Blame it on the fish

ANDERSON, S.C. – When the stakes are as high as they are at the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, a bad day can devastate an angler.

So you’d be inclined to think that Dean Rojas, the Classic’s Day 1 leader, would be licking his wounds after struggling to find a small limit on Day 2.

But you’d be wrong.

“I fished perfectly,” Rojas said soon after leaving the water Saturday afternoon. “I have no complaints about my performance.”

Blame it on the fish. They just didn’t bite for Rojas on Day 2. He fished the same way and in the same areas as Friday, but after weighing 21 pounds, 2 ounces on the weather-shortened first day, Rojas took only 10-7 to the scales at Saturday’s weigh-in and dropped to second place.

Rojas didn’t miss opportunities. He had five bites all day and he caught every one of them. But they weren’t the same quality as the bites he had Friday, and he’ll go into Sunday’s final round with 31-9, two ounces behind Day 2 leader and 2004 Classic champion Takahiro Omori.

“It was definitely tougher than Day 1,” Rojas said. “I just didn’t get the bites. I had five keeper bites and I landed five fish. I’ll take it.”

Rojas has been fishing on the lower end of Lake Hartwell, using a combination of baits and targeting boat docks. (A more detailed description of the baits will have to wait until Sunday for publication.) He’s also spending some time on offshore structure, but the dock pattern accounts for about 90 percent of what he’s doing on Hartwell.

“I found those areas in practice, and they bit on them, so that’s what I’m doing,” Rojas explained.

Rojas’ bites were scattered Saturday. He was averaging about a fish an hour until around 11 a.m., and then someone closed the spigot. The number of spectator boats dwindled from half a dozen to just one boat with a crew. Television crews that had been following Rojas left to find other contenders.

“When they’re gone and I know I’m not catching them, I know they’re going to watch other people who are catching them,” Rojas said. “But you can’t let that bother you. I can only do what I can do. You can’t worry about that stuff.”

Rojas kept grinding Saturday, but the dry spell that started late in the morning lasted until nearly 2 p.m., when Rojas finally boated his fifth fish. He moved around to different spots much more in the second half of the day but didn’t find much until returning to one of his primary spots that had produced fish Friday and during the early stages on Saturday.

A lack of sunshine may have attributed to Saturday’s dearth of bites. After a cold but sunny start to the tournament, Saturday’s conditions were mostly cloudy, although there was sunshine for a couple of hours Saturday morning. Rojas said the lack of sun probably kept the fish from holding tighter to the boat docks.

“I’d like to think that it was probably the sun,” Rojas said. “I think the fish moved around a lot more today.”

Rojas said he’ll make some adjustments Sunday, which will include a more extensive lineup of baits and an expansion into different fishing areas.

One thing that won’t change is Rojas’ attitude. Known for his persistent smile, Rojas said he’s nothing but positive about his chances on Sunday.

“I want to win,” he said. “I’m excited about tomorrow. I know I need to catch the five biggest bass I can catch. I know 20 pounds is doable. My mindset is still the same. I’m relaxed about the whole thing. I’m happy to have an opportunity to win the Bassmaster Classic and I want to take advantage of it.”