ROUMBANIS BACK IN THE BUBBLE
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush
Bixby, OK - When Oklahoma’s Fred Roumbanis edged out Paul Elias for the PAA Tournament Series title on Alabama’s Neely Henry Lake at the end of July, it added an interesting twist to an up and down season for the Elite Series pro who is currently battling to qualify for the upcoming 2013 Grand Lake Classic in his home state.
While the PAA victory technically didn’t get him any closer to qualifying for the Classic, he posted his first tour level victory since 2008, earned valuable points towards qualifying for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic later this year on Lake Conroe, and extended his streak of solid finishes in Elite Series, Bassmaster Open, and PAA Tournament Series competition heading towards the final Elite Series tournament of the season on Oneida Lake at the end of August.
The California native said that since reaching the top level of the sport, he has tried to follow what he had dubbed as the “John Murray Law.”
“When I started fishing out West, John Murray was the most dominant fisherman out there,” Roumbanis explained. “He was consistently in the top 20 in every tournament that he fished, and he also won a ton of tournaments and won a ton of boats. I decided that if I could have average finishes around the top 20, I’d eventually pull off a victory.
“My point is this,” continued Roumbanis. “Consistency starts getting your confidence rolling again. You stop getting ahead of yourself and you stop worrying about not catching fish. Consistency puts you back inside the confidence bubble.”
Roumbanis does appear to have a loose pattern leading up to his victories. When he captured his first B.A.S.S. victory in the 2007 Major on High Rock Lake, he had consecutively better finishes in three of the four Elite Series tournaments leading up to the Major victory.
In 2008, his Elite Series victory on Lake Murray was preceded by consecutive finishes of 31st, 26th, and 17th.
During the month leading up to Roumbanis’ most recent PAA Tournament Series Victory on Neely Henry, he posted a 32nd place finish in the Elite Series tournament on Lake Michigan, and followed that up with finishes of 22nd place and 19th place in the Bassmaster Northern Opens.
“I feel like I’m fishing really well right now and I’m really focused on the water. Right now, I’m focused 100% on fishing. When you’re able to focus on what you’re doing on the water, that’s the key to excelling in tournament fishing.”
Putting the Cart ahead of the Horse
On-the-water focus couldn’t come at a better time for Roumbanis, who is dangerously close to missing the cut for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake in Oklahoma – less than a two hour drive from his Bixby, Oklahoma home.
Currently, he sits in 50th place in the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year standings, and he is 39 points behind 37th place, which, depending on double qualifiers, could possibly be the last qualifying spot in the Elite Series standings.
Ironically, Roumbanis believes that the reason he’s currently outside the Classic cut is because the Classic is in his back yard. Roumbanis was one of a handful of Oklahoma Elite Series pros present for the press conference last November in Tulsa, Oklahoma when the 2013 Grand Lake Classic was announced.
“When I heard the announcement, the only thing that kept running through my mind was, ‘I gotta make the Classic, I gotta make the Classic.’ I got so far ahead of myself at the beginning of the year that I overlooked each fish that I needed to catch. I got a little antsy and started to rush, and that’s something that you just can’t do. I stopped fishing in the moment and started looking ahead,” Roumbanis admitted.
It wasn’t until he had already posted finishes of 54th, 48th, 60th, and 80th in the first four Elite Series tournaments of the year that he realized what had happened. “Halfway through the season, I just sat back and said to myself, ‘Dude, you’ve got to stop worrying about the Classic and start focusing on catching the next fish.’
“There were several moments early in the year where I know that I could have done so much better if I hadn’t put the Classic ahead of the actual event that I was fishing,” Roumbanis lamented.
“I know that I’m going to need to have a Top 12 finish at Oneida to have a shot at making the Classic,” said Roumbanis. “I’m coming off of two solid finishes in the Northern Opens and also the PAA victory, so my confidence is definitely where it needs to be.”
He’ll also have some more experience with New York smallmouth, as he is fishing the Final Northern Open of the year on Cayuga Lake the week before practice starts for the final Elite Series tournament of the season on Oneida. “That should clue me in to the smallmouth bite up there,” he stated. “I think that by the time Oneida rolls around, I’ll be prepared and know what I need to look for and how to get it done.”
In each of his first five Elite Series seasons dating back to 2007, Roumbanis has made at least one top 12 cut. So far in 2012, his best finish is 21st at Toledo Bend. “I’ve been to Oneida four times, and I’ve had two good showings and two poor showings,” he said. “I seem to catch them every other time I go there, so this year happens to be a ‘catch them’ year.
“I really am confident that I can have a Top 12 finish,” he continued. “It’s definitely a lake where I feel that I have a shot and it suits my style of fishing. If I can put together the right game plan, it’s something that I can feel I can do.”
Even if a Grand Classic isn’t in the cards for Roumbanis next February, he said that he will take a lot of valuable lessons from the 2012 season and look back on the year with a positive attitude.
“I think that this year was very successful regardless of what happens because I’ve learned a lot. I really have only had one really bad tournament where I completely missed the boat, and that was Douglas Lake. I had no idea about strolling, so when you get beat by something off-the-wall like that, you learn,” he explained.
“I’ve had some mishaps throughout the season. I had to release three big fish during the first tournament of the year on the St. Johns River because they were foul hooked. That was something that I’ve only had to do like 10 other times my entire life.
“I had a fish rip the rod out of my hands at Toledo Ben which probably cost me a shot at making the top 12 cut. At Bull Shoals, I had technical difficulties where I had to borrow a boat on the second day. At the Mississippi River, I hit a wing dam on the first morning. Those are all tournaments where I missed either the top 12 cut or the top 50 cut by ounces.”
With his PAA Tournament Series victory this past July, Roumbanis was able to accomplish one of his career goals in 2012 – he has now won a tournament in every professional circuit (FLW EverStart in 2005, Bassmaster Elite Series in 2008, and PAA Tournament Series in 2012). “It’s pretty cool to be able to say that I’ve done that,” he concluded.