CULLMAN, Ala. – The world’s 80 best anglers spent the past week competing on Smith Lake in Major League Fishing’s (MLF) Bass Pro Tour Stage Five event but by Sunday morning only 10 were left in the field. After reeling in 30 bass for a Sunday weight of 47lbs, Arizona’s Dean Rojas was the man on top of the podium at Depot Park Sunday afternoon to receive the championship trophy and a $100,000 grand prize. The win on Smith Lake was the fifth win of Rojas’ career and his 58th top 10 finish.
Rojas jumped out a big lead in the first period Sunday morning after taking advantage of excellent conditions and going back to an area he’s been familiar with all week.
“That morning bite was so crucial, and I knew that it would be going into today. We had ideal conditions this morning; we had overcast with a slight breeze and the area I was fishing in had a lot of bait and a lot of fish. It’s an area that I practiced in and ended up going there in the shotgun round and the elimination round so this morning I rolled up there and looked there and we started busting ‘em so I figured I’d start there and all of a sudden they were just everywhere,” Rojas said. “So, the key for me was trying to figure out which bait to throw because I needed something that I could catch them on really quick.”
Even after putting together a strong early period, Rojas knew that he’d have to make some adjustments throughout the day, and he was able to do enough to pull away with the win as the day progressed.
“I had to mix it up to catch all those fish in the first period and then as I sat there during our break going into the second period, I kind of started settling down and I knew at that point I needed to change and try to do something else. So, I ran all my other stuff and got a couple of bites doing that but really the damage was already done, and I knew that if I could just go out and catch a few more here or there,” Rojas smiled. “I didn’t want to press or run anywhere, I just wanted to settle down and fish as hard as I could and try to catch as many as I could around the area I was fishing.”
Rojas believes that those adjustments on the water were the biggest key to him pulling off this win. He saw the conditions on Smith Lake change throughout the week but stayed on top of it well enough to claim the trophy in downtown Cullman Sunday afternoon.
“It really changed from our practice rounds. We had a lot of warm days, the temperature raised about three or four degrees throughout the week and that changes the fish. It changes their dynamic and changes everything about that,” Rojas said. “It’s just a matter of evolving and we had great conditions today and I was able to find an area that I could bounce around in and fish shallow and then fish deep for the spotted bass when I needed to do that. It changed a lot of things throughout the week and I was just lucky enough and fortunate enough to stay in front of everything and sit in front of you fine folks here today with the win so I’m really excited.”
Final tournament standings:
1st place: Dean Rojas – 47lbs. ($100,000)
2nd place: Brent Chapman – 40lbs. 14oz. ($42,000)
3rd place: Michael Neal – 34lbs. 15 oz. ($30,000)
4th place: Jason Christie – 32lbs. 6oz. ($24,000)
5th place: Todd Faircloth – 32lbs. 2oz. ($18,000)
6th place: Mark Rose – 29lbs. 14oz. ($16,800)
7th place: Brent Ehrler – 26lbs. ($15,600)
8th place: Dustin Connell – 24lbs. 14oz. ($14,400)
9th place Mike Iaconelli – 17lbs. 14oz. ($13,200)
10th place: Fred Roumbanis – 10lbs. 1oz. ($12,000)
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