By Tyler Brinks
During Bass Pro Tour Phoenix Boats Stage Five Presented by Mercury on Smith Lake in Cullman, Alabama, the shad spawn was the point of focus for most of the anglers in the field. This phenomenon of targeting bass actively feeding on shad during their spawning ritual is a common occurrence when the conditions (and the right structure) allow.
Stage Five winner Dean Rojas exploited the shad spawn throughout the event, and it was his main program during the Championship Round, where he totaled 30 bass for 47-0.
“I chased the shad spawn during the mornings every day, but the final day was overcast, and that prolonged it,” he said. “I was fortunate to have those conditions and to have found the right area.”
The Winning Area
Rojas did not fish his winning area until the final day, but had been keeping an eye on the area during the event. What he found was two points, one being a main-lake point and the other a secondary point.
He found the area during the morning’s ride-around period, and knew right away that he had a good spot.
“It was a place I wanted to fish all week, and during the ride around, I saw fish activity on the bank,” Rojas said. “It was two points, but it had a lot of ditches running down from those points.”
The other key, according to Rojas, was the presence of “hay grass” in the area.
“Most of the other banks are clay, and there were not many places with grass,” he said. “That grass is a great place for shad to spawn on,” he added.
Fishing the shad spawn often opens up the door to several ways to catch bass – Roja said he had six baits tied on, and they all produced.
He relied on a shad colored squarebill crankbait, a swim jig with a Big Bite Baits Suicide Shad as a trailer, a Ned rig, the Big Bite Baits Finesse Swimmer, a SPRO Dean Rojas Bronzeye Spit Shad 60, and a SPRO Hydro-Pop popper.
All of the baits produced fish, but Rojas said the key was efficiency.
“I was trying to catch as many as possible without re-rigging,” he sais. “The squarebill caught the most fish for me, and adding the Suicide Shad to my swim jig was key. That trailer is very durable, and I could continue to catch fish without having to continually add a new trailer.”
Rojas fished the squarebill, swim jig, and Finesse Swimmer on the same rod and reel setup: a 7-3 medium Duckett Pro Series rod with a 6.3:1 Duckett Fishing 360 Series reel. He used 16-pound Sunline FC Sniper for the swim jig and squarebill, but downsized to 10-pound for the Finesse Swimmer.
As the afternoon wore on, he relied heavily on his signature series SPRO Bronzeye Spit Shad 60 in the Killer Gill color that he fished on another of his products, the 7-foot medium-heavy Duckett Fishing Dean Rojas Signature Series Froggin’ rod. He paired it with a 7.1:1 Duckett Fishing 360 Series reel spooled with 80-pound Sunline FX2 braided line.
How He Got There
Much of Rojas’ winning gear was the same throughout the week, but in the earlier rounds, he also relied on a tube and Ned rig to survive the Elimination and Knockout Rounds, where he finished in 14th and 8th place, respectively.