LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An Arkansas man has won the Rookie of the Year title in a prestigious sports series.

Joey Cifuentes III of Clinton secured Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year with a final score of 698 points after a Clayton, New York, event

The win earned Cifuentes a $10,000 prize and a fifth place in Bassmaster’s Progressive Insurance Angler of the Year standings.

Cifuentes went into the New York event with a 15-point lead over second-place Kyoya Fujita, who had won four Angler of the Year titles in his home country of Japan. Fujita cut into that lead by qualifying for the championship on Saturday.

The Clinton angler had to watch the final day of competition from the sidelines on Sunday, knowing if Fujita won it all he would win Rookie of the Year. Fujita did not earn the necessary points, and Cifuentes finished 19th, enough to win the series.

Cifuentes kept an eye out on Sunday but remained confident.

“I watched it a little bit,” he said. “I wasn’t really nervous. I knew he [Fujita] had to have 27 or 28 pounds, something really big, to win,”

Officials with Bassmaster said the 2023 rookie battle was the most impressive recently as Cifuentes won two Elite Series events, while Fujita and Will Davis Jr. each won one.

Cifuentes is also slated to compete in the Academy Sports & Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota in Tulsa in March.