Columbia, SC – As the dust settled on the 2023 Elite Series season, angler Joey Cifuentes III secured the prestigious Rookie of the Year title by the narrowest of margins, edging out the second-place finisher by a mere 1 point. The captivating season that saw six rookies becoming Elite Series Champions, including two titles from Cifuentes III, came down to the final day of the final event which kept fans on the edge of their seats waiting to see how things unfolded.
From the start of the season, Cifuentes III showcased exceptional skill and determination, quickly establishing himself as a competitor. His consistent performance overall, and strong finish to the season earned him the ROY title and catapulted him into a commanding 17-point lead as he entered the final event at the St. Lawrence River. The stage was set for a triumphant conclusion to what appeared to be a fairy-tale season.
“Every event is important, but this last one is something I am very proud of for myself,” said Cifuentes. “Yes, I won two events in 2023, but coming down the stretch of the season I had to catch them at every event to win ROY. The pressure and stress got to me but I was able to go and catch fish and do my job on the water.”
He finished in 19th place at this very first event of 2023 at Lake Okeechobee before winning at Lake Seminole. His two worst finishes of the season came at Lake Murray and Santee Cooper before a run of strong events including his second win of the season at Lake St. Clair and four other top 30 finishes to end the year. Cifuentes III finished fifth overall in the Progressive Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year which also qualified him for his first Bassmaster Classic next March in Tulsa.
“I am humbled and grateful to be recognized as the 2023 Elite Series Rookie of the Year,” said Cifuentes. “This journey has been filled with ups and downs, and the competition has been fierce. I couldn’t have achieved this without the unwavering support of my family, fans, and sponsors. This title is a testament to the hard work and dedication that goes into every cast.”
Cifuentes relied on Abu Garcia rods and reels and Berkley bait and tackle all season long, but it was a bait change at the last event of the season that gave him the confidence to catch the quality fish that ultimately sealed the deal.
“Typically at the St. Lawrence, or anywhere you are targeting smallmouth, a dropshot with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm is going to get it done,” added Cifuentes. “Coming into this event, I knew to catch the pressured fish in the river I was going to have to show them something different. In practice, and from previous experience, I discovered that the bigger fish wanted to eat off the bottom rather than a dropshot which sits up off the bottom, and the Berkley MaxScent Lil’ General on a Berkley ⅜ ounce Half Head Jig was the deal.”
In addition, another trick Cifuentes likes to use for a little different look is cutting a 5-inch Berkley PowerBait MaxScent The General in half and fishing it on the same jighead. He notes it has a slightly pointy tail and the fish key in on that alteration when they get pressured after four days of competition. He fished both baits on a medium-action 7-foot Abu Garcia Fantasista X with an Abu Garcia Revo SX size 30 spinning reel spooled with a 10-pound Berkley X5 Braid and 8-pound Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon leader.
“On behalf of Berkley and Abu Garcia, we want to extend a heartfelt congratulations to Joey for earning the 2023 Elite Series Rookie of the Year award, and two Elite Series victories this season,” said Marc Kempter, VP of Marketing Communications. “Joey has been a great partner and advocate for our brands since 2017 and we are excited to see the immense talent we saw in him translate to this success in his career.”
To learn more about Abu Garcia’s new Revo reel lineup, click here.
To learn more about Berkley baits and tackle, click here.
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