Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 12/04/2017

Story by Matt Pangrac – Photos courtesy of Fred Roumbanis

London, Arkansas -   “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”   Prior to the start of the 2017 Elite Series season, that African proverb may not have held much weight for Fred Roumbanis who was embarking on his 14th year as a professional bass angler.  

By the time Roumbanis made his last cast of the season in early November at the FLW Costa Series Championship on Kentucky Lake, he had definitely become a more skillful sailor in 2017.  

Roumbanis kicked off the 2017 Elite Series season in early February on Cherokee Lake, where he finished in 93rd place after bringing just one bass to the scales on Day Two of competition.  The slow start is a trend that Roumbanis is hoping to kick in 2018.  

Each of the last four Elite Series seasons, Roumbanis has tanked the first tournament of the year.  He finished in 85th place on the St. Johns River in 2016, 97th place on the Sabine River in 2015, and 95th place on Lake Seminole in 2014.   

“I have no idea why I’ve struggled in those early, early season tournaments,” he lamented.  “I always seem to make a comeback at the end of the year, but you many not want to put me on your fantasy fishing team early in the season.”  

He would go on to record a season-high 10th place finish on Ross Barnett in late April and would cash checks in three of the next four Elite Series tournaments on Sam Rayburn (51st), Dardanelle (51st), and Lake Champlain (49th).  Roumbanis’ lone stumble in the second half of the Elite Series season came at the St. Lawrence River, where he finished in 100th place.  

Heading into the final stop of the regular season on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair in late August, Roumbanis found himself on the bubble to requalify for the 2018 Elite Series through the Toyota Angler Of the Year point standings.   Needing a solid tournament to finish the year inside the Top 70, things got off to a simultaneously promising yet disastrous start on Day One.  

His opening round limit weighing 18-12 put him in 34th place in the tournament, but he cracked a rib in a freak accident on the water that left him in severe pain.  “I accidentally took off with one of my drift paddles sideways and when I reached back over the driver’s seat to fix it, one of my fingers ended up getting caught in the cylinder on the Power-Pole and my feet got wedged under my chair at the same time,” he explained.  “I ended up landing on my GPS puck and cracking a rib.  It wasn’t fun.”  

Roumbanis was surprised by his wife, Julie, at the Day One weigh-in who had flown in from Arkansas.  While he was elated to see her, the reason for her impromptu visit was not good.    Roumbanis’ father, who had battled lymphoma leukemia for the past several years, had unexpectedly passed away.  

“I talked to him the day before the tournament started and he sounded amazing,” recalled Roumbanis.  “Julie had talked with my mom, and they decided that my dad would want me to fish in the tournament.  Julie knew that if she had called and told me that my dad had passed, I would have been on the next flight to California (where his parents lived), so that’s why she flew out.”

Roumbanis said that rest of the tournament was a blur, but he vividly remembers the outpouring of support from his fellow competitors.  “I was just standing there in my boat before blast off and James Niggemeyer came up and put his arm around me and asked, ‘Permission to board your boat?’ That was something that my dad would always say, and the way James said it just gave me goose bumps.  It really helped me get through the day.  

“You realize that even as competitive as this sport is at the Elite Series level, it’s still a family environment,” he continued.  “It was such a neat deal to know that I had so much support from each and every angler.”

On the water, Roumbanis was understandably unable to focus.  “I couldn’t even let my drop-shot hit the bottom without reeling it in, so I decided to just go fish off muscle memory,” he explained.   He pulled out a Kelly Green colored frog, went to the bank, and proceeded to catch 4 ½ pound and a 3 ½ pound largemouth.  

He ended up finishing in 44th place in the tournament and landed in 65th place in the Toyota Angler Of the Year point standings.  

In October, Roumbanis was one of eight professional anglers selected to be a part of the USA Bass Team that competed in the Black Bass World Championships against 12 other countries on the Vaal River in South Africa.

It was the second time that Roumbanis had traveled to South Africa to fish after first visiting the country in 2011 on behalf of one of his sponsors.  “I knew that we were going to be up against some serious competition,” said Roumbanis.  

Teaming up with James Watson on the final two days of competition, the duo helped lead the USA Bass Team to the silver medal. 

Throughout all of this, the Roumbanis family has been in the process of moving into their new home located near Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas.  They moved from Oklahoma to Arkansas in October of 2016 and lived in a renal house until their house was finished in April of 2017. 

Roumbanis has also been working his way through some major sponsor changes heading into 2018, including a return to Triton as his boat sponsor.  “It’s one of those deals where I’m making an effort to return to my comfort zone,” said Roumbanis, who will be running a Triton TRX21 with a Mercury Verado.