Pro anglers are busy breaking in their boats and prepping baits. They’re out pre-practicing at lakes and visiting the JM studio – yep, bass fishing season is almost here.
Bassmaster Elite Series angler Fred Roumbanis made his first ever appearance at the Little Rock arm of B.A.S.S., where he drove about an hour from his home near Lake Dardanelle. His new neighbor arrived soon after for their day of interviews.
“We should have ridden over together,” sophomore Elite Jamie Hartman told Roumbanis.
Hartman moved just outside Russellville about a month ago. Last year, the New Yorker had pulled up stakes to compete on the Elites, throwing all his belongings in storage to hit the road for the big show. His inaugural Elite season was a success by all measures as he finished runner-up for the Rookie of the Year title.
“If you told me I could take that again (this season), I’d take it right now,” he said of being 13th overall in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year point standings and qualifying for the Classic.
After his season, Hartman returned to New York and stayed with a friend because he had no place of his own – he literally sold the farm once he qualified to fish the Elites. How he chose Arkansas as his new residence came around deer season.
“I came down and visited a buddy to do some hunting,” he said. “I planned on staying almost a week – I stayed two weeks, because it was a good time. Then it got warm so we fished, and we caught them good.”
Soon, his friend’s wife was showing Hartman rental properties, he put down money to lease a home about two miles from a Dardanelle ramp and moved all his things in. He thought central Arkansas was a good choice because it’s centrally located for the 2018 Elite schedule, and the lakes and rivers in the state can help him get a bead on most styles of fishing.
“You can get a bunch of different bites going” in Arkansas, he said. “I’m not that familiar with that lake at all yet. I still haven’t got my boat this season.”
When he gets it, he’ll try to emulate what he did to fare so well last season. That’s includes studying the fisheries.
“It’s time on the water,” he said. “Just try to get out there and spend time on that lake, get to know it, know my way around. A lot of graphing.”
He’s already been to the opening venue, the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Martin presented by Econo Lodge, Feb. 8-11. And he’s also been to Lake Hartwell, site of the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, March 16-18.
“After that, when I can go, I’m going to go,” he said. “We got something coming up on the schedule, I’ll go.”
He’ll have to know the lakes pretty well if he hopes to match his rookie season, which saw him vie for titles on Cherokee Lake (second) and Toledo Bend (third). He also had two sixths and a seventh, but several low finishes, including third from last at the AOY Championship, put him one point behind Dustin Connell in the ROY race. Like he said, if he could duplicate last year, he’d take it.
“I want it to be better – I don’t want it to be worse,” he said.