It doesn’t seem like it, but it was 12 years ago Ramona’s Dean Rojas left San Diego County for the bright lights of the national tournament scene. But here in 2010 he has a date (Feb. 19-21) with Lay Lake near Birmingham, Ala. and his eighth shot at a Bassmasters Classic title.

In the eyes of much of the bass fishing world, a Classic win is tantamount to a World Championship, and most certainly it is not out of the reach of the pro who now calls Lake Havasu City home. After all, this particular Classic water is well suited to Dean’s effective shallow water attack.

Lay Lake is one of several dams on the Alabama River and Dean likes the make-up. “There is a lot of shallow water fishing and shoreline grass,” he says after competing there two years ago. “It reminds me of the backwaters on Havasu. There is a main channel and then backwater coves and pockets with docks, laydowns and grass.”

I didn’t have to ask, but clearly it sounds like there will be room for the Bronzeye frog (and maybe even the new King Daddy), but I’m sure he has several tricks up his sleeve.

“It’s definitely going to be won in 10 feet or less,” he assured me. “That is my strength and I’m looking forward to it.”

And then, retaining his fisherman’s enthusiasm, he added, “It’s going to be awesome. It’s the Bassmasters Classic! It’s not going to be hard to get up for this one.”