Introducing Ima Pro Staffer Fred Roumbanis
Hello, I am Fred Roumbanis. I am 28 years old, will be 29 at the end of November. I was born and raised in California and spent my youth on the California Delta and nearby local reservoirs. As kids, my brother and I learned to fish mostly from watching our angler heroes on BASS/ESPN TV tournament shows, including Denny Brauer, Rick Clunn and all the greats. I loved to watch Bill Dance, Hank Parker, Fish Fishburne and every TV show that had anything to do with fishing.
At the early age of 8 years old, my grandpa gave me my first rod and reel, a Zebco 33 spincast combo. What’s cool is my future father-in-law was an engineer for Zebco at that time and he designed that reel. So I think that’s pretty cool that’s how I got started with my first fishing rod, thanks to my Grandpa and although I did not know it until years later, to find out my future wife’s Dad was also somehow indirectly involved with how I got started fishing too. Pretty cool.
My brother Mike was a couple years older, and whatever we saw the tournament anglers do on TV, we tried it. Since they only used lures, we soon stopped using live bait. We just wanted to use lures too. It’s really cool how much that TV influenced us. Other than what we watched on TV, we did not have very much help or anyone to give us tips how to fish. If we saw one of our favorite stars catch a nice fish on a Texas-rigged worm for example, we’d go out there and try it. We might not catch a fish for a week, but when we did, that’s all my brother and I would talk about for the next month. That’s how we learned, we experimented with lures.
My mom worked days and my dad worked nights in order to make enough money to help the family survive. Instead of dropping us off at daycare or a babysitter, my parents would drop us off at the reservoir. My brother Mike and I would argue to no end if they tried to make us do or go anywhere else except fishing. My brother Mike went on to become a saltwater angler. He’s really very good, and really into saltwater fishing which is cool.
Another moment I’ll always remember was in seventh grade, we had a career day at school where everyone in class would make a presentation about what future career they’d like to consider. When the school counselors asked what did I want to do as a job? I said to be a pro bass angler, and they told me that wasn’t even a job, so it’s not possible. It stunned me to hear it wasn’t a job. I always assumed I’d be that.
Bass founder Ray Scott bestows trophy upon Fred Roumbanis.
High School and College Years
I worked at local tackle shop right out of high school and started to fish as a non-boater in a few local tournaments. After three events, I quickly realized I did not want to fish out of the back of the boat again.
So I went and bought first boat, an ’87 model. It was only a 16 footer and I was 18 at the time. That old boat had a long history before me. Everyone always told me if I had a penny for every bass caught out of that boat, I would be rich. So it was kind of a lucky boat or so it seemed – until it sunk in the middle of the California Delta. A treacherous storm came up, and suddenly sunk the boat just like that, and I swam out of the middle of Franks Tract. I had lost the boat, all my rods and almost lost my life. With the waves as rough as they were, I felt more drowned than alive. I didn’t think I’d make it, and that was coming out of high school, having been on the football team and working out at the gym pretty often.
Loss of that boat felt like I was starting all over again. Not able to afford another boat, I stopped fishing and got a job working tackle trade shows for a manufacturer’s rep company with a large list of fishing clients. I worked trade and dealer shows mostly in Northern California. I had pretty much delayed going to college. I was taking night classes, but not getting too far with it. So I made a decision then that I needed to get back to school and get a college degree. I got a job with a tackle distributor in northern California who agreed to let me finish up school while I worked. I’ll always be thankful for that opportunity. It was just what I needed. I completed an associate’s degree in community college.
With a college degree under my belt, a great opportunity to work in the tackle business came my way in Southern California. I cleared it with the new company that if I took the job, I would like time off to be able to fish tournament competitions, to get another boat and to get back into fishing.
Fred Roumbanis still loves to fish the California Delta where he was born and raised.
Shortly after relocating to Southern California, it wasn’t too long before another great job opportunity came my way. I was approached by Okuma, a major player in the rod and reel sector. They offered me a sales position there with a career path that could lead up to sales management. The offer seemed like a lot more of a chance to move ahead than I had at my current job, so I went that route. As part of my arrangement with Okuma, we worked out where I would be able to fish the FLW Western Division Series. It was the first time the FLW Series was coming out West. That was 2003. So I got to fish the Western Division all year, but I was also working very long hours at Okuma, in order to keep up at work in between fishing events. It was a busy schedule juggling a career and fishing, but I finished 12th, and that qualified me to fish the national FLW Tour in 2004. I went to Okuma with a sponsorship proposal. They agreed that I should follow my dream and Okuma agreed to wrap my boat and sponsor me on the national FLW Tour for 2004.
FLW Western Division – 2003
Place Earnings Lake Pleasant, Jan 29 37 $750 Lake Mead, Mar 05 39 $0 Clear Lake, Apr 23 64 $0 California Delta, May 28 9 $3,050 Total Earnings $3,800
So now I was unemployed, fishing the FLW Tour, and I did not know what to expect. It can only be described as “fishing culture shock.” I had never fished outside California before, but the 2004 FLW Tour took me to Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, and New York in six short months.
At my first tournament, I finished 82nd on Okeechobee. I felt I could have done a lot better. Next tournament on Atchafalaya Basin, I was in fourth after day one and finished 23rd. That gave me confidence. The last event of the season, I finished 20th on Lake Champlain in New York. Those two good finishes – 20th and 23rd – kept me positive I could make it happen someday. Overall however, I finished 101st for the season. They took the top 100 for the 2005 FLW Tour. So I missed requalifying for the FLW Tour’s next season.
FLW National Tour – 2004 Place Earnings Lake Okeechobee, Jan 21 82 $0 Atchafalaya Basin, Feb 11 23 $10,750 Old Hickory Lake, Mar 10 173 $0 Wal-Mart Open Beaver Lake, Mar 31 119 $0 Kentucky Lake, May 12 183 $0 Lake Champlain, Jun 23 20 $12,000 Total Earnings $22,750
In 2004, I also fished and finished high enough in the Bassmaster Western Opens in order to qualify for and move up to the national Bassmaster Tour in 2005.
Bassmaster Western Opens – 2004 Place Earnings California Delta, May 29 58 $0 Lake Shasta, Oct 23 27 $1,224 Clear Lake, Nov 20 12 $2,100 Ouachita River, Dec 05 45 $1,000 Total Earnings $4,324
My rookie season on the national Bassmaster Tour seemed that much harder, or should I say the anglers seemed that much better than anything I had faced before. It seemed incredible and almost impossible for me to face the competition. I fished six Bassmaster Tour events in 2005, never finishing in the top fifty. I really thought the other anglers on the Bassmaster Tour were too good for me to compete against them.
Bassmaster National Tour – 2005 Place Earnings Toho/Kissimmee, Jan 30 121 $0 Harris Chain of Lakes, Feb 06 53 $2,050 Lake Guntersville, Feb 27 59 $1,925 Clarks Hill, Mar 06 152 $0 Lake Norman, Mar 20 146 $0 Table Rock Lake, Apr 03 95 $0 Total Earnings $3,975
Since I had missed requalifying for the FLW Tour 2005 season, I went back to the FLW regional level in 2005. Between the different FLW divisions, I felt the Northern Division offered my best chance to qualify to get back onto the FLW Tour that way. I was down to my last dime, and my dream was fading. Showing up for the first Northern event on the Detroit River, Michigan, I was stressed out so bad, I broke out in shingles, a pretty serious thing, and it was all stress-related. I’d had too much exposure to the sun, too much physical and mental stress, malnutrition, not sleeping good, and it all manifested itself in shingles. I was in such a bad state, I could hardly get out of bed.
But I hadn’t quit yet. I hadn’t hit rock bottom. That did not happen until I had a very tough prefish for the second Northern tournament on the Mississippi River at La Crosse, Wisconsin, I bottomed out. I gave up. I lost hope. I went to the tournament director Chris Jones and told Chris I decided to pack it in, to pull out of the Northern Division. I just lost all hope that I had what it takes. Chris asked me what kind of fish I was on in practice? I told Chris that I had heard all the dock talk about competitors landing 17 pound sacks during practice and I wasn’t anywhere near that. Chris told me if you can get 12-14 pounds a day, you’re in a good position. I decided to stay, and was landing 14-15 pounds a day during the tournament and I won it. That was a turning point for me. It put me out of debt, put me back into the green and I regained my confidence. I had proven to myself that I was able to win, that I was compete against locals who knew the waters way better than I could ever hope. From Wisconsin, I drove to California only for a few days, then drove back to Lake Michigan for the next event. My life was pretty much lived on the road. I finished 8th on Lake Michigan. So I went from debilitating shingles, to almost quitting, then to winning and onto another top ten. It was an emotional roller coaster ride.
One month later, it was back to the Detroit River where I had broken out in shingles. It was rough weather, and my old boat was so worn down and tired, I didn’t think the boat could take the abuse. I felt like I would sink again. I seem to do well fishing big water but I do not like it. If there’s one thing I don’t like it’s lakes like Erie. I can’t get over my fear of sinking because as you know, I did come close to drowning already. I did have a boat sink on me. So the big water really had me spooked. That big water only set the mood however. On the second day of the tournament, I found a dead body floating, and that just spooked me so badly that I blanked, didn’t catch any fish that day. So that was my worst finish and it was a big blow to end the season. It was unlikely I would qualify through the Northerns in order to get back onto the national FLW Tour again.
FLW Northern Division – 2005 Place Earnings Detroit River, July 62 $0 Mississippi River, Aug 03 1 $50,000 Lake Michigan, Aug 24 8 $4,300 Detroit River, Sep 21 72 $0 Total Earnings $54,300
I also fished the Bassmaster Western Opens again in 2005, and had a second place finish on Lake Shasta in late November that earned me a brand new Ranger prize boat package.
Bassmaster Western Opens – 2005 Place Earnings California Delta, May 28 9 $3,000 Clear Lake, Oct 15 137 $0 Lake Shasta, Nov 19 2 $27,537 Alabama River, Dec 04 60 $900 Total Earnings $31,437
Sometimes things just work out somehow. Since I now had a Ranger boat I won at Shasta the year before, I got back onto the FLW Tour that way, thanks to a Ranger boat qualification. So I qualified to fish the national FLW Tour in 2006.
FLW National Tour – 2006
Place Earnings Lake Okeechobee, Jan 18 156 $0 Lake Murray, Feb 08 156 $0 Pickwick Lake, Mar 01 117 $0 Beaver Lake, Apr 05 156 $0 Kentucky Lake, May 10 47 $10,000 Lake Champlain, Jun 21 64 $2,750 Total Earnings $12,750
In 2006, the Bassmaster Elite Tour doubled the number of events from 6 events in 2005 to 12 Bassmaster Elite events in 2006 (plus the Busch Shootout in Grapevine).
Bassmaster National Tour – 2006 Place Earnings Lake Amistad, Mar 12 2 $31,000 Lake Sam Rayburn, Mar 19 95 $0 Santee Cooper Reservoir, Apr 02 84 $0 Lake Guntersville, Apr 23 67 $0 Clarks Hill Reservoir, May 07 27 $10,000 Grand Lake, Jun 04 62 $0 Kentucky Lake, Jun 18 88 $0 Lake Oneida, Jul 09 23 $10,250 Lake Champlain, Jul 16 97 $0 Mississippi River, Jul 22 20 $1,770 Potomac River, Aug 13 38 $10,000 Table Rock Lake, Sep 17 93 $0 Grapevine Lake, Oct 14 2 $5,000 Total Earnings $68,020
There’s no doubt that was the most difficult thing I have ever done, to fish a combined 19 FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite tournaments in one season – but I gained about 10 years fishing knowledge in that one season. Most of all, I gained a good grasp and concept of how to fish new water. Interestingly, I felt I learned more when I did poorly than when I did well. When I did well, I fished what I knew. When I did poorly, I had to learn from my mistakes. So there’s something to be said for fishing poorly – if you can learn from it.
A fast learner, Roumbanis tallied $80,770 in combined Bassmaster and FLW earnings in 2006.
I put all my eggs in one Bassmaster Elite Tour basket in 2007. I would have liked to fish both FLW and BASS, but there were schedule conflicts where it wasn’t possible. So I had to decide to do one. There seemed to be more possibilities for marketing myself and my sponsors on the Bassmaster Elite Tour, so I went with that because I couldn’t do both tours. It just wasn’t possible. Even just the Bassmaster Tour alone encompassed 14 events in 8 months with stops in Florida, Arkansas, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, California and Texas.
Although I did not fish a tournament in February, 2007, I still took part in a major event that month. One where I came out a real winner when I married my sweetheart, Julie, in her hometown of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. And soon after my win at High Rock Lake in May, Julie gave birth to our first child, a boy, Jackson Roumbanis.
My wife and baby were huge to my success in 2007. They say when you fall in love, when you find that special someone, everything else in your life just seems to fall into place. It really does happen that way. That’s what happened to me and my fishing after Julie and I became married, everything worked out after that. I’m not going to lie to you. I was stressed out about getting married. I was not financially there. When it rained it poured in a good way. 2007 has been the best year of my life. I don’t know if I could ever top it, but I’d like to try.
Bassmaster National Tour – 2007 Place Earnings Lake Amistad, Mar 11 19 $11,500 California Delta, Mar 25 21 $10,250 Clear Lake, Apr 1 20 $10,500 Clarks Hill, Apr 22 10 $13,500 Lake Guntersville, Apr 29 60 $0 High Rock Lake, May 20 1 $253,000 Smith Mountain Lake, Jun 10 16 $10,500 Grand Lake, Jun 24 95 $0 Lake Champlain, Jul 15 9 $15,000 Lake Erie/Niagara River, Jul 22 53 $0 Lake Oneida, Jul 29 33 $0 Potomac River, Aug 12 11 $12,500 Lake Dardanelle, Aug 26 11 $24,100 Lake Toho, Sep 16 84 $20,800 Toyota Moving Forward Award for 2007 n/a $10,000 Total Earnings $391,650
Looking forward to 2008, I finished 12th for the year and qualified to go to the Bassmaster Classic in February, 2008. The Classic also coincides with our anniversary, and we will celebrate it at the Classic. February is not too far away, coming up real soon. I feel like I’ve done me homework. Right now I’m just getting all new rods, reels, line ready. Right after the Classic, the Bassmaster Elite season starts right up, and really won’t have a chance to relax again until about this same time (October-ish) in 2008.
Well, that’s all I have to say today. I am Fred Roumbanis. That’s my life story and how and why I ended up in your inbox today. Thank you for reading along with me. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know me. I hope you’ll welcome me and the IMA EMAILER back into your inbox again in the months to come.
If you’d like to check out my homepage, it is at:
Fred with Chunky California Delta denizen landed on an Ima Roumba wakebait.
If you’d like to check out the new Roumba wakebait I helped IMA design, it is at:
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