By Todd Ceisner
The way Dean Rojas sees it, his 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series season could’ve gone better, but it could’ve gone a lot worse.
With four Top-12 finishes to his credit, he found himself among a small group of anglers – four actually – who made the final day in at least half of the eight events this year. However, his average result in the other four tournaments was 64th, and that’s what led to his 16th-place finish in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) points.
“It was a good year. It wasn’t, by any means, a great year,” he said. “I had four Top-12s out of eight tournaments. That’s good. I was disappointed not to finish in the Top 8 and get in the All-Star event. I really wanted to make that event, but overall I had some good TV time and good exposure for my sponsors. More importantly, though, was making the Classic. That’s huge.”
He recently spent the better part of a week at Grand Lake and has fished there for a couple days the last few years so he feels comfortable there and doesn’t expect to be blindsided by anything come February when he competes in his 11th career Classic.
History Didn’t Repeat
The 2012 schedule featured two fisheries – Toledo Bend and Oneida Lake – where Rojas had posted previous Elite Series victories and many presumed he would be a contender at both venues. It also included a pair of stops that were completely foreign to him in the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan.
While he didn’t reprise his victory form at either T-Bend or Oneida, he held his own in the upper Midwest, scoring an 8th at the mighty Mississippi and a 4th at Green Bay.
“The key was being adaptive to the conditions that were happening at that particular time,” he said. “I just tried to stay current with the conditions. I went to two bodies of water that I’ve never been to before – La Crosse and Green Bay – and everybody was saying I was going to do fine at La Crosse. That’s one thing, but when everybody’s catching them on the frog and stuff, it makes my job a little harder because I’m always trying to find the bigger ones that are eating it. It was challenging when it came to that aspect.
“At Green Bay, it was a shot in the dark. We didn’t really have a real big area to fish and there were a lot of boats and you had to share a lot of water with people. Fortunately I was able to establish a pretty good pattern to begin with to get off to a good start there.”
He was particularly frustrated by his outcome at Oneida, where he’d won in 2008. With water levels down and more of his counterparts hammering the banks, his shallow-cover (docks, grass mats, etc.) approach was neutralized and he finished a season-worst 79th.
“I taught everybody how to catch them there, basically,” he said. “The last 3 years we’ve gone there, it’s all been televised, and people see how I was fishing and everybody was up there (on the bank). There was a lot more pressure up there and the water was a little lower than it had been in past years. If there had been another 6 or 8 inches or a foot of water, it would’ve been a lot different outcome.”
Classic, AOY Craving
Rojas’ 2013 wish list is chock full of big-ticket items that are guaranteed to be on all of his competitors’ want-lists as well.
“I want to win another Elite Series event,” he said. “I want the AOY title and most importantly, I want to win a Classic title. I’m excited to be going to Grand Lake.”
The closest he’s come to an AOY title was back in 2002 when he finished 3rd on the FLW Tour. He likes the variety on next year’s schedule, but knows nothing will come easy.
“I like it all,” he said. “I think it’ll be a good mixed bag with some lower-weight tournaments to some good-weight tournaments to Falcon, where we could have a blowout. There will be some smallmouth when we go to the Thousand Islands and St. Clair. It’ a typical Elite Series deal where you’re just going to have to catch the heck out of them again every time to put yourself in position to win.”
As far as going back to being a two-tour pro like he was in the early 2000s, he said it was a brief consideration knowing none of the Elite Series and FLW Tour events overlapped, but he’s opted to focus on the Elite Series.
“I looked at it, but I looked at all the back-to-backs and I looked at the grand scheme of things of the sponsors I have and what’s important to them,” he said. “FLW is a great organization. I enjoy fishing their events, but for me, B.A.S.S. is more sponsor-friendly. Right now, with my schedule, I need to pick and choose the right ones that are going to benefit all of the companies I work with.
“I’m gone too much now. I’m doing more promotions now than I have ever. Something has to give. I need to spend time with my wife and kid, too. It’s not always about the fishing.”
> Rojas called this offseason one of the busiest of his career in terms of sponsor work and promotional obligations. He’s retained all of his sponsors for next year and said he just signed a new 3-year deal with Gander Mountain. He also revealed that he’s been working with SPRO on a new topwater bait that’s set to be unveiled at next year’s ICAST. He was mum on the details, but did say he’s been playing around with some prototypes already.
“It’s something different than anything that’s out there right now,” he said.