Bass anglers all around the world have aspirations of becoming successful in the sport of bass fishing. Who could blame them, fishing for a living doesn’t sound like a bad way to go. And with the ever-growing popularity of this sport, comes bigger and bigger paydays, which leaves the possibility of a pretty darn good living. Countless, local and regional, tournaments are held every weekend, in which anglers match their skills with the best in their particular area. Just like any other arena, many try and few succeed. Dean Rojas, of Lake Havasu City, is a local angler that not only became one of the few, he is blazing a trail to the top. This Pro-File takes you along Dean’s path from a young man with a dream to one of the hottest anglers on the Bassmaster Top 150 Tour.
Dean was born July 31, 1971 in Minneola, New York. At the age of three his family made the move across the country to San Diego, California, where he spent much of his youth. As a youngster he, and his brothers, spent much of their spare time riding bikes to a nearby lake, where they would often fish for bluegill with bits of cheese. The community he lived in was quite rural and fishing was not the cool thing to do. In fact, he was often the target of ridicule from his fellow 9-10 year-old classmates. But none of that stopped the young angler from doing what he really enjoyed to do. He recalls the thrill of catching bluegill, but added, "If you caught a bass, you were a stud. Catching a bass was a big deal." One day, at the age of thirteen, he recalls a day that really got his heart pumping for largemouth bass. The lake was drawn way down so workers could repair the dam. He was riding his bike around the lake and noticed large groups of bass, in the crystal clear water. He headed for home with plans of returning the next day, after school, to catch one of those fish. His parents weren’t into fishing, so he taught himself with the aid of fishing magazines, particularly, Bassmaster. Sure enough, he got one the next day, and was hooked from then on.
Bass fishing became a big part of his life. He joined two bass clubs in his late teens, but eventually set his sights on the regional tournament circuits, knowing he needed to go in this direction to achieve his goal of becoming a professional angler. He began entering Won Bass tournaments, as an amateur. Won Bass pairs an amateur with a professional, and after eight months of whipping most of his professional counterparts, Dean, who was now twenty-one, decided to make the jump to pro. He fished his way to a fourth-place finish in his first year. "That’s when the North and the South were combined in one division, so I felt pretty good about that." Soon after that, the Angler’s Choice circuit came out west and Dean began to fish their tournaments, doing well in his first year, and winning a boat in his second. He won the boat about a month after marrying his wife, Renee, and that proved to be a vital stepping-stone in his career. By now debts were building due to the pursuit of his dream, and the boat allowed him to pay-off his debts and put some money down on a house. The house was important to him, knowing he could have a place for he and his family to land if he didn’t achieve his goals.
He was fishing the championships back east, when B.A.S.S. came out west, in 1997. It was at this time he purchased a house in Lake Havasu City, making Arizona his home. He knew the Western Invitationals were his ticket out. "All I wanted to do was finish in the top 25, and if I did that, it was going to jumpstart my career." He accomplished his goal in his first year, enabling him to fish the Bassmaster Top 150. "I knew I would be swimming in debt, but I was going." Once he joined the tour, the deals began getting better, along with the sponsorships. Fishing started getting cheaper, but the competition was getting better. He finished in 32nd place his first year on the 150 Tour qualifying him to fish in the 1999 Bassmasters Classic. He was on his way to the big dance, where he wound up in 30th place when it was all said and done. He also claimed the prestigious, "Angler of the Year", award in the Western Division.
Dean’s next big step came when he won the Angler’s Choice Championship. "That’s when the deals started getting even better yet and it enabled me to make a solid living doing this." He was still fishing the Top 150, but failed to qualify for the 2000 Classic. I think he was just saving himself for 2001, which was the year Dean firmly stomped his name on the map, the record books, and the sport of tournament bass fishing.
After a somewhat slow start in the 2000-2001 season, Dean rolled into Kissimmee, Florida to fish the Lake Toho 150 event. Little did he know, this tournament would change his life forever. At the end of day-one, he rolled into the scales with the highest single day, five-fish, weight ever recorded in a B.A.S.S. event. His 45-02 lbs. was the talk of the fishing world. His confidence was at an all-time high heading out for day-two, yet an uneasy feeling that someone would match his weight, kept the tension high. Two 40+ lb. bags, along with eight 30+ lb. bags were also weighed in on day-one. The world record was nice, but he knew he had a chance of winning his first 150 event, which would mean a payday of $110,000. When day-two was complete, he had built to his lead by bringing 34-9 lbs. to the scales. A third-day weight of 15-9 lbs., followed by a final-day bag of 13 _ lbs. completed the deal. He had won his first Top 150 event in impressive fashion. In fact, he could have stayed in bed on the final day at Toho and still came out on top. The total four-day world record now belonged to him also, with a 20 fish total of 108-12 lbs., beating the existing mark in just three days. By the end of the fourth day, he bettered the record by 15 lbs.
The record, the paycheck, and the prestige, were now his, yet he wasn’t finished. The next stop on the tour was the Louisiana Top 150 at Toledo Bend, where he went back-to-back, winning another $110,000 check, and proving he was a force to reckon with.
Rojas followed up with a third-place finish at Wheeler, A fourth-place effort at the Western Invitational in Nevada, and a close second at Mega-Bucks, where Rick Clunn edged him out on the final day by a mere seven ounces. Rojas added jokingly, "They would have had a lynch mob on me if I won that one." By the end of the season, Dean had worked his way up, from a slow start, to a seventh-place finish overall, and was going to another Classic. He also moved into second-place in total winnings for a single season, with his $333,940.00, just short of Denny Brauer’s 1998 winnings of $347,000.00.
Needless to say, Dean has reached his first goal, by making tournament fishing his career. Let me tell you, he is not ready to slow down yet. He believes a Classic Championship is in his future, and so do I. He is a very approachable guy with a good head on his shoulders, and the right level of confidence needed to climb the ladder amongst the best of the best. In closing I would like to leave you with some good advise that Dean has lived by. "To make it in anything, you must not be afraid to take chances. Put yourself in the right situations, and some of them will work out."