By David A. Brown
Gary Dobyns loves the spring season; but not only for the warming weather — he’s more enamored with the seasonal bass movement that increases the levels of both quality and quantity. No doubt, the prespawn is the time to punch your ticket on a whopper and the renowned rod maker is all about maximizing his opportunities.
“There are a lot of fish that live deep and a lot of fish that live suspended, but in springtime, they have to come to the bank to spawn,” said the longtime California angler, now residing in Sulfur Springs, Texas. “There are just a lot of fish that are accessible to anglers and a lot easier to catch.”
Noting the importance of targeting the right places, Dobyns said his general game plan involves seeking outside cover heading into the spawning pockets. Specifically, he likes ledges, points, and any hard structure the fish can use for staging before advancing into the shallow zone.
“I like a light breeze and nice stable weather where it’s been the same for a couple of days,” Dobyns said. “A warming trend is always nice because that gets the fish moving. It seems that as soon as that water temperature comes up 4-5 degrees, it doesn’t matter where you are, those fish start going to the bank, getting into that prespawn mode and feeding.”
That light breeze, Dobyns said, breaks up the surface, mutes light penetration and decreases the fish’s visibility. With the bass less wary and more apt to make a mistake, Dobyns puts a trio of Yamamoto baits into action.
Lauded as one of the most user-friend baits ever invented, this ultra-limber worm with tapered ends and a salty constitution is Dobyns’ go-to choice for several spring scenarios. For maximum efficiency, Dobyns uses one of two rigging options, depending on where he’s targeting prespawners.
“You can’t hardly fish it wrong,” Dobyns said of the Senko’s diversity. “The Senko really started as a weightless fall bait, but you can nail weight it and fish it in deeper water. If I’m going to fish over 10-15 feet of water, I’m definitely nail weighting the bait; but if I’m fishing really shallow I just fish it straight-up Texas rigged or wacky.”
Regardless of rigging style, Dobyns says the Senko’s appeal is simple — that junk in the trunk.
“The action of that Senko with that little wag in the tail, it’s just a great prespawn bait,” he said. “When you nail weight it with a O-ring, the bait actually stands up in the water very, very well. That’s just an action that makes the fish want to eat it.
“It will fall over if you give it a lot of slack line, but a lot of the time, we’re dragging it, we’re shaking it; we’re dragging it, we’re shaking it, so that tail just continues to stand up and wiggle.”
The reason this action proves so important during the spring is that it’s always fishing for you. As Dobyns points out, anglers fishing deeper spots won’t always detect bedding fish.
“Many times, you’re dragging it through beds you don’t even know are there,” he said. “You’re blind casting and catching a lot of bed fish that you don’t even know are on beds.”
For his spring work, Dobyns often uses the baby bass and natural shad colors; but it the water has a little tint, his all-time favorite is watermelon/green pumpkin laminate. In more off-colored water, he goes with black or green pumpkin.
As for prespawn targets, Dobyns likes skipping his weightless Senko under floating docks for fish holding near the surface and warming their backs. He’ll also throw it in sparse grass or holes in dense grass, along dock pilings and next to standing timber.
“The wacky-rig is a slow presentation that you have to fish on slack line so the bait has a straight vertical fall and they just can’t stand it,” Dobyns said. “Once that bait hits the bottom, I may shake it once or twice and then wind it in and make another cast. I do not ‘work’ a weightless bait.
“That’s completely opposite from how I fish a nail-weighted Senko. I’ll sometimes cast it up toward the bank and fish it, but I’ve caught nail-weighted fish in 55-60 feet of water. I don’t prefer to fish that deep, but sometimes, that’s just where the better quality fish are.”
Tackle: Dobyns Champion 735C baitcaster when fishing 12-pound line or heavier in giant factories like Lake Fork, the Cal Delta or Clear Lake. When open water allows him to get away with 8-pound line, he’ll go with a Dobyns Champion 733 SS spinning outfit.
This one’s kinda sentimental, as it was one of the baits Dobyns fished during his 2009 U.S. Open win. Even beyond this convincing experience, he says the flamboyant plastic has been a consistent prespawn producer — especially when rigged on a 1/4- to 1-ounce football head.
With green pumpkin, cinnamon purple flake and watermelon black flake his top colors, Dobyns said he’s usually fishing this bait with a bottom presentation, but he has also caught a lot of fish while swimming his Hula Grub back to the boat.
“I let it fall on taught line, so it’s swimming all the way down and then work it across the bottom,” Dobyns said. “I’ll also swim it across points, like a crankbait. The difference is that, unlike a crankbait, you can control the depth by varying the football head size.
“You can fish this bait really fast. That’s what I like — you don’t have to slow jig it. The Hula Grub has so much action, you can fish as fast as want.”
Tackle: Dobyns does most of his Hula Grub work with a Champion 704 or 744. The latter’s his choice for deeper water, as the extra fast action affords him better hook sets.
Viewing this 5-inch bait as a predecessor to the modern swimbait craze, Dobyns fishes the hefty grub on either a light ball head or a darter head. This is mainly a light line, open water Western technique, so the open hook rigging style works just fine.
“That Super Grub is always fishing,” Dobyns said. “You can drag it on the bottom or you can swim it. The tail’s always moving. It’s absolutely deadly.”
Fishing a Super Grub on nothing heavier than 8-pound line, Dobyns uses only spinning tackle for this technique. Smoke Pepper and Baby Bass are is favorite colors and Dobyns notes that this bait, too, has a special place in his heart.
My son (Richard) caught his very first fish on a Super Grub when he was four years old,” he said. “This is a great bait for novices and small kids because it’s always fishing. They’re going to catch a lot of fish.”