Professional anglers are businesses unto themselves. Their "corporations" require exhausting efforts — both in the office and on the water — to be successful. Ask any of the successful anglers on tour, and they'll likely tell you that there's more work than one person can complete. Their business requires their own vision as well as that of another person to handle some of the day-to-day operations, if they're ever going to reach the top.
There may be no better representation of the impact a Bass Chief Operating Officer can have on her husband's fishing career than Julie Roumbanis. The daughter of Steve Swisher, an engineer who has worked for Zebco and Lowrance, Mrs. Roumbanis had been around the fishing business most of her life.
Before meeting his wife in June 2006, Fred Roumbanis was a good angler who showed flashes of brilliance mixed with inconsistency. However, since meeting his wife, Roumbanis has amassed some $693,540 in BASS earnings, two Elite level wins and two trips to the Bassmaster Classic. As Roumbanis would agree, his wife is the $600,000 woman ... and climbing.
The impact she made was immediate. She took control of scheduling, booking travel arrangements and communications.
"Julie took all of the drama out of my career right away," said the Bixby, Okla. pro. "She took over the running of the business end so that I could focus on finding and catching fish, and she did it all herself; I didn't ask her to."
For Mrs. Roumbanis, it was a labor of love from the start. "We knew that we were going to build a life together," she said. "I saw that Fred had a God-given talent for fishing; I wanted to be a part of supporting him and building our life around his talent."
What supporting him meant to her was that she would completely free his mind from all of the day-to-day busy work so he could concentrate on fishing. Those tasks not only meant the office work and travel coordination, but also a life on the road. "Being on the road is really our 'normal' life," she said of her and the couple's three-year-old son, Jackson, who accompany Roumbanis on the road. "When we're at home, it feels more like a departure from reality."
Days start early for the Roumbanis family, as the alarm usually sounds by 4:00 a.m. They pack up the lunches and supplies into Roumbanis' Triton then take him to the launch ramp for practice or a tournament day. After he's in the water, Mrs. Roumbanis and Jackson see to the needs of the day. Sometimes they include trips to the grocery store, a tackle store or even trips to the service yard for repairs to the trailer or tow vehicle.
Following the morning's errands, they retreat to the hotel or rental house where she lays Jackson down for a nap then opens the computer for some communications work. It's during this time that she plans travel, gets directions and communicates with sponsors. In the afternoon, on tournament days she drives to the weigh-in. If it's a practice day, she picks her husband up around dusk from the boat ramp. The next day they start the whole process over again.
Some might ask why she would go through all the trouble of performing all of those duties. "We're a team. We are working together to build a life for ourselves and for Jackson," she said. "We won't ever quit on Fred, and he will never quit on us. He goes out there and fishes beyond his passion and drive, and he does it for us — to give us a life. Even when it hurts to be out there, we're in this together. I never felt like I had a special place in this world until I met Fred, and knowing that makes me want to do everything I can to help him be what I know he can be."
Roumbanis said he realizes the effort his family puts into his career and is humbled by it.
"Yes, this is an individual sport — on the water," he said. "But it's a total team effort otherwise, and I wouldn't want to be doing this any other way than with Julie and Jackson with me."