish and fish and fish before I caught one.  Then I’d keep going and catch another one.  I really had to grind on them.”

Morgenthaler’s primary equipment and lures:
- ¾-ounce Lunker Lure jig (Black and Blue)
- Zoom Big Salty Chunk (Black and Blue)
- 50 lb. test braided line
- 7’11” Denali heavy action casting rod

Morgenthaler on the feeling of sitting in the hot seat on Sunday until Powroznik weighed-in:
“I’ve been wanting to make a Top 12 cut in the Elite Series and sit on that stage for a long time now, especially knowing most of these guys and watching the Bassmaster show on TV.  I really just couldn’t wait to get back to the Elite Series, so it has been a sea of emotions for me this week.  When I realized that Rojas stubbed his toe and that I was going to finish in 2nd, it really hurt though.”

3rd Place: Randall Tharp (16-5, 24-13, 17-4, 18-4: 76-10)
Tharp on his final day thoughts on Toledo Bend:
“Today started off better than any day of the tournament for me, and I really thought I was going to be able to duplicate what I had done on the second day.  I actually had more weight quicker today than I did on that big day.  It was on fire this morning, and I had most of my weight in the first two hours.  To have around 18-pounds in the box early in the morning and to not be able to cull up was pretty frustrating.  I fished as hard as I possibly could, and don't know what I could have done any differently."

Tharp on his primary pattern:
“I was fishing grass, which is what I love doing.  Basically all I was keying on was a little deeper milfoil, and fishing the heavier clumps of it that were about the size of the hood of a truck.  There were two different types of milfoil mixed together, and I was just flipping it."

Tharp's primary baits and equipment:
-Prototype Trigger X Craw
-Unnamed Punch Skirt
-4/0 VMC Flipping Hook
-3/4 oz. Reins Tungsten
-60 lb. test Gamma Torque Braid
-Shimano Core Reel
-7' 11" Halo Twilight Flipping Stick

Tharp’s overall thoughts about how the Top Three finishers in this event all fished on the FLW Tour last year:
“I have all the respect in the world for what these guys have accomplished on the Elite Series, but there are some guys that have accomplished a lot other places also. Powroznik, in particular, since I have been a professional angler has finished in the Top 5 almost every year in the FLW Tour Angler Of the Year points. In my opinion, he is one of the best sight fisherman in the world."

4th Place: Mark Davis (17-14, 22-9, 15-14, 18-2: 74-7)
Davis on his overall performance on Toledo Bend:
“I am happy with how things turned out this week.  I didn't think I was on the fish to win, although the pattern did have the potential if it all worked out perfectly.  I move up from 26th place on the first day, so I am super happy leaving with a Top 5 finish."

Davis on his primary pattern:
“I kept it really simple here this week.  I was just fishing a Strike King Caffeine Shad on a Carolina-rig around little bald spots in the grass.  I was mostly fishing for postspawn fish, but some of them were also spawning offshore.  Once I caught fish off of a spot, I had to move on which is hard to do when there were so many boats fishing on the lake."

Davis' primary baits and equipment:
-Carolina-rigged Strike King Caffeine Shad (Watermelon Red)
-20 lb. test Seaguar Fluorocarbon line
- ¾-oz weight and 3/0 hook

Davis' overall thoughts about his chances of winning the TAOY title:
“It is still way too early to talk about the AOY title - there is just too much fishing still left to be done. All I can say is, ‘So far, so good.’  Even though I live about an hour-and-a-half away from Dardanelle, that lake has always been my nemesis.  I guess we will just have to see what kind of lead I have heading over there, and see if we can get through that one.  If I can get past Dardanelle, then maybe I might start thinking I have a shot at this thing."


PlacePRO ANGLERDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Total FishTotal Weight
1 Jacob Powroznik 5 24-14 5 23- 6 5 11-13 5 19-11 20 79-12
2 Chad Morgenthaler 5 18-15 5 24-13 5 11-12 5 21-14 20 77- 6
3 Randall Tharp 5 16- 5 5 24-13 5 17- 4 5 18- 4 20 76-10
4 Mark Davis 5 17-14 5 22- 9 5 15-14 5 18- 2 20 74- 7
5 Casey Ashley 5 15- 6 5 21-11 5 17- 6 5 19- 5 20 73-12
6 Dean Rojas 5 19-14 5 24-15 5 17-14 5 10- 9 20 73- 4
7 Skeet Reese 5 17- 7 5 23-14 5 15- 5 5 16- 6 20 73- 0
8 Chris Zaldain 5 22- 6 5 15-15 5 18- 0 5 14- 6 20 70-11
9 Todd Faircloth 5 21-14 5 18-13 5 16- 9 5 11- 4 20 68- 8
10 Jonathon VanDam 5 14- 7 5 19-10 5 20-14 5 13- 8 20 68- 7
11 Jared Lintner 5 25- 7 5 16-13 5 17- 8 2 7- 7 17 67- 3
12 Cliff Crochet 5 21-10 5 13-15 5 20- 6 5 9- 8 20 65- 7