The Lake Havasu, Ariz. resident was satisfied being the only non-Californian in the top 10 and certainly didn't expect to beat out Oakley pro and hometown favorite Bobby Barrack, who led the field with 73 pounds, 13 ounces of largemouth black bass heading into day four.
But the luck of the Irish was clearly with Rooke that fateful St. Patty's Day morn, as he reeled in an 11-pound, 10-ounce behemoth on a 6-inch Oxblood light red flake Roboworm rig in his first hour on the water.
"It's just awesome to start off the morning with a fish like that," he said. "Once you have that kind of weight, the rest of the day is just a blast."
Photos by Jennifer Birkland
Anglers wait patiently with bags of fish in hand in hopes of making the Thursday cut. The FLW event brought 400 anglers from 15 states, as well as Mexico, Japan and Australia, to compete in the pro and co-angler divisions.
"I know that I have a lot of people pulling for me and I feel like I let them all down," he said. "I let myself down, I let my wife down, I let everybody down."
Barrack admitted to throwing a lot of reaction baits, even when they weren't hitting, in hopes of nailing that one big kicker.
"I ran my program the same as I did yesterday but I just didn't get the bites I've been getting," he said. "I fished for that 20-pound bag but it just didn't happen today. I came up short."
Barrack opened the tournament in second place on day one with a catch weighing 31-03 and held the lead on days two and three. His four-day total of 89-04 was good enough for second place and $50,000.
Fellow Oakley pro Charley Almassey finished ninth with a four-day catch weighing 75-10. He caught a 12-09 limit on the final day, throwing top water baits in the morning and drop-shotting for the rest of the day.
"I'm happy. I fished as hard as I could. I threw the baits I thought they wanted to bite," Almassey said. "Heading into today I felt like I already eclipsed my original goal by just being there. Making the top 10 is an accomplishment I've always dreamed of."
In the co-angler (amateur) division, Pat Wilson of Penngrove, Calif. won the $20,000 prize for his three-day catch weighing 54-01. He targeted pre-spawn fish in Franks Track along tule berms and breaks in five to eight feet of water.
"I knew coming into the tournament if I could average 15 pounds a day, I could probably end up in the top five," said Wilson, who now has five career FLW Outdoors wins as a co-angler. "A top-10 finish is always my goal."
Brentwood's Rodney Brinser placed ninth in the co-angler division with a total catch of 43-13. He brought home $3,000.
More than 13,700 pounds of black bass were weighed in the first three days of the tournament, setting a new FLW Outdoors record for a bass tournament. Coverage of the tournament, which featured 400 anglers representing 14 states, as well as Mexico, Japan and Australia, will be broadcast to 81 million Fox Sports Net subscribers in the United States as part of the "FLW Outdoors" television program airing April 15.