GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, took the Bassmaster Classic lead Friday in frigid conditions at Lake Hartwell.
Rojas opened with a total catch of 21 pounds, 2 ounces, and had the catch of the day at 5-11.
“This is our biggest stage that we perform on, and to be able to catch a big bag like that on the first day is amazing,” Rojas said. “How could you script it any better than that? Obviously, I’d rather finish it that way. But hey, I’ll take it.”
It was 10 degrees just before takeoff at Green Pond Landing.
Skeet Reese of Auburn, California, was second at 20-2, followed by Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas, at 18-8, Brett Hite of Phoenix at 15-7, and defending Classic champion Randy Howell of Springville, Alabama, at 15-5.
Rojas overcame a 28-minute penalty for being late for check-in to Wednesday’s practice period.
“It was my fault,” Rojas said. “I worked really hard all year, and I wasn’t going to let that ruin the whole event for me. I know if things are going to happen, they’re going to happen. I was very relaxed this morning. I wasn’t thinking about all the fish that were biting without me being there. I was just waiting until it was my time.”
Rojas wouldn’t say much about how he was fishing.
“I was just using two or three baits,” he said. “Fishing shallow and deep — a little of both.”