By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
With his 50th birthday just a few months away, Dean Rojas is preparing for his busiest tournament schedule in well over a decade. Competing on both the MLF Bass Pro Tour and the Pro Circuit, the veteran from Arizona will fish about 15 events in 2021.
He and wife Renee recently became empty-nesters – oldest son Cameron is both a student and a flight instructor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz. and his brother Austin is attending Simpson University in Northern California and is a member of that school's prominent fishing team. Now it's time for their parents to hit the road as a couple again.
"Renee will be traveling with me a lot this year, which was something we didn't do when the kids were at home," he said. "We don't have to be at home anymore; the reason I always wanted to be there before was I wanted to see my wife and kids. Now the kids are out doing what they need to do for themselves – they're young men working their way through everything.
"The timing was right to do this. I've been to every single body of water and the whole schedule looks good. I'm looking forward to it."
Rojas won the event at Smith Lake during the BPT's inaugural 2019 season, but that and a 17th at Lake Conroe earlier that year are his only Top-30 finishes in 13 outings over two years. He ended up 69th out of 80 competitors on the 2019 points list and was 64th last year, when a 35th at Lake Okeechobee was the best of his five showings in the pandemic-shortened campaign.
He's one of several former Bassmaster Elite Series stalwarts whose previous success hasn't carried over to the BPT and its more frenetic tournament format.
"I've just been missing out on a few little things that I think would've resulted in having more success than I've had," he said. "There've been some lost fish, which everybody has, and some that've smoked a frog and just missed it for some reason.
"There've been times when I've lost connection with fish (located in practice or on previous tournament days) and it's been a challenge to find them again. That hurts you at this level because other guys are keeping the hammer down all the time."
Back to the 'Old Ways'
Rojas fished the three massive-field Pro Circuit Super Tournaments last summer and placed among the Top 40 twice. They were a good primer for what he'll face this year under the Pro Circuit's traditional five-fish format.
"I enjoyed the Super Tournaments because it was going back to what I always used to do, but there are also some things I don't miss about it," he said. "I don't miss culling and having to worry about keeping fish alive and I don't miss of making it to weigh-in on time.
"But (the Pro Circuit offers) good payouts and my sponsors are happy. When some guys are backing off due to COVID and everything, I'm picking things up and trying to get as much exposure as I can."
As for the BPT, he said he's taken a major liking to the 15-minute breaks between the second and third 2 1/2-hour periods of each competition day.
"If things haven't been going well, you can sit down and clear your head," he said. "Of course, it can go the other way, too – you can be catching them really good and you have to stop."
> The 20th anniversary of Rojas' B.A.S.S. record single-day haul (45-02 at Lake Toho in Florida) occurred earlier this month.
> His most recent season as a two-tour pro was 2006, when he finished 5th on the Elite Series points list and 12th on the FLW Tour side.
> He said that while his younger son is a big-time fishing fanatic, the oldest has never had any interest in the sport. "All he's ever wanted to do is fly. He wants to become a commercial pilot."