Dean Rojas' victory at last week's Toledo Bend Bassmaster Elite Series was a testament to the concept of having a plan and sticking to it.
He went to the giant impoundment on the Texas/Louisiana border with a determination to sight-fish throughout the event. The result was a wire-to-wire victory – his second at that venue (he won a Top 150 there in 2001).
He bags decreased in size each day, but when the final fish had been weighed, he'd caught just enough to hold off a valiant rally by Gerald Swindle. His margin of victory was a single ounce.
The win was his fourth at the tour level and second since the inception of the Elite Series in 2006. It garnered him $100,000, an automatic slot in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic and 320 Toyota Tundra Angler-of-the-Year (AOY) points that improved his standing in that race from 31st to 8th.
Here's how he did it.
Even though the bass reproductive period was nearly complete by the time practice started and the lake was getting slammed by powerful winds, Rojas spent his entire 3-day practice period searching for bedding fish.
"That's what I designed everything around because I thought there would be enough of them up to see me through all 4 days," he said.
He threw a Spro Hydro-Pop ahead of the boat as he searched and found that tactic to be quite productive. It would play a key role in the tournament.
He covered a tremendous amount of water over the 3 days and discovered that just about all of the quality fish that were still on beds were in grassy locales on primary or secondary points just off the main lake.
"There was no reason to go too far back into the creeks – there was nothing there."
> Day 1: 5, 23-01
> Day 2: 5, 19-13
> Day 3: 5, 14-09
> Day 4: 5, 13-08
> Total = 20, 70-15
Rojas opened the tournament by catching a quick 16-pound limit of sight-fish. He spent little time his best area – where he'd staked out five females of at least 5 pounds each – because it was getting pounded by a strong westerly wind. He managed one 4-pound male there, but figured the females might have departed.
He culled up three times with the Hydro-Pop, and one of those fish was a 7-pounder. At the end of the day, his sack was nearly 2 pounds heavier than that of 2nd-place Fred Roumbanis.
The wind blew hard again on day 2, but it changed directions. That brought his primary area back into play, and he pulled an 8-pounder from it to go with four solid keepers to extend his lead to a little over 2 1/2 pounds.
His weight fell off by more than 4 pounds on day 3, but some of his closest pursuers suffered much worse fates and his advantage grew to 4 pounds. His stringer was topped by a 6-pounder that came from a bed less than 50 feet from where he'd roped the 8 the previous day.
Rojas used a Big Bite Baits WarMouth in several different colors to entice bedding fish.
He caught a 5 1/2-pounder on the Hydro-Pop early on the final day, but could do no better than a 2-pound average for the other four slots in his bag the rest of the way, and he needed a key cull in the afternoon just to achieve that.
He thought he'd been beaten when he found out how strongly Swindle had finished, but was able to celebrate when his sack landed on precisely the number he needed.
Winning Gear Notes
> Both baits are his own design.
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – "Just fishing my strengths and targeting bedding fish."
> Performance edge – "My Skeeter/Yamaha performed flawlessly all week, but I couldn't have seen those fish without a great pair of Oakley sunglasses. They were pivotal with the wind and the waves and all that stuff."