Rojas leads charge into Knockout Round - Major League Fishing

Rojas leads charge into Knockout Round

Image for Rojas leads charge into Knockout Round
Dean Rojas was the top angler in Group B with a two-day total of 28 bass weighing 76 pounds, 1 ounce. Photo by Phoenix Moore. Angler: Dean Rojas.
February 23, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Bass Pro Tour

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. — Early on during Group B’s second day on the water at Suzuki Stage Two Presented by FenwickDean Rojas struggled to recapture his Day 1 success. Rojas had stacked 16 bass weighing 48 pounds, 14 ounces on SCORETRACKER® during his first day on the Santee Cooper lakes, but he went more than two hours Friday morning without boating a scorable fish.

Once Rojas relocated a population of bass, though, the action heated up in a hurry. He got on the board with a 5-pounder, then caught another 11 fish, bringing his two-day total to 76-1. He finished atop the leaderboard for Group B, a mere 10 ounces ahead of Brent Ehrler.

Rojas’ day summed up the action across lakes Marion and Moultrie. A morning that started slow ended with two bass over 9 pounds and 20 over 6 hitting the scales. Despite many of the top anglers using the afternoon to scout new water, the field combined to catch 249 scorable bass for 824-14 – easily the biggest totals of any day so far.

Rojas will lead a strong Top 10 from Group B into Saturday’s Knockout Round. The top four finishers all eclipsed 74 pounds across two days, a mark no Group A anglers hit. And that doesn’t include Jacob Wheeler, the six-time BPT winner who practiced all day after stacking up 53-7 (still the best day of the event) on Wednesday. They’ll face off with the Top 10 anglers from Group A on Saturday.

Complete results can be found here.

Rojas in reconnaissance mode

Dean Rojas has a few options in mind for the upcoming Knockout Round. Photo by Phoenix Moore

Having put plenty of distance between himself and the cut line on Wednesday, Rojas, too, used his second day of competition to explore new water on the massive 170,000-acre playing field that is Santee Cooper. He never returned to the area where he caught his Day 1 bag, instead scouting a few other spots where he’d gotten bit during practice.

“The stuff I fished today was just secondary stuff that I had,” he said. “It’s not my main stuff. I caught ‘em really good the first day, so there was no sense in working on those fish anymore.”

Rojas is doing something a bit different than the majority of anglers, not spending as much time around the fishery’s many cypress trees. He didn’t want to detail his tactics but said he’s focusing on areas where bass are moving up to stage. 

“There’s probably a few that are up there (spawning), and there’s some that are coming,” Rojas said. “It’s still the very first beginnings of it.”

While he found plenty of fish, Rojas didn’t catch the same quality on Friday, boating just one bass bigger than 3 pounds. As a result, he plans to return to his Day 1 area during what figures to be an explosive Knockout Round. 

Still, he sees the day as a success, having eliminated some water and added more to his arsenal should he have to veer from Plan A.

“I have lots of options,” he said. “I feel very comfortable. The stuff that I fished today I can fish again tomorrow, and the stuff that I didn’t fish today, I can still go back again tomorrow.”

As for what it will take to make the Championship Round, Rojas speculated that the cut will fall around 45 pounds – although he admitted that could be way off. Santee Cooper has proven fickle this week, with lots of anglers putting together impressive bags but few doing so on consecutive days. The only safe bet seems to be that whoever does unlock the bite will have a chance to land some big ones.

“I have no idea,” Rojas said. “I’m going to try and catch every single bass I can tomorrow.”

Dudley earns redemption in dramatic fashion

Yesterday, Dave Lefebre showed during Group A’s second day of qualifying that no angler is ever out of contention on Santee Cooper, climbing from 35th place at the start of the day all the way to eighth. 

Friday, it was David Dudley who overcame a huge deficit and rallied to make the Knockout Round. In typical Dudley fashion, he did it with flair.

Totaling 11-12 on five fish Wednesday had Dudley in 25th place. He admitted he packed up his belongings, preparing to hit the road at the end of competition Friday. But a late-morning surge that saw him catch seven bass for 21-9 in little more than two hours put him near the cut line.

For a while, it looked like Dudley would never quite get over the hump. He even lost a couple fish in the final period that appeared big enough to lift him into the Top 10. But with about 11 minutes remaining, he called his shot, saying, “let’s see if I can get redemption” as he made a cast with a bladed jig of his own design, the Dudley’s Digger Blade from Treeshaker Tackle. 

Sure enough, a Santee Cooper stud engulfed the bait. After a fight that saw him toss a spinning rod from his front deck into the lake, Dudley boated the beast with a scream of “boom!” It weighed 9-11 – not only enough to lift Dudley above the cut line but also to steal Berkley Big Bass honors for the day and the event (so far) by 1 ounce, edging the 9-10 caught by Brent Ehrler earlier on Day 4.

“That’s kind of the things you dream about,” Dudley said. “You always dream about, man, catching one right there at the end, something big, something dramatic. I’ve been at this game a long time, and that right there, that’s like concrete. That’s etched in my mind. That fish will be forever remembered.”

While that marked the most dramatic moment of the day, it was only part of a wild final few minutes around the cut line. Fred Roumbanis jumped into the Top 10 with less than 10 minutes before lines out, only to lose his spot when Bobby Lane boated a 2-7 at 3:58 p.m. Four anglers finished within 5 pounds of Lane’s 10th-place total of 51-2.

What’s next for Stage Two

Weights will zero overnight, then the Top 10 anglers from each group will face off in what figures to be an explosive Knockout Round. The Top 10 finishers will then duke it out for the first-place trophy and accompanying $100,000 paycheck during Sunday’s Championship Round. 

Watch all the action unfold on the MLFNOW! live stream at and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app. Coverage will run from 7:50 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET each day for the remainder of the event. 

Fishing Clash Angler of the Year

It’s not just prize money that the pros will be chasing this weekend, but points in the season-long Angler of the Year race. 

Bass Pro Tour anglers will compete throughout the 2024 season for the prestigious Fishing Clash Angler of the Year award and its $100,000 payday. Dustin Connell, who took an early lead in the points competition thanks to his win at Toledo Bend, will compete in the Knockout Round at Santee Cooper, but there’s plenty of season left for others to catch up.

Fishing Clash, an interactive 3D fishing simulation game that’s played by more than 80 million people worldwide, is the official AOY sponsor of the Bass Pro Tour, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League. You can download Fishing Clash for free in the App Store and on Google Play, or log on to for more information.