Receiving the invitation to join the Bassmaster Elite Series was a “bittersweet experience” for Robbie Latuso.
It was sweet for Latuso because he reached a pinnacle he had always sought, but it was bitter because he surpassed his son in the 2016 Bassmaster Central Opens Angler of the Year (AOY) standings to secure one of the coveted top five spots for Elite Series invites. “He was having a good year, and we thought he was going to make it.” Robbie said. “Then in the last tournament I bumped him out when I finished fifth (in the AOY standings) and he finished sixth.”
In the Central Open finale at the Atchafalaya Basin, Robbie nudged out Logan by placing 31st in the tournament while Logan took 34th place. Robbie finished with 534 points, and Logan accumulated 526 points in the Central Opens AOY standings.
During Robbie Latuso’s childhood days, his dad Mickey provided him and his brother Mitch with a boat, but he recalls they “kind of learned” how to fish on their own. “I have always chased bass,” he said. “I had a few ponds around my house where I grew up, and I would try to go catch bass every evening after school.”
The Gonzalez, La., angler got sidetracked from fishing when he went to college and played baseball for Southeastern Louisiana University. His baseball playing days ended after graduating from college, so he decided to start fishing competitively. He recalls finishing second in the first tournament (a local pro-am event) he ever fished. “Everyone was saying my old man must have put me on those fish,” Latuso said. “We got a kick out of that because my Dad didn’t know how to fish.”
Latuso’s passion to compete in bass tournaments was stoked by Paul Rossi, who competed in Bassmaster invitationals and Top 100 events in the 1980s and 1990s. “He would come home from the tournaments and I would eat lunch with him and he would tell me stories,” Latuso said. “So he was the one who got me hooked I’m pretty sure. Paul is now a Bass Cat rep, and I still talk to him.”
After fishing local tournaments for a couple of years, Latuso decided to join the B.A.S.S. Nation club Baton Rouge Bassmasters and eventually switched to the Ascension Area Anglers, another B.A.S.S. Nation club that has churned out Bassmaster Classic qualifiers Jamie Laiche and Ryan Lavigne. Latuso believes the tough competition in the club helped mold him into a better angler.
“It was harder to win one of those club tournaments than it was a state federation tournament,” he said. “There were a lot of good anglers in that club.”
Latuso thrived in the B.A.S.S. Nation as he qualified for the Louisiana Nation state team seven of the eight years he fished clubs. He also honed his skills competing in Bassmaster Invitationals from 1995 to 1997.
His quest to learn more about bass fishing led to one of the highlights of his career when he entered the 2009 Bassmaster Central Open at Toledo Bend and won the event as a co-angler. After fishing the three Central Opens in 2019 as a co-angler, Latuso switched to the pro side and fished a Southern Open and two Central Opens in 2010.
When he won the Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation state championship in 2013, Latuso decided he was done fishing at the club level and devoted his full time to fishing the Bassmaster Opens to qualify for the Elite Series. He competed in the Central Opens in 2013 and 2014, but switched to the Southern Opens in 2015.
His son Logan joined him in the Central Opens in 2014 and the Southern Opens in 2015. They both switched back to the Central Opens in 2016 when the father beat out the son for the Elite Series invite. Robbie thinks it is “just a matter of time” until Logan joins him in the Elite Series. “I am pretty sure he will,” Robbie said. “When he is ready, he will make it.”
After putting in his time, Robbie considered he was finally a pro when he qualified for the Elites. “It is always what I wanted to do,” he said. “I have always felt like I was a fisherman, and I think I was meant to be a fisherman. I was always consumed about bass fishing so I thought I needed to be a bass fisherman.”
Now that he is competing in the Elite Series, Latuso’s latest career goals include winning an Elite Series event – and holding “a blue trophy over my head” – and qualifying for a Bassmaster Classic.
Accustomed to fishing the dirty, shallow waters of Louisiana, Latuso feels most comfortable when fishing with a flipping stick in his hands. “I am definitely a flipper,” he said. “I like to fish slow and pick apart cover. I am not very good at fishing fast.” He also considers fishing with spinning tackle and finesse tactics as his weaknesses.
Ironically, Latuso has noted some of his best finishes in Elite Series events have been in deep, clear fisheries where he has resorted to drop shotting. He credits his success in those events to being “forced to learn, do or die.”
The 52-year-old Latuso owns a ServiceMaster franchise, which does fire and water damage restoration. When Robbie is on the Elite Series trail, Logan handles the business for him. “So he keeps everything running which takes the financial stress off of me,” Robbie said. He will have to come up with a Plan B for the business if Logan also qualifies for the Elites soon.