Feature Article: Dean Rojas

How MLF pro Dean Rojas is preparing his son for a tough Arizona Open

A father’s advice

BY PAUL LEBOWITZ/WON BASS ContributorPublished: Jan 30, 2020

LAKE HAVASU — Every pro bass angler must start somewhere. For Austin Rojas, 18, son of popular Major League Fishing Pro Dean, that start will be at the WON BASS Arizona Open at Lake Havasu, Feb. 5-7. It will be Austin’s introduction to running his own boat and making all the decisions in the crucible of high-stakes competitive bass fishing.

Austin can’t wait. He fished last year’s inaugural Arizona Open as a AAA, finishing a respectable 17th. But now he’ll be at the front of the boat. “I’m feeling very excited about fishing against the best,” he says. “I’ve fished smaller tournaments before, but this is much bigger. These guys are the best in the West. I just want to learn and have fun with it.”

austinanddealAUSTIN AND DEAN ROJAS at the 2019 WON BASS U.S. Open. Like his father, Austin is aiming for the sky in the world of competitive bass fishing.

Dean Rojas, who will be on tour with MLF during the event, expects the fishing to be tough with so many anglers and boats looking to pull big limits. “Fishing is pretty good in February but not with 150-plus boats,” he says. “In practice everyone will catch one, two or three. After a couple days, that’s 450 bass, that’s a lot. This is the largest field I’ve ever seen fishing this body of water. I expect it to be very challenging. The guy who wins will earn it.

“The lake is notorious for shutting down if there’s a lot of pressure,” Rojas continues. “It is challenging and grinding at the same time. The great thing is the pre-spawn and spawn will be just around the corner. The fish will be active, you’ll probably see a couple big bags. The big thing will be consistency across the 3 days. This lake is notorious for kicking it out one day and you’re catching one the next day.”

Still, Dean says, if anyone can stand up to the challenge of fishing pressured water, it’s the western fisherman. “They are the best for dealing with pressured situations,” he says. “They’re used to that tough bite. The ones that are good will just grind it out.”

The elder Rojas says the event will be a great learning curve for Austin. “He’s going to learn what I had to deal with for a long time, how hard it is — it’s not always easy,” Dean says. “It’s challenging at times. He’s putting his time in (in the lead-up to the event). I’m telling him to work hard, think about a lot of things, such as the weight you will need each day. Ultimately, he must make the decisions, and that’s where he’s going to grow. The first event is tough, it’s hard.”

Austin is well prepared. He lives on the lake. Throughout the years, he estimates he’s spent well over 1,000 hours fishing Havasu. “Knowing where the fish will be gives me the confidence to catch them,” he says.

Havasu caters to both shallow and deep-water guys,” Dean says. “The shallow guys have a shot at winning just as much as guys fishing deep. The most important thing is to catch 5 every day. It’s something everyone should strive for.” And that’s if the weather is kind. If the winds are high, and they can be, it will throw a wrench in things.

Dean says his son Austin, like all the anglers competing in the Pro Division, will need a mixed bag of fish, both smallmouth and largemouth. “When it starts rolling you’ll take whatever you can get,” Dean says. “This place gets tough, you’ll need all of it to win.”

The smallmouth will come up first. The winter’s been a cold one at Havasu. Dean expects the mornings to be in the low 50s. He’s telling Austin to be ready.

“You have to go at it multiple ways, I don’t know if you can lock into one thing,” Dean says of techniques that might be effective. “You have to have 3, 4, 5 different presentations, and it’s the same for finesse and power fishermen.”

With 150-plus boats, the lake will fish small, Dean says. Depending on their flight numbers, some anglers will likely find other boats on their spots. “Some guys will find the same fish in a cove, pocket or point,” he says. “One of them might never get on it.”

Dean has been telling first-time Pro Austin to not to let it set him back if he finds that’s the case. “There’s always an­other stretch, pocket or point,” Dean says. “You have to work with what’s given to you. And with your AAA, you’ll have two lines in the water.”

Austin is ready. “My dad told me to just relax and think about where I want to go, and if someone’s there, go somewhere else,” he says. “You should always have a back-up plan.”

Regardless of the difficulty, someone will solve the puzzle and win big. “The kickers will come, probably at the least expected time,” Dean says. “There will be some big ones caught, there are a lot of big ones in the lake. It’s just a matter of who’s going to catch them.”

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