By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Losing quality bites is rarely a good thing if you're a professional bass angler. About the only positive aspect to it is it might convince you to keep fishing in the areas where you got them, and maybe you'll get some more.
That's how it worked out for Bassmaster Elite Series pro Fred Roumbanis last week at the Neely Henry PAA Tournament Series in Alabama. Big bites were hard to come by and the Oklahoman farmed out several of them over the first 2 days, but he also put six 4-pounders in the boat over the course of the 3-day event and ended up winning with a 38.71-pound total.
He was in 6th place when the final day began, but only about a pound and a half behind pace-setter Greg Hackney on the sardine-tight leaderboard. He sacked just under 13 pounds on the final day to leapfrog his way to the top.
The victory was his first on the circuit and provided him some momentum leading up to the final Elite event at Oneida next month. Here's how he did it.
Roumbanis shared practice information with fellow Oklahoma angler Gerald Brown, who teamed with Bobby Lane to win the PAA Team Challenge earlier this year in Florida. Neither had been to the venue before, so they opted to start at one end and work their way toward the other.
Roumbanis, a frog devotee like many of his Elite Series cohorts who have Western roots (he's a native of California), thought an imitation amphibian might play well in the upper stretches of the Coosa. He found out otherwise.
"I had one blowup on it and that was a little one," he said. "That was pretty discouraging to me."
As he traveled down the lake, he began to see more and more water willows – a type of grass he's become familiar with since moving to Oklahoma several years ago.
"It grows in such shallow water – 6 inches to a foot or sometimes a foot and a half – that it's hard to fathom bass being in it. It provides shade and the fish can swim through it easily, but they're very skittish.
"The water temperature was in the 90s and it got all the way up to 94, and the only other option was fishing out deep. There just wasn't enough time to figure that out."
> Day 1: 5, 13.31
> Day 2: 5, 12.45
> Day 3: 5, 12.95
> Total = 15, 38.71
Weather conditions were sultry and still the first 2 days, and Roumbanis was forced to employ the utmost stealth while fishing the water willows and adjacent shallow docks. He flipped a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver and varied the weight depending upon the density of the cover.
"Knowing how to approach it was a big deal and you had to have the confidence to do it," he said. "Boat traffic or a little bit of wind would get them a little more active, but I had to present the bait very subtle and slow and I couldn't disturb much.
"I just crawled down the banks fishing every nook and cranny super slow."
He went from 9th place after day 1 to 6th after day 2, and those positions would've been higher had some of his better bites not come unbuttoned. Nonetheless, with the weights as tight as they were, nearly everyone who survived the 15-cut on day 2 had at least an outside chance to win on the final day.
Roumbanis caught most of his fish flipping water willows and shallow docks.
A storm arrived during the latter part of day 2, which provided a measure of relief from the oppressive heat and humidity and created the possibility of the water level coming up a bit for day 3. He reasoned that conditions warranted some time with the frog during the early part of day 3, and that was a good call as he boated a 3-pounder on his first cast and a 4 1/2 about 20 minutes later.
"It just felt right. I'd throw it out and twitch it, and then just let it sit. I'd totally dead-stick it and then just barely move it."
With that quick 7 1/2 pounds in his box and still with about 7 hours to fish, he had to make a decision – continue to throw the frog, or go back to flipping.
"I didn't make it that far throwing topwater. I might've caught a bigger bag with the frog, but I decided to pick up the flipping stick and I stuck a 4 1/2-pounder at about 9 o'clock.
"I really never caught a fish after that and I kept thinking that I was one more good bite away from getting it done. We had to be in at 2:30 that day and (Alabama Power) hadn't been pulling current until about 1:30, so the guys fishing for spots in the current only got about an hour or maybe only a half-hour of that. I knew that would help me."
Winning Gear Notes
> Flipping gear: 7'5" iRod Fred Roumbanis Signature Series Magic Stick or 7'4" extra-heavy El Grande flipping stick, Ardent Edge Elite casting reel (7.2:1 ratio), 20-pound P-Line fluorocarbon line, 1/16-, 1/8-, 3/16-, 1/4- or 1 1/2-ounce Picasso tungsten weight, 4/0 Gamakatsu heavy-cover hook, Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver (watermelon or sprayed grass).
> He used the iRod around docks because the softer tip allowed him to flip the bait farther underneath the structure. The stouter El Grande, designed for fishing timber at places such as Falcon Lake, allowed him to get a better hookset on fish in the grass that picked up the bait and headed toward the boat.
> Frog gear: 7'5" heavy-action iRod Air Series rod, same reel, 50-pound P-Line braided line, Snag Proof Bobby's Perfect Frog (black).
> He also caught a few fish off points with an Ima Square Bill crankbait (shad), but none of them went to the scale.
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – "Probably just consistency. I'm used to fishing that kind of stuff and I have confidence that I can get bit doing that in the heat. I also owe a special thanks to Gerald for working with me. We were able to cover a lot of water and come up with a good gameplan. It obviously worked out better for me, but he got some good bites, too."
> Performance edge – "The Triton livewells worked great in that heat. I never had any problems with fish-care penalties except for the one I hooked right in the brain."
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