Fred Roumbanis, like many anglers with California roots, loves swimbaits. Even though he has moved from the west as he fishes the Bassmaster Elite Series, swimbaits are still a big part of his game. His years of experience with them have given him the confidence to use them in a variety of situations from coast to coast.
Weedless versus Weighted Swimbaits
His signature series Boom Boom swimbait from Optimum is available in both the weedless and weighted versions and are his top picks for swimbait fishing. He says there is a time and place for both of them.The weedless version shines in shallow water and anytime he is fishing around grass. The weighted version is more versatile in that it can be fished deeper and in open water around structure.
“The biggest key with fishing swimbaits is to not overwork them. Fishing them too fast or with too much action is one of the biggest mistakes with these baits, a slow and steady retrieve will get the best action,” he begins. With that being said he has three variations of retrieves that work for different situations.
Slack Line and 11:00 Rod Position
One of his favorite retrieves is a steady retrieve with a slack line. “Having your rod up and just a little slack in your line will ensure that you are not working it too fast. You will know when one grabs it, it will be two quick hits and the second bite is when you want to slam the hook home,” adds the Elite Series pro.
Slow Roll Over Structure
Fishing above trees and rocks is when Roumbanis will slow roll his swimbait. “I usually fish the weighted version like this down to around 4- to 5- feet and slow roll it above the cover. If you are fishing deeper water they have no problem coming up and grabbing it.”
Slow Retrieve, Speed Up, Slow Down
This retrieve is something that Roumbanis tries anytime smallmouth are present. “The smallmouth like the quick changes in speeds. I will still fish it slow, but reeling fast a few times during the retrieve really seems to trigger them to bite,” he says.
Swimbaits in Hard to Reach Places
Roumbanis likes to fish his swimbaits everywhere, even in places that many anglers wouldn’t try with swimbaits. Skipping them under docks is one way he catches big bass in places where they do not see as many baits. The Optimum Boom Boom Swimbait was designed with flat sides, making it the perfect bait for skipping.
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Since the baits he mentions are not massive baits (6” long), they can be fished on conventional tackle without the need for a swimbait specific rod and reel. These baits and other similar sized swimbaits can be fished on a rod that you may already own and use for jigs and other heavier techniques.
For the weedless version, Fred will use the same rod he uses for frog fishing. An iRod Fred’s Magic Stick, which is a 7’5” heavy rod, allows him to make long casts and get good hooksets. He will pair it with an Ardent Apex Elite and 50-pound braided line. “I like the 6.5:1 gear ratio because it makes it so I don’t work it too fast,” he says.
When it comes to the weighted version, he will opt for rod with a softer tip and will even use a crankbait rod at times. “Either the Fred's Crank Launcher or Air Series Casting Rod 7'5" Heavy is what I use because they have the right action and length needed to really bomb it out there,” he adds. He’ll use the same reel and gear ratio but will instead spool it up with 20-pound fluorocarbon.
Swimbait Color Selection
Swimbaits are a highly visual technique and the color can make a big difference. Roumbanis generally selects translucent and natural colors for most of his swimbait fishing. “Two of my favorite colors are Ghost Rider and Ghost Minnow, they look like baitfish all over the country,” he says. If the water is slightly stained, he switches to an Ayu color that has more contrast. On cloudy days, he prefers a color called Jackson Trout. This color has a dark back and stands out in low light conditions.
Bait Design and Modifications
As stated, his signature series swimbait from Optimum is something he had much input in designing. “I worked with Optimum and bait designers to create a bait that was inspired by one of my favorite baits that is no longer made. The whole key to that bait was the weighted harness on it and the action it created, so we included that in this bait. It has a great tail action, but the harness gives it a quiver that just gets bit,” he says.
Typically, he will fish the weighted version of the bait right out of the package but does change his hook based on what species he is fishing for. “I use a 1/0 Gamakatsu Round Bend treble for smallmouth and spots because they just swipe at it. I use a size 1 for largemouth because they just inhale it,” he says. One tip he mentioned is to always tuck one of the trebles into the belly of the bait to keep it running perfectly. Another modification he does at times is to add a nail weight into the bait to get it to dive deeper quicker.
Fred Roumbanis is recognized as one of the best on tour with a swimbait and his approach is to have the right color and retrieve for all situations he is faced with.