ORANGE — Dean Rojas might have shattered expectations for the Bassmaster Elite Series Sabine River Challenge.
In a tournament many said would have record low weights, Rojas scored with an impressive bag of 15 pounds, 10-ounces.
To put that in perspective that weight would have been the fourth largest catch on day 3 at the 2013 Bassmaster Classic at Oklahoma’s Grand Lake of the Cherokees, a fishery known for producing large fish.
“Here, you have to find the right area. There is so much water, and it takes so much time. I was able to find an area that’s got them,” he said.
The multiple time Bassmaster winner was tight-lipped about his location and approach but did admit it involved a lengthy run into Louisiana.
Former Bassmaster Classic Champion and Angler of the Year Mark Davis currently stands in second place with 13-13 after a four pound first set the tone for the day.
“Things just kind of fell into place after that. I had nine keeper bites, and I did not anticipate that at all. I was pleasantly surprised. It had been a slow practice,” he said.
Rookie Hank Cherry who pulled an impressive third place at the Bassmaster Classic last month hauled in 12-11 to put him in fourth just behind Cliff Crochet who caught 13-0.
“I found some fish in the Sabine area pretty close to the ramp and was able to stick with them and put together a solid bag. I see no reason to change my game plan tomorrow,” he said.
Several anglers ran up the Neches River but found much murkier water conditions than in practice, as did some of the anglers who fished the Taylor Bayou system.
About 1/3 of the field ran the Intracoastal into Louisiana, another 1/3 were in the Taylor/Hillebrandt system, most of the rest went toward the Neches and a few stuck it out in the Sabine area.
Water quality seemed to be a big issue was tidal conditions and wind muddied up certain areas.
“Clean water was definitely a factor,” said Gerald Swindle who struggled today.
“The area I went in was really muddy and that was a big change from practice and it seemed to make a big difference. However, tomorrow is a new day and we get back out and try again.”
Dennis Tietje, the Roanoke, La. angler many picked to win the event due to his experience in the area blew an engine 20 miles into a run into Louisiana and lost much of his day fishing. This came after losing a motor in practice Monday hitting a submerged obstruction.
“I still managed to put a fish on the board and after all I went through I feel good about that,” Tietje said.
“I have such good sponsors who had another boat for me ready to go and I am ready to hit the water with a positive attitude and go for it in the morning.”
“The people of Orange have been so overwhelmingly nice and everyone has rolled out the red carpet for us. It’s the least I can do,” he said.
Today’s weigh-in takes place 3:15 at the City of Orange Boat Ramp 1000 Simmons Dr. & Harry Reed Rd. in Orange.
1. Dean Rojas: 15-10
2. Mark Davis: 13-13
3. Cliff Crochet: 13-00
4. Hank Cherry : 12-11
5. Greg Hackney: 11-13
6. Ish Monroe: 11-03
7. Jeff Kriet: 10-13
7. Matt Reed: 10-13
9. Casey D Ashley: 10-09
10. Todd Faircloth: 10-07