Four Keys to Boom Boom's Ride-Around Strategy Success
Roumbanis says playing to strengths, developing and evolving strategy make him successful
By Lynn Burkhead, MajorLeagueFishing.com
January 13, 2017
For some time now, yours truly has wanted to do a story about how the Major League Fishing pros handle the 15-minute Mercury ride-around period that starts each day of MLF competition.
One of the key factors that sets the MLF competitions apart as the best fishing games on the planet is that anglers come into each event with no prior knowledge of where they are going to be fishing and with no intel to fall back on other than any previous experience they might have at a particular body of water.
Once they arrive at a boat ramp parking lot and are told the zone that they will be fishing for their day of MLF competition, the mental wheels start turning as the pros check out the Lowarance electronic mapping of the area and try and make a few educated guesses.
But it's not until they actually get out onto the water and are turned loose for that high-energy 15-minute Mercury ride-around period that they are actually able to put any substance behind such mental exercises.
Take Fred Roumbanis, for example, the popular pro from Russellville, Ark., that began his second season of MLF competition when the Select circuit visited Lake of the Ozarks.
When I asked Roumbanis – “Boom Boom” as most bass fishing fans know him - if he had ever been to this particular stretch of the long, serpentine lake winding its way through central Missouri, he shook his head.
"I've never been anywhere near here fishing," said Roumbanis. "I've got a few different ideas though. The one thing that I learned from my first year in MLF is to use that 15 minutes that you get to ride around and search."
So how does Roumbanis use the ride-around to quickly formulate a first period game plan?
For Boom Boom, the place to start is by remembering that the MLF game is a quantity driven event.
Quality can cause an angler to briefly surge up the SCORETRACKER LIVE leaderboard, but more times than not, the angler who catches the most fish will come out on top.
"You might catch a five-pounder,” said Roumbanis, “but in the time that it takes to catch that five-pounder, somebody else might catch six or seven one-pounders.
"So my mind is thinking from the beginning that I don't know what lives here, what kind of quality is on this lake, and so I'm going to try and go for the numbers deal," he added.
"Here, I might start off trying to go for a couple of big bites just because of the time of year that we're fishing right now suggests that such a thing might be possible early in the morning. But (there's no doubt that) you've got to number them here (in MLF)."
Because of that, the second step in Roumbanis' 15-minute ride-around strategy is to gain an understanding of the underwater structure that exists on a lake.
He'll gain a partial understanding of that in the parking lot as he studies his electronic mapping, but hunches and guesses will be confirmed - or not - to some degree once he's actually out on the water.
"A lot of (success out here) is technique," said Roumbanis. "But a lot of it is understanding the geological contours of the lakes (that we fish) and where fish relate at different times of the day and so forth."
One thing that Boom Boom tries to do is not over-complicate this step.
"It's real simple," said Roumbanis, who has two BASS Elite wins and one FLW win on his resume. "If you just look at the lake's shoreline, you'll learn a lot (about its structure and contour). And history kind of repeats itself (on the map).
As an example of that, the MLF pro pointed out that he likes to look for a single boulder sitting up on a bank somewhere because he's found that there's usually a handful of other boulders in the water below.
And if he can find something like that in one spot on a lake, odds are, there are several other similar features elsewhere.
For his third key in winning the ride-around period, Roumbanis is a big believer in going with his angling strengths.
"You've really got to go out (and put on the baits) that you feel confident with," he said. "No matter where you go - whether it's a spinnerbait, a crankbait, a jig or a topwater - you want to fish whatever your strength is (and) you want to run around and search for an area that (will) work for that technique."
To do that, he'll search for areas on a lake that give him a sense of déjà vu.
"You want to look for things out there that look like something you've had success with in the past," said Roumbanis.
"I want to utilize my time (efficiently during the run around), have some key baits tied on for this time of year and I'm going to search for what I like to fish (based on previous experience)."
That being said, Boom Boom is also learning that there still has to be a level of open-mindedness when he's out on the water in a MLF event.
Meaning that while he's always searching for a solid place to execute Plan A, he's also beginning to formulate a few ideas for Plan B.
"I think that's where I kind of messed up at one of my events the first year," said Roumbanis. "I went to an area in one of these events that looked so good but it just wasn't happening and I had nothing else to fall back on.
"At that point, people were already catching them and I quickly fell behind (and couldn't catch up)."
What does all of that mean as Roumbanis is riding around, gunning his engine and searching for the right place to start his day?
"I like to throw topwaters, I like to throw swimbaits, and if I can find something to start off with that is good for that, (then that's good)," he said. "And if I get bit right away, then I'll feel comfortable."
"But if I don't, I can't be stubborn - I've got to (be willing to quickly) adjust."
Which leads to Roumbanis' fourth key of ride-around success, even if it takes the first few casts of the day to prove itself, and that's to let the fish quickly tell you what they are actively feeding on and where they are positioning themselves for those aquatic meals.
"You need to know what the fish are feeding off of, whether it's shad, crawfish or something other than that (like bluegills)," said Roumbanis.
One way that Boom Boom figures that out is by knowing what the fish should be doing based on current seasonal patterns and needs.
As an example of that, if he finds himself competing somewhere around the springtime spawn, he knows that crawfish are likely to be a big menu item for bass since the lake's big females will be loading up on protein-rich crawfish prior to laying their eggs.
But he'll also figure some of that out as he actually gets on the water and catches the first fish or two of the day.
"As soon as I catch a fish, I've got to study that fish," said Roumbanis. "I've got to study things like its teeth (to) see if they're real sharp."
Why is that?
"Because if they are sharp, they're probably feeding on baitfish," said Roumbanis. "But if they are feeding on crawfish, then they're probably scouring the bottom and their teeth are kind of filed down and dull.
"You can also see what kind of bottom that they are hovering over, whether it's sandy or muddy, based on whether you see mud on their fins. You're just always looking for stuff like that when you catch a fish."
Roumbanis is quick to point out that winning the 15-minute ride-around each day of MLF competition doesn't guarantee a win by the end of the third period.
But it does allow an angler to get a quick start out of the gate, and maybe, just maybe, a chance to build an early lead as anglers try to figure out the day's bite pattern.
"The faster I can put it together (after the 15-minute ride-around), the faster I'll feel confident and the faster I can start going out to load up the boat," he smiled.