The old bait that won’t die

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This is the Optimum Baits Boom Boom swimbait designed by Fred Roumbanis.

This is the latest chapter in the continuing saga entitled, “The Last Secret Bait Of The Pros.” It’s the story of the discontinued Bass Pro Shops XPS swimbait. Its roots run deep and have spread throughout the history of the Bassmaster Elite Series.

The legend of this swimbait was born before the Bassmaster Elite Series began in March 2006 at Texas’ Lake Amistad. If Fred Roumbanis hadn’t shared some information then with a couple of his fellow anglers, there’s no telling how Elite Series history might have been altered. Takahiro Omori might not have won the recent Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Wheeler Lake. Steve Kennedy might not have won the Elite Series tournament at California’s Clear Lake in 2007 or the Elite Series tournament at Georgia’s West Point Lake in 2011.

A key lure in those three $100,000 titles was found in the bargain bins at Bass Pro Shops stores. The story of the discontinued Bass Pro Shops XPS 6-inch soft plastic swimbait has been simmering under the surface for over a decade now. And thanks to Roumbanis, it might finally boil to the top in the form of a new lure with a new name by a different company ­– the Optimum Baits Boom Boom swimbait.

But let’s begin at the beginning, which pre-dates the Bassmaster Elite Series. Roumbanis, a native Californian and a longtime swimbait expert, led on the second day of the Western Open on Lake Shasta and finished second in the tournament that concluded on Nov. 19, 2005. He was using the Bass Pro swimbait.

Then – in the first-ever Bassmaster Elite Series tournament – Roumbanis finished second to Ish Monroe on March 12, 2006, at Lake Amistad with a four-day total of 101-13 to Monroe’s 104-8. And he was again relying on the old Bass Pro swimbait. That’s when he shared his knowledge of the swimbait with Kennedy and Omori, and actually handed one to Kennedy – one. The bait had already been removed from the catalog at Bass Pro Shops.

“I wouldn’t have told anybody about it if I’d known they could get any of them,” laughed Roumbanis in a phone interview recently.

First, Kennedy’s father found them in the Macon, Ga., Bass Pro Shops bargain bin as a closeout item.

“He called and told me they had them for $1.99,” Kennedy recalled. “I’m like, ‘Are you sure they’re the right ones? Well, buy them all.’ So he bought a shopping cart full. Takahiro apparently got a shopping cart full somewhere else.”

Yep. At a Bass Pro Shops bargain bin in Texas.

“Takahiro called me,” Roumbanis said. “He said, ‘Was that swimbait you were using (at Amistad) the six-inch one?’ I told him, yes, buy every one of them and I’ll pay you for them.”

Before Roumbanis could get there, Omori fished with a few and found out how well they worked. He still sold Roumbanis some, but nowhere near all of the Bass Pro Shops XPS swimbaits he bought that day.

“I have maybe a hundred,” Omori said after his win at Wheeler Lake. “When they were discontinued, they were like $1.99. They had about 250 of them. I bought every one of them.”

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