RED RIVER AND BEYOND WITH DEAN ROJAS
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Mark Jeffreys, Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush (Havasu photo courtesy of Dean Rojas)
Lake Havasu City, AZ - After a 14th place finish in the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year Standings, Elite Series pro Dean Rojas will compete in his 10th Bassmaster Classic this February on the Red River. While Rojas has fared well in Classic competition, finishing in the Top 25 in each of his previous five Classic appearances, his highest finish came in 2004 at Lake Wylie where he landed in 4th place.
“I go to the Classic to win,” he stated. “You’re not in it for the points so you’re either going to hero or zero. I learned that when I almost won at Lake Wylie. I was in the right area and never lost a fish the entire event. I just got beat and that’s what happens when you don’t get the right bites.”
Rojas explained that being in the right area will almost certainly prove to be the difference maker in the upcoming Classic. “It’s going to be very hard to try and scramble for a win on the Red River. We are going to have four days of practice to figure out where you want to be on that body of water to position yourself for the win. You probably have the first two or three hours of that first morning to dictate how your event is going to go. If you’re in an area with four or five other boats, you have to start looking at the fishing pressure and the potential that the area holds.
“This Classic is going to be a game of constantly evaluating everything and trying to make the right decisions to stay one step ahead,” said Rojas.
With two B.A.S.S. victories on Toledo Bend in 2001 and 2011 and an Angler’s Choice Championship win on the Red River in 1999, Rojas is comfortable fishing Louisiana waters. “Louisiana has been great to me over the years,” he explained. “I’ve done really well in that entire state. It’s just great fishing and I’m really glad that the Classic is back in Shreveport.”
Looking at the upcoming 2012 Elite Series schedule that features stops in June on Toledo Bend and the grass laden Mississippi River in Wisconsin as well as the season finale in August on Oneida Lake where Rojas won in 2008 with his then newly released Poppin’ Frog, there’s a good chance that the hollow bodied frog will play a big role in the 2012 season.
With the popularity of the technique continuing to grow among both weekend anglers and touring professionals and the numerous companies in the tackle industry now offering varying versions of the frog, Rojas said that he has little concern about bass becoming conditioned to the bait.
“I don’t really think that I’ve seen a decline in how effective the SPRO frog has been for me recently just because nobody throws the bait like I do,” he explained. “I know that people catch fish on them but everyone throws the bait differently and not one person out there has the confidence and knowledge that I have with that bait. Knowing that, I feel like I can go up against anyone out there and compete without any question.”
As far as the numerous different brands of frogs now available on the shelves of nearly every tackle shop, Rojas has a unique take on the phenomenon. “I think that it’s good for the industry and good for the sport to see all these companies trying to make it,” he said. “You’re going to have people who like other frogs and that’s OK. As long as they’re supporting the industry and are out there fishing and taking their kids fishing, it’s great stuff.”
That being said, the Arizona pro still takes time to scope out the competition. “I look at all of them and can pretty much tell if it’s going to work or not. It all comes down to hook up ratio, percentages, and getting fish in the boat,” he explained. My job is to come out with the best frogs that I can with SPRO. We are working on a brand new design right now that will be introduced in the near future and I think that it’ll be different from everything else. It all comes down to being innovative and staying one step ahead.”
While Rojas’ 2012 wrap and colors will remain virtually unchanged from 2011, he will have two new additions on his boat that have been noticeable absent in recent years. “Not many people know that I actually ran one of the first Power-Poles back in 2003,” said Rojas. “It was a really cool tool but they were still going through some growing pains. I decided to take a break from the Power-Poles for a while and I just watched them progress.
“I’ve know the owner, John Oliverio, for about 10 years and every year they’d talk to me but I just wasn’t ready,” continued Rojas. “This past year, I won at Toledo Bend shallow and I also used an anchor on the St. Johns River to bed fish. There were times when I knew that I really needed a Power-Pole and I really missed it.”
Rojas struck a deal with the company and in 2012, his Skeeter FX will feature two Power-Pole Blades. “I’m so glad to have them on board and look forward to using the product because I know how good it’s going to be,” he said. Rojas will get the opportunity to use his Power-Poles quite a bit in the first two months of the season as he will compete in five shallow water tournaments by the end of March.
His season kicks off on Lake Toho at the end of January where he will team up with Terry Segraves for the PAA Tour Team Event which begins on January 26th. From there, he will compete in the first FLW Tour Open of the year on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee in early February before competing in the Red River Classic. Then the Elite Series kicks off in March with back-to-back tournaments on Florida’s St. Johns River and Lake Okeechobee.
Chip Off the Old Block
Aside from preparing for the upcoming season, Rojas made sure to set aside time to spend with his two boys Austin and Cameron this past fall. “It’s been really cool this fall hanging out with my kids. Austin is 10-years-old and Cameron is 12 and is really into golf and hits the course pretty much every day. My youngest wants to be a professional bass fisherman. He follows me all the time when I’m on Tour and he’s gotten to the age where he can handle a fishing rod pretty good for a 10-year-old.”
After fishing with Austin on nearby Lake Havasu throughout the fall, Rojas recently fished a team tournament on Havasu with his son. “He just loves to fish and I just felt like he was ready and would really enjoy the experience. He caught the first two fish of the tournament on a drop shot and one was a 3-pounder,” explained Rojas. “He was so jacked up and excited that he could hardly hold his rod.”
For Rojas, it was familiar feeling that he can still relate to. “To see all that adrenaline running through his little body, I know that’s what I felt when I was growing up and I still feel it in big tournaments when I catch a key fish. For him in his first tournament, it was so cool because we were giving each other high fives.” The pair ended up finishing 4th in the tournament.
“I like the schedule this year and I think that it has the possibility of playing right into my hands. I’m prepared for it and I’m ready to start fishing again,” concluded Rojas.