Who's happy with the 2012 Elite schedule? Dean Rojas, for one.
Rojas owns wins at Toledo Bend and Oneida Lake, two of the eight stops on the slate in 2012 for the Bassmaster Elite Series. But he likes every fishery on the newly announced schedule.
"With the exception of one, I've had a Top-10 finish at each one of them," said Rojas, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Lake Havasu City, Ariz. "I liked the 2011 schedule, but I like this one even better."
The "exception" is the Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wis.
"It's an unknown to me, and that's the beauty of it," he said. "I won't go in with preconceived notions. And I can enjoy anticipating what's around every corner."
Rojas' high satisfaction with the new schedule comes in no small part from the June stop at Toledo Bend Reservoir. That's where he won in 2011 and secured his fourth Bassmaster title and a berth in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. The win was all the sweeter because it came early in the season, thus eliminating a three-month sweat for a Classic qualification.
Rojas had another win on Toledo Bend, a February 2001 victory in a Bassmaster Top 150. He noted that the 2012 schedule will take the Elite Series corps to The Bend in June.
"Every time I've done well there, it's always been springtime. It's going to be a different lake with that different timing," he cautioned.
If he had to pick a favorite, it would be Oneida Lake, he said. The upstate New York lake was the site of his 2008 Elite Series win, a third place in a 2009 Elite Series event, and a fourth in a 2007 Bassmaster Major.
Oneida's Aug. 23-26 slot in the 2012 schedule doesn't mirror the timing of his Aug. 10, 2008, win, he noted, but it's close enough.
"The bass will still be in their summer haunts. That isn't likely to change until mid-September," he said.
He hasn't been fishing on Oneida since 2009, but he made a point to drive over it twice when his travels brought him near.
What did a few minutes on a bridge do for him?
"Well, it made me feel really good to see 'my' lake again," he said, laughing. "It fishes a lot like Lake Havasu, the way it's laid out, so I feel so comfortable there."
Rojas watchers could consider Douglas Lake in Tennessee (May 3-6) as his third-strongest "like" of 2012. There he earned a second-place finish to Rick Clunn's 2001 win in a Bassmaster Megabucks event. But, of course, there's Elite Series pro Ott DeFoe to consider on Douglas. Because he lives there, DeFoe will be the all-out favorite.
And then there's the "mystery" stop, a TBA site to be slotted into the schedule on June 28-July 1, between La Crosse and New York. Rojas gives the concept of a mystery lake another nod.
"I like that," he said. "But you know, I take them one at a time. Right now, it's the first up that I'm most looking forward to, and that's the Classic and the Red River."
He hasn't been back to compete on the Red since the Bassmaster Classic in 2009, in which he finished 18th. He's planning a late fall scouting trip, he said.
For Kelly Jordon: Jeff Kriet grew up in Oklahoma but claims that the Arkansas River that runs through the state has never been among his favorite fisheries.
"I didn't grow up fishing here, although I did fish it some in my early 20s," said the Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Ardmore, Okla.
He said the main reason he's in this week's Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open out of Muskogee, Okla., is to try to get one of his good friends, Kelly Jordon, into the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.
Jordon was first man out on the Classic qualification points list through the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series. If an Elite Series pro double-qualifies for the Classic, Jordon will be the first man in. Kriet, who did qualify from the Elite Series, wants to win the Open to get Jordon into the upcoming Classic.
"If I was the first guy out, I'd want him to be fishing," Kriet said. "I'd be mad at him if he'd paid up and didn't go. I figured I'd at least give it a shot."
Kriet is one of two Elite Series pros in position to get Jordon in. Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., is the other. Like Kriet, Browning's already on the 2012 Classic roster and would be a double-qualifier.
Browning knows the Arkansas River well from the vantage point of his state. He's not claiming any advantage, however.
"This is not the Arkansas River I grew up on. If we were there, I'd feel really at home," he said.
To shake the rust out: Nearly three months after the Bassmaster Elite Series wrapped up its regular season, Keith Poche was feeling restless, itching to get back into a major competition.
He said that's the main reason he's competing this week in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on the Arkansas River out of Muskogee, Okla. Competition days are Sept. 8-10.
"I like this body of water," he said. "And I haven't fished in a big tournament in a while, and I wanted to stay in shape."
First prize in the Central Open includes a berth in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. Poche already owns a 2012 Classic entry, earned through the regular Elite Series season by finishing 10th in points, the 30-year-old's best season yet. So a Classic berth wasn't a carrot.
And Poche couldn't end up helping out fellow Elite Series pro Kelly Jordon. Jordon was the first man out of the Classic through the Elite Series points system. If Poche were to win this week's Open, the Classic seat would not be awarded to Jordon because Poche didn't compete in the season's first Central Open. The rules state that an Open winner can't claim a Classic seat unless he or she competed in all three divisional Opens of the season.
He is in Oklahoma to stretch his competition muscles, mental as well as physical. Tuesday, judging from what he saw after a few practice days, he liked the way the challenge was shaping up.
"When I first was on the water Sunday, the bite was good. Then a cold front came through from the north. But once the bass stabilize from that, I think the cooler water is going to help the bite," he said.
He said the water level is stable and the water is relatively clear. He's hoping for some current from generation at the dam, or from a series of barges locking through. And some wind.
"Wind will really help me, I'd be in position then to really catch them," he said.
He estimated that 13 pounds a day could get him into a Top-12 position for the final day, Saturday.
"A lot of five-fish limits will come in, but the big ones might be hard to come by," he added.
Click in this week to the Federation Nation: The B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Mid-Atlantic Divisional is happening this week through Friday in Burlington, N.J., on the Delaware, a river with a reputation for tidal fluctuations that challenge the best of anglers.
The event will qualify more anglers for the Nov. 3-5 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats on the Ouachita River out of Monroe, La. From the championship, six Federation anglers will advance to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
The Divisional competition began Wednesday and will continue through Friday. The event is being covered extensively at Bassmaster.com with reports, results, photo galleries and video. Streaming video of the weigh-in and a real-time leaderboard will begin each day at 2:45 p.m. ET.
For more than 40 years, B.A.S.S. has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and an expansive tournament structure while connecting directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.
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The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Federation Nation events presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.
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