As published on Wired2Fish.com
by Walker Smith
Another wintertime jerkbait fishing article— let’s all go ahead and get our collective groans and eye rolls out of the way. It seems like everywhere you look this time of year, photos of jerkbaits and success stories flood your eyeballs and overload your mind with the latest tips and techniques. Does it get a bit monotonous at times? You bet it does.
That’s precisely the reason we tapped the brain of Elite Series pro Fred Roumbanis for this piece. His vast experience on clearwater Ozark fisheries has developed him into quite the jerkbait aficionado. Combine this knowledge with an unyielding drive to challenge conventional bass fishing knowledge and you’ll quickly realize that this won’t be the typical “jerk, jerk, pause” article you’re accustomed to reading.
He has spent countless hours this winter tinkering and perfecting his jerkbait game and has discovered some factors and variables that just might change the way you fish these age-old lures.
- The method to the madness
- Color changes amplify size
- Bronze hooks are lighter
- Braided line serves as a strike indicator
- Twitch before you jerk
- Drop ‘em tail-down before making a cast
Why so much jerkbait talk during the winter?
Before we delve into Roumbanis’ more intricate findings, it’s important to quickly outline the most pertinent reasons for utilizing a jerkbait in cold water. Yes, it’s cold and these long, skinny lures have long been synonymous with harsh, winter fishing conditions. But why is that the case?
- Slow-motion behavior— “A suspending jerkbait can stay in a very small, specific strike zone for an incredibly long time,” Roumbanis said. “When the water temperatures are in the 40 to 50-degree range, these bass don’t want to chase and become suspended. I’ve seen hundreds of them chase and follow a jerkbait and have been blown away by their slow-motion behavior. No other lure can target suspended, incredibly lethargic bass at such a painstakingly slow pace.”
- Congregations of bass— Although most wintertime jerkbait fishing is conducted at a snail’s pace, you’d be surprised by how much water you’re able to cover in a day’s time. This is important, according to Roumbanis, because coldwater bass are notorious for assembling in key areas such as channel swings and bluff walls. You’ll need to eliminate large expanses of “dead” water, but a jerkbait allows you to do so both efficiently and effectively.
- Shad kill— “Don’t get so caught up in the bass behavior that you forget about the shad kill,” Roumbanis said. “When the water temperatures reach the 36-degree range for a prolonged period, lots of shad are going to die. When this kill initially occurs, bass are dumb and easy to catch. But once it’s a full-blown deal, it’s incredibly difficult to get bit. Why would they want to eat a lure when hundreds of dead shad are available?”
Slight color changes can amplify profile
Many of us put a lot of time and effort into finding the “perfect” jerkbait size. We’ll search high and low for something—anything—that will clue us into a fishery’s primary forage size. After all, it’s all about matching the hatch, right?
“Forage size is certainly a very big factor,” Roumbanis said. “But you don’t necessarily need to have a hundred different-sized jerkbaits crammed into your boat or tackle box. You can actually take your favorite jerkbait, such as an Ima Flit 120, and change the color to make it appear larger or smaller to the bass.”
It sounds crazy, but it makes a lot of sense. His thought process and reasoning is quite simple and easy to follow.
- Opaque colors— “When you take a bone white jerkbait and compare it to a translucent-colored jerkbait in the water, it will look considerably larger,” Roumbanis said. “So when I’m seeing large concentrations of big gizzard shad in an area, I’ll often use an opaque color to boost my lure’s profile. It’s often thought that such colors are only productive under cloudy skies or stained water, but I’ve won a fair amount of money utilizing this technique in clear water.”
- Translucent colors— On the contrary, Roumbanis believes translucent colors can make a rather large, three-hook jerkbait look much smaller to nearby bass. While he will use a smaller Ima Foxy Fry in very specific situations, he’ll often change to a translucent color such as ghost minnow first in hopes of maintaing the hooking power of a three-hook jerkbait.
Bronze hooks can be a better option
The importance of proper treble hooks on a jerkbait should never be overlooked. Sure—you can have the sexiest jerkbait on Planet Earth, but it won’t do you much good if they’re unable to effectively penetrate the bass’ mouth and pin them throughout a long fight.
While every angler has a different opinion on this issue, Roumbanis has noticed something very specific in regards to his hook selection.
“Typically, I like to leave the original hooks on my Ima Flit 120 for the first half of the day,” Roumbanis said. “They’re usually pretty dialed-in. But if I’m having issues with my hookup ratio, I’ll use a bronze No. 4 Gamakatsu EWG treble hook. Those bronze hooks have lighter wire and aren’t as heavy as nickel-plated hooks, which allows the jerkbait to suspend properly on an extended pause. The EWG style is important as well because when you hook a bass—especially a smallmouth—and it’s hot, that aggressive bend helps pin the bass a little better.”
Braided line for jerkbait fishing?
Perhaps Roumbanis’ most exciting find this winter has been the effectiveness of braided main line on his jerkbait reel. Although many of us are “trained” to use 8-pound fluorocarbon in every situation, braided line offers several distinct advantages.
- Bite indicator— “When you’re fishing a jerkbait this time of year, very rarely will you experience bone-jarring strikes,” Roumbanis said. “So it’s crucial to use equipment that will make it easier to indicate soft, subtle bites. I’ve been using bright-colored 30-pound braid on my 6.5:1 Ardent Apex Elite Casting Reel with a 5 to 6-foot 10-pound P-Line Ultimate Fluorocarbon leader. The braid floats on the water’s surface, so I’m able to see the line jump with even the smallest bite. It often looks like the ‘tick, tick’ of a shaky head bite. I’ve honestly noticed a tremendous increase in my success since experimenting with this combination.”
- Easier hooksets— Due to the low-stretch properties of braided line, big, sweeping hooksets aren’t often necessary. Instead, Roumbanis waits for his line to jump and simply lowers his rod tip while reeling quickly. More times than not, he’ll swing a bass with a face full of treble hooks into his boat.
Less jerking and more twitching
Cold water. Jerkbait. Jerk, jerk, pause. We hear it until we’re blue in the face. According to Roumbanis, however, you might get more bites by kicking it down a few notches and going against the traditional cadence.
- A winding jerk— Before beginning your cadence, it’s important to ensure that your jerkbait has reached its optimum operating depth. If you simply cast the lure and immediately begin your retrieve, there’s a good chance you’re fishing above the bass. To achieve maximum depth, Roumbanis executes a few “winding jerks” after his jerkbait hits the water. This allows the jerkbait to reach its horizontal plane quickly, thus spending more time in the most productive strike zone.
- Small twitches— “When you’re using braided line for jerkbaits, you have to understand that emphatic jerks are going to move the bait much more than with a fluorocarbon setup,” Roumbanis said. “I’ll actually go with a ‘twitch, twitch, pause’ cadence in which I only move the tip of my rod 8 to 10 inches. These smaller rod movements also help me avoid ripping the hooks away from the fish. Sometimes you can’t detect the bite regardless of your setup, so when you twitch and feel pressure, smaller rod movements are less likely to take the jerkbait away from the bass.”
- A soft rod is imperative— Roumbanis prefers using a rod with a very soft tip so his twitches have a less drastic effect on his jerkbait—remember, it’s all about keeping the jerkbait in the same area for as long as possible. He’s been experimenting a lot this offseason and has found the 3-power, 6-foot, 9-inch medium-action iROD Genesis II Series to be an excellent choice.
Drop ‘em tail-down
With time, you’ll find that not all jerkbaits are created equal—some dart while others slide and some suspend differently than others. So how do you know what constitutes a “good” jerkbait? Above all else, there’s one test Roumbanis performs with each and every jerkbait before making a single cast.
“If you drop a jerkbait tail-down into the water, it should slowly level itself out,” Roumbanis said. “I want that jerkbait to stay as level as possible, so I look for the tail to effectively bottom out while the head slowly rises to create a very horizontal profile. This ensures that, when you pause that jerkbait and there’s a big bass staring at it, it’s going to look natural and stay completely still the entire time.”
Yes, it’s true. Jerkbaits and cold water are a phenomenal combination that can load your boat in a hurry. If you’re having trouble getting bites with more commonplace tactics, however, don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Sometimes all it takes is some simple experimentation to turn a tough day into an unforgettable one.
By Tom Leogrande (as printed in the upcoming Bass Quest Magazine)
Every pro fisherman heads into a tournament hoping to catch big bass. However, not many are targeting huge bass; most would say that’s not the best strategy for doing consistently well in tournaments. But one angler that heads out on each body of water with a plan to catch the biggest fish is Fred Roumbanis.
For most pro anglers, the goal is five quality fish per day in a tournament. The search for truly giant bass is risky in most tournaments. While the reward can be great, the failure to catch giants is costly. Roumbanis said, “I know it’s a risky style, but it is how I have always fished. It is probably the main reason I am 50/50 on making Bassmaster Classics.”
While his mindset might be the reason Roumbanis has missed a few Bassmaster Classics, including the upcoming 2015 Classic on Lake Hartwell, it has also put him in the winner’s circle in all levels of competition. Roumbanis has won more big fish awards than he can remember. B.A.S.S. stats show Roumbanis has won big fish checks at the following tournaments: 2007 Lake Champlain, 2007 Lake Dardanelle, 2007 High Rock Lake (twice), 2007 Lake Amistad, 2008 Lake Murray, and 2009 Kentucky Lake. He has also won Big Bass of the Bassmaster Classic in two of the four Bassmaster Classics he has qualified for: the 2009 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell and the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on Guntersville.
Roumbanis attributes his success to several things. First, his strengths are big fish techniques—swimbaits and frogs. “Growing up in California, I really had the opportunity to fish swimbaits and frogs quite often. I learned early on that both techniques had a propensity to catch big fish. When I got out here on tour, I kept both techniques in my bag of tricks,” explained Roumbanis.
He also believes that his approach helps him catch the bigger fish. Roumbanis said, “I try to look for something that is out of the norm. Which generally leads me to different areas of the lake, or different patterns than a lot of the guys are finding, or maybe they just opt for the more reliable fishing; I am not sure.”
He admits big fish can be caught by any technique. “Honestly, a big fish of a tournament can be caught with a drop shot rod with four-pound-test line and a three-inch worm. It’s not that a frog or swimbait is the only way to catch a giant, it just increases the odds a little bit,” he explained.
What does Roumbanis think about his strategy and missing Bassmaster Classics? He said, “I hate missing Bassmaster Classics, but to be honest, that’s not my goal. My goal is to go out and try to win every tournament. That’s an impossible goal, but when I launch on the first day of any event—you better believe I have one thing in mind and that is to win. Maybe, just maybe, at the last event of the year, I might consider the points race to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic—but even that is pretty rare.”
While Roumbanis’ strategy for targeting the biggest fish hasn’t led him to the most consistent career, it’s certainly produced a successful one. His two wins on the Bassmaster Elite Series were both coupled with winning the Big Bass awards; this happened at both High Rock Lake in 2007 and Lake Murray in 2008. “Almost all of my success in tournaments has been with giant fish, big fish of the tournament, and not just on the Elite Series. I can think way back to team tournaments and regional pro-ams where I landed giant fish to win events. Overall, I think I have weighed over ten fish that were over 10-lbs in tournaments.”
His success with big fish extended into FLW as well. Roumbanis owns the all-time day two record weight: 34 pounds 5 ounces which was anchored by a 9-pound 7-ounce bass.
He sees no need to change his style in the near future. “I grew up fishing this way and I can’t see myself fishing any other way. Would I be better off picking up a spinning rod more often? Maybe, but for right now, I don’t see that happening.”
In 2015, the Bassmaster Elite Series is headed to the California Delta and Kentucky Lake, two places where Roumbanis has had success with his big-fish approach. In fact, when fishing a regional pro-am early in his career, Roumbanis landed his best fish ever: a 13-pound bass.
Will this be the year Roumbanis breaks through with more wins? We aren’t sure, but we do know he’ll be headed into every event with winning and big bass on his mind.
It is hard to beat a jerk bait during the prespawn, and for me I love the Ima Flit during this time of year. However, I also work in a big Pepper Custom Baits Pro Football head jig and a Optimum 5” Optishad swimbait.
For the jerk bait (Ima Flit) I rig it up with 10 to 12-pound P-Line Fluorocarbon line on a 6’9” Irod Air medium-action rod and an Ardent Apex Elite 7.3:1 reel. I like to work it casting around rocky banks. Areas with darker rock should be better, as the dark rock heats up faster than the lighter rock.
With the jig I search everywhere from super-shallow to deep near ledges and deep structure. With the jig I rely heavily on my Garmin electronics to find the fish and then present the bait with a slow presentation. My favorite color combination in cold water is black and blue, which is also the case for dirty water. For clearer water, and as the water begins to heat up I might work in some green pumpkin colors. For equipment I will use a Irod 754 Air rod and 17-pound P-Line Fluorocarbon paired with an Ardent Apex Elite 6.5:1 reel.
The prespawn is a great time to target big fish. While the jerk bait and the jig can and will catch big fish, I can’t think of a better way to catch the true giants than with a swimbait. I will use a 5” Optimum Optishad swimbait rigged on my signauture series Pepper Custom Baits swimjig head. I usually use a 3/4 oz head, but for shallower areas, I might lighten that up to a 1/2 oz or 3/8 oz.
With the swimbait I am mostly targeting ledge-breaks, but I am constantly checking on my Garmin electronics while I am fishing watching for schools of baitfish. Find the baitfish and you’ll find bass as they feed up for the spawn.
For my swimbait equipment I use an Irod Genesis II Magic Stick paired with an Ardent Apex Elite 7.3:1 reel spooled with at least 17-pound P-Line fluorocarbon.
Fred Roumbanis talks about fall crankbait fishing and the IMA BeastHunter. If your planning on fishing this fall your going to want to listen to what “Boom Boom” has to say.
Iron Cross Sponsors Fred Roumbanis; Looks to Get Involved in Angling Community
Tulsa, OK – Iron Cross Automotive, makers of state of the art aftermarket truck components accessories, has sponsored Elite Series pro angler Fred Roumbanis for his 2014 season.
Roumbanis has been sporting Iron Cross products on his vehicles this season and is very impressed. “What’s not to like about Iron Cross’ products? They give my truck a state of the art look while adding strength and protection at the same time”, said Roumbanis.
Iron Cross is interested in the bass fishing market because anglers have shown a need for strong, high-end truck accessories. Eric Long of Iron Cross expressed this interest, “We are looking forward to getting more involved in the angling community. We know every angler either has a truck or a friend with a truck, and we want them to know about our products. Working with a fellow Oklahoman (Fred Roumbanis) who has an already established career and a bright future in the sport makes a lot of sense for us.”
Roumbanis believes the angling community will embrace Iron Cross. “Angler’s at all levels are a blue collared, hard working crowd that like to enjoy their hobby of fishing, and look good doing it. Iron Cross is the same they are a 100% American manufacturer who work hard and give us quality products. Honestly, Iron Cross and bass fishing are a perfect match, I am happy to be the conduit between the two.”
Iron Cross has also given Roumbanis the task of heading up their pro team. Roumbanis will be working to add several more Elite Series anglers to they Iron Cross pro team. These pros will be running Iron Cross products on their vehicles to show off their style and express the benefits of their fine products. Roumbanis explained, “The bumpers alone are an incredible addition to any truck, they look good, they add protection, and they improve the resale value of the vehicle.”
For more information on Iron Cross, please visit IronCrossAutomotive.com.
For more information on Fred Roumbanis, please visit FredRoumbanis
As published on TulsaWorld.com – Read on Tulsa World
At the time it was just an interesting detail. The story and context didn’t call for its use. But this week it came back into focus and I searched through archives to find the photo for print.
Back in July I saw the inspirational words written over the steering wheel column on Bixby angler Fred ‘Boom Boom’ Roumbanis’ boat and it caught my attention. I snapped a couple frames. He commented at the time that it was his inspiration this season – a source of confidence, written proof of what he knows but sometimes forgets.
But that day we were fishing the ponds at Bass Pro Shops with 19-year-old Christian Leithner a young Tulsa fisherman and cancer fighter who clearly enjoyed spending the day with his new professional bass fishing buddy. Boom Boom’s inspiration wasn’t the story – then.
Roumbanis and Leithner were having a great day fighting cancer – with fun, an escape to the great outdoors. Roumbanis said at the time his father was fighting cancer as well and we spoke of the extent the disease touches so many lives. Turn Tulsa Pink, an outfit that specializes in using good vibes to help people fight cancer, arranged the day.
The emotion that comes with that tough fight was just under the surface. It was most obvious when it came to the video interview portion of the day. I try not to do a “Barbara Walters” on people but it would have been easy for any of us to get misty-eyed that day – fun as it was.
Today I’m told Christian is undergoing surgery, fighting cancer with medicine and science. Julie Rombanis, Fred’s wife, said Christian went fishing Wednesday because “it will be awhile before he can go again.”
Christian is the subject of many prayers today. He is a strong young man.
Boom Boom’s inspiration and what fishing and the outdoors can mean to a person comes into sharper focus on a day like this.
On Sunday Roumbanis posted on his Facebook page what a great day it was as he had qualified for two major championships and, to boot, his father, Kelly, was declared cancer-free.
Roumbanis has had a pretty good season. He took the long road and fished the Bassmaster Elite Series, FLW Tour and the PAA tournaments. That’s a lot of short nights, long days and time on the road.
A top-ten finish at Table Rock last week meant he finished seventh overall in the PAA Series and qualified to fish the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, set for Conroe Oct. 4-6. That news and the news about his father came on the heels of learning he also qualified to fish the Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Ala. in February.
Wednesday I saw the video post Fred Roumbanis put on his Facebook page after he wrapped up at Table Rock. At that moment Boom Boom didn’t talk about techniques or what baits he used where. Instead he talked about his words of inspiration.
The words on his boat read: “I fish to win. Winning is surviving. Trust your instincts. You know!!”
People often say they get outdoors to clear their mind and let the stress of life fade away, to reboot, to relax.
Competition heightens what it is we experience daily. Maybe what Roumbanis put into words, what worked for him on the water, is what we all search for out there sometimes; a chance to reconnect with what matters most, what we know about ourselves and that knowledge that we have the strength within to survive and to succeed – whether we’re fighting a fish, winning a contest, making a deadline, completing a project or beating cancer.
Here is the Table Rock wrap-up video and the one from July with Christian Leithner.
Any angler who doesn’t own an assortment of Spooks, Sammies and other fat, dog-walking stickbaits isn’t serious about catching bass. These pudgy topwater lures slam the fatties year after year.
Many Bassmaster Elite Series pros also rely on slender stickbaits that look like Jenny Craig disciples. Oklahoma’s Fred Roumbanis favors ima’s Skimmer. This 3/8-ounce lure has a slim profile similar to a 5-inch soft plastic stickbait.
“You need a good breeze to turn the Spook bite on,” Roumbanis says. “The Skimmer catches more bass in slick water.”
The Skimmer’s ability to draw strikes on flat water allows Roumbanis to target bass that his competitors overlook. That’s what happened during a major tournament he fished at Lake Mead.
“A lot of guys were chasing windy points where the bass would bite regular stickbaits,” Roumbanis says. “I was chasing bass in bays with slick spots where I scored with the Skimmer.”
Roumbanis usually works the Skimmer with a slow, steady sashay, as he does with fat stickbaits. However, the Skimmerresponds with a quieter, more natural action.
“The Japanese burn the Skimmer so fast it jumps out of the water,” Roumbanis says. “They have good luck doing that on their high-pressured lakes.”
Roumbanis makes the Skimmer dance with a 7-foot medium action iRod and 15-pound P-Line CXX, a floating monofilament. A bone-colored Skimmer draws strikes for him wherever he fishes it. “One of the great things about the Skimmer is that it gets better hookups than a Spook or a Fluke,” Roumbanis says. “That bait is all hooks.”
Elite Series standout Aaron Martens of Alabama fishes a skinny 3 1/3-inch, 3/8-ounce Dog-X Speed Slide anytime he finds bass feeding on small baitfish. Although this stickbait is designed to practically walk in place, Martens also works it with quick, hard twitches. This makes the Dog-X jump and slide erratically across the surface.
“It looks like a panicked minnow swimming for its life,” Martens says.
The hot retrieve draws strikes for Martens when bass chase baitfish on the surface. Martens reverts to a basic dog-walking action when there’s a break in the feeding frenzy. He scores big with this tactic in clear lakes where bass suspend over 20 to 30 feet of water in the summertime.
Then again, the Dog-X works anytime bass are feeding on small, young-of-the-year baitfish, Martens says. He has also called up smallmouth bass on the Dog-X in Northern waters, such as Oneida Lake. The lure was a major player for him when he finished in 24th place during a Bassmaster Elite Series event at Fort Gibson Lake, Okla., in June 2010.
“I was working a bone-colored Dog-X over shallow points in 2 to 3 feet of water,” Martens says.
Alabamian Gerald Swindle ties on Lucky Craft’s spindly 4-inch, 3/8-ounce Gunfish 95 when bass refuse to bite fat stickbaits. The Gunfish’s small cupped face spits when you walk the bait over the surface.
Swindle generally works the Gunfish with the same cadence he imparts to fat stickbaits. But, there are times when bass prefer a faster tempo, twitching and a wild, darting action.
“You need to drink an energy drink before you do that,” Swindle advises. “It’ll wear you out.”
The fast pace goaded strikes from sizable bass when Swindle fished an Elite Series tournament at Lake Murray in spring. The bass were feeding on blueback herring over shallow points, and they had been pounded by fat stickbaits.
“They wouldn’t hit the big stuff anymore, but they’d jump on the little Gunfish,” Swindle says.