W hen bass start to move into spawning areas throughout the Lone Star State, you can usually find Bass University instructor Fred “Boom Boom” Roumbanis slinging a swimbait.
Although a red Rat-L-Trap is legendary for Texas bass in February, and a Chatterbait has made a run at the title over the last decade, Roumbanis knows that any time there’s at least a couple of feet of visibility a swimbait is the tool for tracking down larger-than-average fish.
Roumbanis says this fact dates back to the first Elite Series event on Amistad, in which he finished second with more than 101 pounds of bass. This applies whether it’s south Texas, north Texas or east Texas, or anywhere in between.
“It’s still a little early on some lakes, but they’ll still relate to the drains,” said the two-time Bassmaster winner. “Look at any pocket or any creek on your GPS. Find the blue lines and follow those. Sometimes they lead to running water and other times they completely dead end. I’ll usually start somewhere off of a secondary point and work my way back. At some point there will be a section where they will be piled up.”
While those bass are traveling to spawning grounds, don’t expect them to be in the same places all day. Roumbanis said that the fish he finds in ditches and drains when it’s cold in the morning, may move themselves up to the bordering flats in the afternoon as it warms up. When they’re down in the draws, the key is to retrieve the lure slowly with an eye toward the topography.
“What I’m trying to do is keep the bait right in that ditch zone. It’s really just a staging area,” he said.
His current favorite lure for this time of year is his namesake Boom Boom swimbait from Optimum, both the six-inch standard size and the 4 ½ inch “baby.” It’s an improved version of a discontinued Bass Pro Shops swimbait that Fred, Takahiro Omori and Steve Kennedy used to win hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.
One advantage of this lure is that it comes in both a rigged version with a treble hook on the belly and a weedless model that fits an Owner 6/0 or 8/0 swimbait hook perfectly. On Sam Rayburn a few years go Roumbanis found the water clarity to be on the verge of being too dingy for this presentation, but the fish still wanted it when they could find it.
He used an Owner Flashy Swimmer—a swimbait hook with a trailing willowleaf blade—and that increased his catch ratio substantially. Lately, he’s been relying heavily on a
swimbait hook from Hayabusa that
features a fluorine coating which helps the hook to penetrate both the plastic and the mouth of the fish.
Often, he’ll also add a paste-type scent to enhance the attraction to following fish. Indeed, this lure attracts a lot of followers, and converting them to eaters can be tough. Roumbanis said that’s why he often hesitates in the middle of his slow roll: “Kill it, let it go back down, and they’ll come up and eat it.”
Regardless of which version he’s fishing, he employs the same rod, an IRod Air 754, a 7 foot 5 inch heavy rod that he also uses for frog fishing. Many other heavy action rods in this class are “too stiff and too rigid” to allow the fish to get the whole bait in their mouth, but this one has a sufficiently soft tip to get the job done.
Most of the time, he said that 20 pound fluorocarbon gets the call, because it’s strong enough to handle big clear water bass, but also allows the lure to get maximum thump. It also has sufficient abrasion resistance to stand up to the bushes and pole timber from behind which bass will dart out and engulf his lure. In thick grass, though, he’ll upsize to 50-pound braid.
Of course the key is to match your lure to the forage present in the lake you’re fishing, but if you’re looking to start out with a representative sample, Roumbanis said his favorite is PB Shad (light belly, purple back, gold tones), closely followed by Ghost Minnow and Hitch.
Indeed, this is a fairly simple presentation. The largest hurdle—even for anglers in the Lone Star State used to catching monster bass—may be getting overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of the lure.
“Don’t be overwhelmed by its size,” Roumbanis cautioned. “When you think about it, it’s no bigger than a six-inch Senkos. Once you overcome that fear, and you combine it with the fact that you know the big females are moving into their pre-spawn areas, it’s obvious that this is a prime time way to get your arm ripped off.”
Email Pete Robbins at [email protected]