Dean Rojas claims to sleep soundly at night. He’s got a box full of frogs and he’s traveling to the best lakes in the country.
But what would he do in a frogless world?
It’s not a situation he spends all that much time thinking about, nor does he care to. He and Kermit have become synonymous in recent years. Every time you flick on the TV, there he has scooting his amphibious friend across the surface and making an easy meal for both grass-bound and open-water largemouths.
Rojas is to the frog as Denny is to the jig, as Kevin is to the spinnerbait as Fritts is to the deep crank. Peas and carrots, cuffs and links, biscuits and gravy.
The frog has given him lots of top tens, but no wins yet.
“Everybody wants me to win one on it,” he said. “But it takes a special type of fish to eat it, the type that want to kill it. Usually you can get three days of fish like that out of four, but not enough to last four days.”
But he’s not going to live and die with his bread and butter bait, and it’s not his only calling card: “Other than the frog, people know me as the record holder for the largest single day limit,” he said. “But I’m a lot more versatile than that. I can do a lot of different things.”
Think back to his two career wins, at Toho and Toledo Bend (which, incidentally, came back-to-back in 2001) and you’ll see that soft plastics, a jig and a spinnerbait all played a role, but Kermit wasn’t deployed.
He also designed the Hydro Pop topwater for SPRO, and he fishes it “religiously” because it differs from conventional poppers in three key ways: it’s a little bit heavier, so it casts better; it can carry bigger trebles, so you don’t lose as many fish; and it’s the most versatile popper out there – able to be walked, chugged and danced across the surface (reminiscent of Kermit, perhaps?)
Rojas has yet to claim a Bassmaster Classic title or an Angler of the Year trophy, but he’s been in the hunt for both accolades on multiple occasions.
“Angler of the year would be a tremendous achievement. It’s something I’ve strived for. It would mean I’d achieved a childhood dream. Personally, it might be more important to me than the Classic, but I’d certainly take a Classic title, too.”
Heading into next week’s rodeo at Lake Murray, he sits in 5th in the AOY standings, and we’re just getting into good frogging conditions. Competitors need to watch their backs. When they hear that glug-glug-pop-swirl down the grassline, trouble is brewing.
As mentioned above, the idea of a frogless world sends chills down his spine, but he can do it all. In that bizarro-world situation, what baits would he rely on most?
“A Slurpies Jungle Hog would be number one. I fish it a lot on a light spinning rod with a light weight. With that you can catch bass in 48 of the 50 states.” Coming from Southern California, home of doodling, shaking and all sorts of other clear-water oddities, he’s every bit as comfortable with a light spinning rod in his hand as he is with his Quantum frog rod and braid.
He also dotes on shallow water cranks, especially the SPRO models, although Luhr Jensen, Bomber and Rapala lures also play a role in his arsenal.
In addition, he’s a verifiable spinnerbait freak, using lures from 1/8 to 1 full ounce and everywhere in between. At the light end of the spectrum, he uses a variety of Hawg Callers and when it’s time for the heavy metal he goes with a Revenge. A variety of Hildebrandt blades fill out the lineup.
Despite his protests that he can do it all – protests which, it should be noted, have been proven time and time again – the frog is all anyone wants to talk about.
“The beauty of the frog is that it appeals to all of the senses except maybe smell. With a lure like a shakey head, it’s just the sense of feel. You see the explosion and all of that anticipation strikes a nerve.”
He can’t make it through a gas station or a weigh-in line, let alone a tackle store, without someone sharing their own personal frog moment: “Everybody has the story about the five pounder or the ten pounder they caught. When I hear that, it’s the ultimate for me, total gratification.”
It also allows him to play head games with his competition. When the frog bite is on, everyone else has to live in fear. “That gets in their heads a little bit,” he said.
Even when his limits come on other lures, when they ask him about the frog bite he’ll just “wink or smile at them.”
“That throws them off. It’s the good thing about being tagged as a specialist. It’s the same thing with Denny and the jig.”
Even though he’s slightly miffed that his versatility isn’t always recognized, Rojas makes no bones about the fact that being identified with such a killer bait is great for the ego, the personal brand and the wallet.
“From the business side, it’s very good. Consumers look forward to watching it on TV, which increases me exposure. People want to see the top guy on a particular bait – Kevin on a spinnerbait or Rick Clunn with a crankbait.”
Now that he’s incorporated all of his personal preferences into the SPRO design, is there anything he’s still withholding from the competition?
“For me, it’s pretty much cut and dry. But that’s something that’s different about the frog than any other lure. Guys want to personalize it and customize it. It gets altered more than any other bait. People add dots, weights, rattles. It’s fun for them. The fans are real fanatical about it.”
To Rojas, frogging is “almost like a drug. You simply cannot wait for the next bite. If they’re on it, nothing can beat it.”
The win is coming soon, a dream fulfilled. But in the meantime, he’ll count sheep, drink warm milk and think good thoughts – he could still compete in a world without frogs, but it’s not a nightmare he wants to come true.