A number of things give Dean Rojas a bright, shiny outlook for the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series – namely a fully healed wrist and a new boat, motor and title sponsor.
Last year, Rojas’ streak of fishing nine consecutive Classics – among the longest – ended when he finished 67th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year point standings. Rojas wouldn’t put any blame on his injury, but he wasn’t 100 percent during the season. He was told that full recovery from the surgery he underwent around Thanksgiving of 2016 would take a year.
“The surgeon went in and cleaned it up,” Rojas said. “It got better and better throughout last season. It was scary at this time last year – I was going into the first event and I could barely cast. It’s a different scenario going into 2018.”
Rojas said he injured the wrist several years ago, then in 2016 the weight of taking a bag of fish, filled with water, off his boat tweaked it. It was so bad he had to cast left-handed at BASSfest on Lake Texoma, although he finished eighth there.
While a specific action injured it, his doctor believes fishing contributed. Rojas went to a hand and wrist specialist in Scottsdale, Ariz., who’s worked on a number of professional golfers, as well as angler Byron Velvick.
“He asked me, ‘How many casts do you make a day? ‘Oh, 700, 800 to 900 a day.’ ‘How long you been doing this?’ ‘I said 19 years,’” Rojas said. “He goes, ‘Yep.’ He said it was no different than a golfer who makes hundreds and hundreds of swings a day.”
Making small incisions, the surgeon repaired Rojas’ inflamed tendons in his right wrist and cleaned up scar tissue.
“Today, the wrist is great,” said Rojas, who wouldn’t assign any blame on the injury to his 2017 fishing performance although it sure sounds like it played some role. “No, no, no. It had nothing to do with that at all. It didn’t really matter. I just had to wrap it and support it. Now I can go all day without even having to support it.”
On the business front, Rojas lost his main sponsor Gander Mountain, which filed for bankruptcy. He then made three-year boat and motor deals with Blazer and Suzuki, respectively.
“Both companies are very excited to be at this realm, especially at this high level,” Rojas said. “Blazer wanted to break into B.A.S.S. They were both looking to make a move, and I’m excited to be with them. There’s a lot of positive energy.”
Suzuki’s team of Elites is comprised of Rojas, Brandon Card, Chad Pipkens, Clifford Pirch, Gerald Spohrer and Adrian Avena.
“They’ve got great motors, they’ve got great people working there and they’re headed in the right direction,” Rojas said of the company long-known for its motorcycles. “Visiting their headquarters in California, it is all about the motorcycles, but the outboard guys say the bike guys can talk all they want, the stuff that makes the money is the outboard engines.”
Rojas will be breaking in that motor this week and will have it and his boat all ready to go when practice starts Monday for the season opening Bassmaster Elite at Lake Martin presented by Econo Lodge. The most difficult task ahead, he said, was offloading tackle from his jam-packed truck to the boat.
“It’s a little harder for me because I have to pack all my stuff from Arizona,” he said. “I bring a lot of extra stuff out here because of the way I roll. My truck and boat stay out here, so I had to pack for the whole season.
“What helps me is I have a list of all the lakes we’re going to in my garage. Every time I look at a box, I check the list and say, ‘Do I need it? Do I need it?’”
He wishes Lake Hartwell and the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods was on his list, but he sure feels better about doing well enough in the 2018 Elite season and starting a new Classic streak with his 16th qualification to the championship.