The stumps were high, the water was low, the wind whipped, and the bass bit like crazy. Dean Rojas won by 1 ounce. Ask any Bassmaster Elite Series pro who competed in the 2011 event on Toledo Bend Reservoir, and he’d assure you he hasn’t forgotten.
Least of all Rojas. Talk about feeling the heat. While the pro from Arizona went wire-to-wire for the win, he took it by just 1 ounce over Alabama’s Gerald Swindle. The third-place man, David Walker of Tennessee, was only 13 ounces behind Rojas’ winning weight of 70 pounds, 15 ounces.
Add Ish Monroe’s 10-15 bass to the memory bank. The California pro’s behemoth was the star fish of the Elite Series’ first visit to Many, La., and the famed Louisiana-Texas border impoundment. (The near 11-pounder later proved to be the season’s biggest bass, and so far beats any single bass of 2012 Elite competition.)
If the high drama continues, who will win at the Elite Series’ June 7-10 return to “The Bend” is anyone’s guess. But the suspense is built into an event that pits the world’s best anglers against each other for a first-place prize of $100,000 plus a pass to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
Rojas is a natural favorite this time around on “The Bend.” After all, his history there includes another high-level Bassmaster win. It is one of his favorite fisheries, and he visits it every chance he gets.
Rojas said he could not win in the same way he did in 2012. The main reason is that the tournament will be in June, not April as it was in 2011. That means bed fishing, one of Rojas’ key 2011 patterns, will be all but over.
“We’ve had such a mild winter, and with the water coming up, it gave bass a lot of cover to spawn on,” said Rojas, who has been back to Toledo Bend twice since his win. “The water is 6, maybe 7 feet up from where it was last year. Low water won’t be an issue at all this year.”
With the exception of bed fishing, Rojas said, any pattern could produce. He’s going to wait until practice time and go with “what the lake will allow.”
“Toledo Bend has so many bass that it’s possible to have a shallow-water pattern that will last all four days,” he said. “But with the water level up, you will be able to catch them a lot of different ways.”
In that respect, the 2012 competition could resemble last year’s. Besides zeroing in on spawners, Rojas worked topwaters on grass flats. Runner-up Swindle threw crankbaits and jerkbaits across points. Walker worked a jig in stump flats. Florida’s Chris Lane, fourth, was on sandy flats with grass. Oklahoma’s Fred Roumbanis, fifth, stuck to offshore ridges to work a hot bluegill spawn.
The goal of any pro is to win, but a Top 12 will do in terms of the points race. As the fifth of eight regular-season events, Toledo Bend will be critical for earning points for postseason and Classic qualifications.
Those in the upper reaches of the points standings will be fishing hard to boost their chances for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. Going into the event, Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., leads the race for the crown. Nearest him are Walker and Brent Chapman of Kansas, who led in points after three events.
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive coverage of the Toledo Bend Battle, including the new War Room and Hooked Up Web shows on the final two days. Fans can follow along every day via the live, streaming video of weigh-ins, live leaderboards, photo galleries, videos, results and standings. Access to all Bassmaster.com pages and features is free.
Fans are invited to watch June 7-10 at Cypress Bend Park, 3462 Cypress Bend Drive, Many, LA 71449. Boats will take off at 6:30 a.m. CT. Weigh-ins will begin at 3:15 p.m. The Elite Series Fan Festival will be open June 9-10. All Bassmaster events are free.