It was a good week for Dean Rojas.
The professional bass fisherman claimed the title at the final competition of the Bassmaster Elite series, The Champion's Choice, held at Oneida Shores Aug. 7 to 10, as well as the nearly $30,000 in prizes that went with it.
"This is so awesome," said Rojas, 37, of Lake Havasu, AZ. "I've had my fair share of crash-and-burns over the years but it just makes this so much sweeter."
Rojas' four-day total of 65 pounds and two ounces in fish caught put him at the top, outranking Kevin Langell of Terrell, NC and Mike Iaconelli of Runnemede, NJ. The victory brought him over the $1 million mark in career earnings in Bassmaster tournaments.
The Bassmasters Elite series is an 11-event tournament that takes place all over the country throughout the summer. The high-stakes national competition, which attracts the best anglers in the world, completed its season at Oneida Shores for the first time this year. Hosted by BASS, a division of ESPN, the tournament is one of the biggest in the country and the last in the Bassmaster Elite series, what Jon Cooley of Onondaga County Parks called "the major leagues of bass fishing."
"These are the best fishermen in the world," Cooley said. "Typically, you go fishing, you catch none or three or five -- 10 on a good day. These guys, on average, catch 50 to 100. The volume is spectacular."
Cooley said Oneida Shores made the tour by making a name for itself as a great fishery.
"Oneida Shores hosts about 50 fishing derbies throughout the summer," he said. "You call any hotel on Route 11, they're booked every weekend with people here to fish."
The park and Oneida Lake first caught the attention of BASS in 2003 when it hosted an element of the Elite Series tournament. The park hosted another tournament in 2006, held at the mid-point of the season.