In a stunning victory that required a tie-breaker procedure to decide the victor, 15-year-old Jackson Roumbanis from Russellville, Arkansas, became the youngest competitor to win a Hobie Bass Open Series (BOS) Anchored by Power-Pole® event.
Competing on Russellville, AR’s famed bass haven, Lake Dardanelle, Roumbanis finished in a first-place tie with Francis Tran, 30, of Starkville, Mississippi, each recording 165 inches of largemouth bass in the two-day, catch, photograph and release (CPR) tournament. The tie was broken by the largest fish taken between the two competitors, an 18.50-inch lunker giving the young angler the victory over Tran’s 18-inch top effort. Jordan Marshall, 27, of Maryville, Tennessee, finished third with 163.5 inches of bass.
“What a great event this turned out to be!” said Hobie BOS tournament director, A.J. McWhorter. “This is our third visit to Lake Dardanelle, and it was our largest attended event here – and the largest kayak tournament event of any kind ever held in the state of Arkansas. September is always a challenging time of year for bass as the fish transition into their fall patterns. Those challenges, however, showcased the skills of our anglers as they worked hard to come away with some solid scores and many familiar names made big moves to improve their AFTCOAngler of the Year (AOY) standings. Add in a teenage, first-time kayak tournament angler winning against a stacked field of national-class competitors from around the country and it proved to be one of the most entertaining events of our season.”
Indeed, it was, as Roumbanis tallied 86.5 inches of bucketmouths to finish third on Day One of the event and moved into a first-place tie with Tran after adding 78.75 inches of bass to his tally with an eight-place finish on Day 2. Tran finished in seventh-place on Day 1 with an 82.25 limit and followed that up with 82.75 inches on Day 2, which was good for fifth. Third-place finisher Jordan Marshall, meanwhile, rallied from a 23rd-place finish on Day 1 with a 75.75-inch haul to lead the field on Day 2 with 87.75 inches.
For their efforts, Roumbanis earned $8,100, Tran took home $4,200, and Marshall received $2,300. James Haeberle of Colcord, OK, took home Bassin’ Big Bass honors and a $500 check for a 21.5-inch lunker caught on Day 1. AFTCO AOY points were also distributed to the first 100 finishers. Additionally, Roumbanis, Tran and Marshall qualified for the Hobie Tournament of Champions (TOC).
“I’ve won a few fishing tournaments for juniors,” said Roumbanis, “but this is the first time I’ve competed at an adult level, so it’s hard to believe I came out on top. This was my first Hobie BOS event – and first kayak tournament. I was a little worried at the start because my options were limited. I don’t drive so I had to have my Dad drop me off at the lake. That meant I had to make my spot work both days until he picked me up in the afternoon. If the bite wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be able to pull my boat and head to another ramp.”
Turns out Roumbanis had no need for concern. Working main points, lily pads and deeper grasses off of sandbar points, he scored right out of the gate and had his best action tossing frogs early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Following a solid performance on Day 1, he hit the same area to clean-up on Day 2.
“I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time,” explained Roumbanis, humbly. “Both Frances and Jordan fished really well, too. Finishing in a tie was awesome – I didn’t realize I had won until I heard my name called at the awards ceremony. I’d like to thank my family for their support and the Hobie community for treating me so well during the event,” continued Roumbanis,” adding that tips learned from his father, pro bass angler Fred Roumbanis, factored heavily in his victory. “I would especially like to give a shout out to Drew Gregory,” he continued. “I met him at some fishing shows, and he encouraged me to enter this event.”
For his part, Tran, who has now competed in all three Hobie Lake Dardanelle events, spent a week scouting and pre-fishing only to return to his favorite spot. Probing a backwater pond with big matts of milfoil, extremely shallow water and clean visibility on both days, he threw a weedless soft-plastic frog and followed-up missed hits with a Berkley PowerBait® MaxScent The General worm.
“I worked that frog real slow because the mats were so thick,” revealed Tran. “If a bass missed that frog, I’d immediately pitch that General into the hole it left behind. I probably connected with 50-percent of the fish that missed on their first strike. I had limits before 9:30 a.m. on both days. The fishing was consistent, but I just couldn’t find a big kicker to put me over the top.”
Tran made a point to recognize the performance by Roumbanis, noting it’s the kind of story every young angler dreams about. “He competed against a star-studded field with some big names here. To walk away a winner, that’s just amazing. With kayak fishing at this level, everything has to go perfect on both days for that kind of outcome. I fish the Hobie BOS because it’s the most difficult, challenging and competitive kayak fishing tournament out there. If you get a victory here, you really earned it. Congratulations on a job well done.”
As for Marshall, he was pleased with his third-place finish. “I’ll take it every time,” said the frequent Hobie BOS competitor who fishes from a Hobie Pro Angler 14. “I had found some fish around main islands in practice, but they were gone come tourney time, so I had to scramble a bit,” he revealed. “I ended up pushing far back into a creek and the action there was solid. On Day 1, I used a Jackhammer and had my limit in 20 minutes once I got on that spot. At that point, I left those fish to rest.”
Returning on Day 2, Marshall found the bite still red-hot and pounded away with a 20.5-inch brute helping him take the day’s top limit at 87 inches. “I thought I might win the event because I was in first when the leader board was turned off,” he recalled. “Still, I was working moving baits both days, which is what I love to do, so it really was fun fishing.”
Marshall, too, offered kudus to Roumbanis on his improbable win. “I’ve had some strong finishes but never won a Hobie event, so he’s off to a great start,” he said. “Obviously, he’s a fantastic angler. I hope to see him again at the TOC.”
So does McWhorter, who summed up the event as being a real thriller. “Lake Dardanelle and the city of Russellville has always welcomed the Hobie community while sharing their great bass fishery with our kayak anglers,” he concluded. “This was our last open event for 2022, and it was wonderful to see a 15-year-old in his first national level kayak event get the win. As we wrap up this season, it shows us a bright glimpse into the future of competitive fishing, and kayak fishing in particular.”
The final stop for the 2022 Hobie BOS Anchored by Power-Pole® series is the 2022 Hobie Tournament of Champions (TOC) on Caddo Lake, November 11-13, in Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana. The TOC is a three-day, 50-angler championship with a $100,000 payout guarantee and $45,000 first-place prize.