By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
Editor’s note: In an article published in this space last week, Jason Elam detailed his approach to high-water scenarios and how he game plans for the constantly changing variables, especially on river systems. Today, in part two of a three-part series, longtime Elite Series competitor Dean Rojas offers his take on the same topic.
Over the years, Dean Rojas has earned a reputation for being one of the most consistent anglers across both pro circuits, but his take on fishing flooded bodies of water is a little different from others. He’d rather find a pattern all to himself out away from all the newly-submerged cover rather than beat the bank with the majority of the field.
Give Dean Rojas a selfish wish- when the Bassmaster Tour rolled into the hometowns of some of the best anglers, he’d have the lake flood out. Before the first cast, many anglers would be taken out of the game if they can’t ditch their prior knowledge and adapt to the rapidly changing conditions.
When targeting rivers systems, Rojas noted there often isn’t much in the way of vegetation. Instead, there’ll be rocks or a little ditch that dumps into the river that creates an eddy.
“The fish just sit there to get out of the current,” he said. “Usually, right at the mouth of the creeks or tributaries, with a little bit of deep water right there, is a perfect spot for them to get out of the current and dart out after the baitfish or whatever they need to eat.”
He’ll also keep an eye open for any type of irregularities on the bank itself or an object or structure that blocks the current.
Rojas will go against the grain and not barge into the newly flooded bushes as many of his competitors will.
“I tend to go the opposite and look for rock and any type of harder structure,” he said, adding that retaining walls along houses, rip rap or launch ramps are what he seeks out.
Once largemouth have acclimated to the high water conditions, there will be an abundance of shad getting ready to spawn. Rojas not only pays attention to where the shad are, but tries to figure where they’ll be heading next and what type of structure they’re relating to.
“If you’re practicing for a 4-day tourney, those bushes get beat up,” he said.
While it might not be the winning pattern, Rojas can live with that since no one else will be fishing around him. He’s earned plenty of top-10s by marching to the beat of his own drum.
Reading the Land
Rojas finds many spots by reading the contour of the land. He’ll idle and visualize how the shoreline continues into the lake and near his boat.
“If you have an area on land that has lots of little creeks coming in, of course you are going to have a lot of variation in contours,” Rojas said. “My Lowrance units help me to piece stuff together.”
Rojas knows he’s literally going to have to drop his bait on their head under such conditions since they’re not apt to move very far to hit a lure.
When faced with warm, muddy water that is above the normal water level, he’ll speed it up using a crankbait since it dives deeper or a spinnerbait. A frog can also be a key bait.
Rojas recalled the 2004 Bassmaster Classic oatn Lake Wylie where he placed 4th under similar conditions skipping a frog beneath undercut banks and overhanging trees.
“The water, you could hardly see 6 inches,” he recalled. “They would come out 3- to 4- feet to eat it.”
That was an important lesson for Rojas early on in his frog fishing journey. It was also a lesson that made his peers take notice.
Culverts are Key
In the spring when it’s muddy, the original SPRO Bronzeye Frog excels.
“I want more of a subtle movement instead of a popping one,” he started. “They’re going to be in little breaks, eddies and points. I can work it real slow and dare them into biting it.”
Even in muddy water, he won’t insert rattles into the frog fearing they compromise the frogs’ hooking power by not fully collapsing.
Using a Duckett Fishing Dean Rojas Terex frog rod, he’ll alternate between the 7-foot version around tight quarters and the 7-foot, 4-inch model designed for larger baits and matted vegetation. A Duckett Fishing 360R reel spooled with 60-to 80-pound Sunline FX2 braid is his preference.
Every once in a while flooding waters will unlock an area that previously might not have been navigable, like culverts.
“I’ve caught fish around culverts,” he said. “Getting in there, and having that whole lake to yourself with nobody knowing where you are at and can’t see you, it’s a pretty special feeling.”
With the introduction of Google Earth, there aren’t many of these special areas left since anglers can study what is on the other side of the culvert without physically being there.
Once water levels do start receding, Rojas warns anglers to change their game plan to reflect the changing conditions. As the water moves, out so will the fish. He’ll also look for fish to go into the little channels leading away.
If he were fishing a flat that had 3 feet of water on it when practice started and he got 25 bites, he knows trouble is looming. Should it drop by tournament time, he knows to be wary of the same area.
“You have to move out to the next layer,” he noted.