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BassMaster Elite Battle on the Bayou
By Jim Binns
Who would think that way back in 1967 when 106 fishermen competed in Ray Scott’s first event that fishing bass tournaments could obtain such elite status in the sporting world. When the “Classic” was held on Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Nevada, first prize in that “winner take all” battle was $10,000 and only a handful of spectators cheered them on. The winner of the TroKar Battle on the Bayou at Toledo Bend Lake took home $100,000 and the Cypress Bend Park pavilion was packed with cheering fans all four days of competition. It was one of the most exciting events to ever come to the Texas/Louisiana area and here is what took place. Day One - The tournament started with a slightly overcast sky, scattered rain and the forecast of w-i-n-d, possibly in the 20+mph range. Toledo Bend’s water level may be almost 8-feet low but that did not put a damper on the enthusiasm of the 99 Pro Elite anglers as they took off for all parts of this great fishery in search of a big bag of bass. Dean Rojas had 16 pounds of bass in his livewell by 10 am, and that really had to be an awesome feeling. This Arizona pro then went looking for the big spawning bass and caught a 7-1 followed by a 5-pounder that gave him a total of 23-1 to take the first day lead. Rojas spent most of his time sight fishing and rumor had it that the majority of his fish came on a Big Bite Baits Warmouth, the same lure he used on the St. Johns River in Florida a month before. Fred Roumbanis from Oklahoma brought in 21-3 and was in second place. He was catching “cruising” bass that were suspended about 6-feet off the bottom. Roumbanis was tight-lipped about the bait he was using but said the wind helped his fishing. Third place went to rookie Brandon Palaniuk who had 20-6 and stated that he was sight fishing. He caught his biggest bass that weighed 7-4, about 15 minutes before he had to come to weigh-in. Local favorite Todd Faircloth finished in fourth place with 20-4 and Steve Kennedy with 20-0. Big bass of the day was a 7-14 caught by pro angler Chris Lane. Day Two – Heavy clouds and worrisome lightning greeted anglers, but by the time the first flight was scheduled to leave the only problem Dean Rojas wins the tournament
was a forecast calling for winds in the 15 to 20 mph range - with higher gusts during the afternoon. By noon the wind was starting to be a real problem for most anglers but not for Rojas who had relocated his fishing to a fairly protected area. He continued to stroke the fish as he wound up with a bag that weighed 19-13, and 42-14 for the two days of fishing. He caught a lunker that weighed 7-15 about 1 pm, and that really helped in allowing him to cull up and keep his lead in the tournament. Aaron Martens, one of the most consistent anglers on the circuit, rallied from 13th to second place with a 21-13 bag of bass which was one of the day’s best weights. Martens was fighting not only the wind but also a flu bug that had him feeling pretty bad. Randy Howell moved into third place with a bag weighing 19-0, and a two day total of 37-11. Fourth was David Walker who had the biggest bag of the day with 24-0, two day total of 37-6, and it moved him from 53rd place. Rounding out the top-five was Gerald Swindle with 16-12, two day total of 36-5. Big bass of the day was a lunker weighing 10-15 caught by Ish Monroe. He was flipping a Berkley 6-inch watermelon lizard to what he thought was a submerged bridge structure. The wind forecast was definitely an understatement. I was on the water and the wind was in the 20-25mph range with gusts reaching 40mph. I have never seen dust storms like that on the shoreline of Toledo Bend. The surface of the lake was a mixture of churning whitecaps, deep swells and most of the anglers returning to the weigh-in site had a relieved look on their faces and water dripping from their raingear. Ohio pro Brody Broderick broke his trolling motor off its mount and California pro Ish Monroe had about $10,000 worth of rods and reels go overboard when a wave crashed over the bow of his boat. Day Three – A brisk wind and cooler temperatures greeted the anglers and the forecast was for sunny skies and light winds of about 6 mph. That was great to hear. At the end of the fishing day Dean Rojas once again held off all challengers by weighing in 14-9, making his total for the three days 57-7. This gave him a lead of more than four pounds
Rojas is the big winner
over second place pro David Walker, who had 53-6. Rojas continued to target spawning fish, moving to new areas each day. Gerald Swindle improved two places Saturday, from fifth to third with 52-0 and stated that he was chunking square-lipped crankbaits, jerkbaits, chatterbaits, and covering a lot of water. He offered that most of his better spots were on windblown points. Aaron Martens still had flu symptoms but took fourth place with 51-10. Close behind in fifth place was Chris Lane with 51-6. Only the top 12 listed below competed Sunday for the trophy and Big Bucks: 1 Dean Rojas 57- 7 2 David Walker 53- 6 3 Gerald Swindle 52- 0 4 Aaron Martens 51-10 5 Chris Lane 51- 6 6 Fred Roumbanis 50- 8 7 Steve Kennedy 50- 7 8 Andy Montgomery 50- 2 9 James Stricklin 47-15 10 Greg Vinson 47- 6 11 Randy Howell 46-14 12 Ish Monroe 46- 4 Day Four – What a beautiful morning! Clear skies and calm waters greeted the anglers as they motored away from the launching area. Water temperature was in the high 60’s and it was obvious that the bass
Gerald Swindle weighes in a big bag on Sunday