MANY, La. -- Dean Rojas walked off the weigh-in stage at the TroKar Battle on the Bayou and into a throng of reporters. But before any reporters could ask the tournament leader a question, Rojas turned the tables with a question of his own.
"Do you mind if we go over here where it's a little out of the wind?" Rojas said, pointing to a tournament equipment trailer that created a slight wind break.
Escaping the wind was on everyone's mind on Day Two of the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir. Forecasts called for winds in the 15 to 20 mph range with higher gusts, but the reality on the lake was more like 20 to 25 mph sustained winds with gusts approaching 40 mph.
The surface of the massive reservoir straddling the Louisiana-Texas border frothed with white caps and rolling waves that looked like the Gulf of Mexico. Lakeside pine trees swayed wildly, and the numerous flags around the weigh-in site stayed taut all afternoon.
"When I came out of the creek I was fishing in, the waves looked like they were coming from everywhere," said veteran pro Denny Brauer, who sits in 20th place with 30 pounds, 11 ounces.
The wind didn't seem to affect Rojas' fishing. He followed up his Day One leading weight of 23-1 with 19-13 to stay atop the leaderboard (42-14) going into Day Three.
"The place I was fishing was a little protected from the wind," Rojas said. "I was able to sight-fish a few. I grew up in the desert, and the wind always blows out there."
David Walker used the wind to his advantage, moving from 53rd place into fourth with 24 pounds, Day Two's heaviest stringer.
"I just kind of fished where the wind let me," Walker said. "And it worked out."
It didn't work out as well for others. The punishing waves caused Ohio pro Brody Broderick's trolling motor to break off its mount. California pro Ish Monroe lost an estimated $10,000 worth of rods and reels when a wave crashed over his rig's bow.
"I wouldn't have wanted to fish in today's conditions," said tournament marshal Wade Clemons of Keithville, La., who rode along Friday with Elite pro Clark Reehm.
The blustery conditions affected tournament officials and television production staff, too. The quality of streaming Internet video of Friday's weigh-in suffered as a result of the production crew being forced to take down the satellite dish that uplinks the video feed. Fans watching the weigh-in at Cypress Bend Park had to stand a little closer than usual because tournament officials didn't erect the weigh-in Jumbotron as a result of high winds.
"The whole key is to leave plenty of time," Brauer said.
"I gave myself 15 minutes to get back," said Mississippi pro Paul Elias. "It wasn't white-capping where I was fishing, but when I came out of the cove, I said, 'Shame on us.' But we made it back with a minute to spare."
As bad as conditions seemed, Brauer and several other veteran pros said Friday's conditions weren't anywhere near as bad as past tournaments.
"The worst I remember was a tournament on Seneca Lake in New York in the early 1980s," Brauer said. "I ran the length of the lake, like 45 or 50 miles, went down a 17-mile canal, through three locks, and it was blowing so bad you couldn't put your trolling motor in the water. I caught a limit real quick and left immediately to go back, and I was one of the only ones who did. A lot of guys were calling people to bring trailers to take them back. I swear the waves were 20-foot high in places. Needless to say, I didn't make it back on time."
Elias pointed to tournaments on Lake Erie and New York's Thousand Islands area as some of the worst. Veteran Florida pro Shaw Grigsby mentioned a tournament on the Potomac River as one of the windiest.
But while others talked about troubles with the wind, Grigsby looked on the brighter side.
"It was fun," Grigsby said. "It's like getting on a roller coaster. Most people would pay for a ride like that.