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Dean Rojas

After trailing Lee for 95 percent of the match, Rojas caught two key fish in the final 15 minutes to surge ahead for the win.

“It doesn’t do anything, but it’s a moral victory more than anything,” he said. “To be in that sort of pressure-cooker and being that far behind for the whole 2 days and to pass him in the last 5 minutes means a lot. I’ve had it happen to me in the MLF so you just keep fighting. The momentum shifts back and forth and you react to the leaderboard. I saw he’d caught another one and was 5 pounds ahead. I didn’t know how I’d catch up.”

He endured a spell where he caught three fish that didn’t meet the 12-inch length requirement and he admitted frustration started to set in. He then made a couple moves before catching his last two keepers.

“I needed one 3-pounder,” he said. “I went to an area with one little tree and saw one swimming down the bank. I made a couple pitches to it and couldn’t get it to bite.”
He ran to two other spots that didn’t produce either. At that point, time was becoming a factor.

“Trip (Weldon) said, ‘15 minutes to go,’” Rojas said. “I said, ‘That’s plenty of time.’”

He made a couple more casts before connecting with a 3-03 that closed the deficit to 1-13. He lost a fish with 9 minutes to go and after re-rigging, he picked off a 2-13 to close it out.
“I flipped my dropshot back into the spot and picked up and I had a fish on,” he said. “I said, ‘There it is.’ It came up and jumped and I said, ‘That’s it. That’s the one.’”

For Lee, it wasn’t the outcome he was hoping for, but he was grateful for the opportunity to be involved in a first-of-its-kind event with some of the top Elite Series anglers.

“This was a fun tournament,” he said. “I didn’t have any expectations coming in. Obviously you want to win, but I’m glad I got to fish it. There are only eight guys in the Elites who got to come here. It’s one of those things where it’s a good tournament to be in whether you smoke them or not.”

He certainly didn’t uncover any honey holes over the course of his 6 hours on the water. He weighed four fish Tuesday and three today.

“I really didn’t know coming in if it would take 15 pounds or more,” he said. “I didn’t think at all it would be this tough. Obviously, we didn’t hear anything about the place. The last 2 days, it was really a struggle to just put fish in the boat. My game plan was to get into high-percentage areas. A dropshot is my confidence bait when it comes to smallmouth so that’s what I stuck with both days.

“I got four bites a day and caught all four yesterday and only caught three today. It was one of those things where I couldn’t run around and try a bunch of stuff. I wouldn’t do anything different. I fished how I wanted to fish and tried a bunch of stuff. I just never figured anything out.”

He was the first to leave the dock this morning and he opted to start on a stretch of corrugated metal wall on the back side of Strawberry Island, a spot that half the field fished Tuesday. Before competition began, Combs also pulled into the area, the two had a quick conversation and Combs eased up ahead of Lee. The two fished there briefly, moving in opposite directions and both eventually left.

“I told him he could fish there,” Lee said. “It wasn’t a big deal. I feel like some of these guys get really into it and I’m not like that. I make a couple casts and just get away. I don’t want to get into any confrontation out there, especially when you’re not fishing against the guy. I just wanted to hit that place real quick.” Read More