Jerkbaits Then, Now and Forever

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Dobyns on Jerkbaits Today

Legendary western tournament pro Gary Dobyns goes way back to the early days of jerkbaits, as far back as 30-35 years ago. Rather than talk about his many past experiences and accomplishments, what we thought would be interesting instead are his very latest rod, reel and line recommendations. What are the jerkbaits Dobyns uses today? How have things changed for him with jerkbaits today compared to years ago? Please enjoy a rare insight into the mind of this ripbait master.

Rods for Jerkbaits

First off, Dobyns throws casting (baitcasting) rods. The problem he finds with a spinning rod is the jerk-jerk-pause action causes you to get a little bit of slack back in your line and you end up getting lots of loose loops on a spinning reel. So unless you’re throwing a tiny, lightweight jerkbait, Dobyns favors a casting rod because it eliminates the issue of having loose line coils that lead to tangles with a spinning reel.

These days, Dobyns throws jerkbaits on a seven-footer and he prefer graphite with a mod/fast action. His company, Dobyns Rods, makes both glass composite and graphite rods. He says, “The whole key of a jerkbait rod is that Mod/Fast action. First of all, you get to work the bait properly, but the biggest deal is the forgiveness you get with a lunging fish at boatside. You don’t pull the hooks out of the fish. The rod bends and it saves you lost fish, and that’s the whole deal with the Mod/Fast action.”

Dobyns uses both the 704CB and 705CB graphite models which are 7′ 0″ 4-power or 5-power crankbait rods. Dobyns makes casting rods in several different categories such as crankbait rods (CB), flipping sticks (FL), swimbait rods (SB) and other casting sticks (C). The power designation is different in each category; so a 4-power or 5-power in a flipping rod is far more powerful than the same power in a crankbait rod, and power ratings differ across other categories too.

Model Length Description Line Lure
704CB 7′ 0″ Medium. Mod/Fast Action 8-10 lb StaySee 90, Vision 110, Pointer 100
705CB 7′ 0″ Med/Hvy. Mod/Fast Action 8-12 lb Pointer 100, Pointer 128, Vision 110 MAGNUM
704CB GLASS 7′ 0″ Medium. Fast Action* 8-10 lb StaySee 90, Vision 110, Pointer 100
705CB GLASS 7′ 0″ Med/Hvy. Fast Action* 8-12 lb Pointer 100, Pointer 128, Vision 110 MAGNUM

*: Even though labeled as Fast, these are actually Mod/Fast. Dobyns line-up already had a 705CB Glass rod labeled Mod/Fast. “That one’s really more of a slow, traditional parabolic bend all the way down into the handle,” he says. He chose to label the glass rods above as Fast to differentiate them from the earlier, slower Mod/Fast model.

Megabass and Lucky Craft

Gary says, “I throw most of my jerkbaits on a 704. Some I throw on a 705. If you are throwing a Pointer 128, you’re going to want a 705. A Pointer 100 can go either way. A 704 is a little light for it but it’s great for a 705. The StaySee 90, I think that 704 rod is tailor made for it. The Megabass Vision 110 with the 704, personally I love that combination; it has caught me so many fish lately it’s just unbelievable. If I am throwing the Vision 110 MAGNUM, then I like the 705. Those are pretty much the baits that I’ve been throwing lately – the Megabass and the Lucky Craft. They’re all just phenomenal baits.”

Glass versus Graphite Rods

Although he prefers the graphite models himself, Dobyns glass rods are phenomenal and the 704CB Glass composite rod is actually lighter than the 704CB graphite.

One major difference is that glass has more of a delayed feel. “A lot of guys are of the mindset that they want a fish to be able to grab a jerkbait, turn and load the rod before you feel it and glass does that,” explains Dobyns.

He adds, “Glass is even more forgiving than graphite while fighting a fish. The glass is softer, it loads (bends) farther back into the blank and it’s going to load slower. Overall, it is more forgiving than a graphite rod – and that’s the reason why glass has a huge following. Our sales are about 50/50 between glass and graphite.”

The Right Reel and Line

Dobyns feels that the gear ratio is probably the most important aspect of a reel for a jerkbait. If you use a slower 4.8:1 or 5.1:1 reel that some anglers prefer for cranking (crankbaits), you will find it tough to stay in touch with a jerkbait. Dobyns prefers a 6.3:1 gear ratio and specifically, he uses a Daiwa Zillion. “It’s just a brute of a reel, just a workhorse…and it has the perfect gear ratio for throwing a jerkbait. That’s pretty important,” he says.

Line size is important too. If you go too big, it starts taking away some of the action from the bait because of too much line drag in the water. Dobyns throws jerkbaits quite a bit with 8 lb P-Line CXX. “It’s really strong like a lot of other brands of 10 lb test. I throw a lot of 8 and a lot of 10. If I am on Clear Lake where big bass abound, tossing a bigger bait like a Pointer 128, I will go to 12 lb – but I never, ever throw a jerkbait on more than 12. Most of the time I’m throwing it on 8 and 10 because I get better action out of a jerkbait on thinner line,” explains Dobyns.

P-Line CXX is a low-stretch monofilament. “I’m not a big fluorocarbon fan,” admits Gary. “I have always used mono and I’ve had good luck with it. I don’t break fish off with it. A little stretch with a jerkbait is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a little more forgiving when fighting fish.” He notes, “Some guys like fluorocarbon because they believe it’s going to sink and they’re going to get their bait down a little bit more. If they believe that and it works for them, great. I just have never seen that happen for me. The key is the line size – and thinner gets you more action and more depth.”

Dobyns on Jerkbaits Today

From top down: Dobyns favors the Pointer 128, Vision 110 MAGNUM, Pointer 100, original Vision 110 and StaySee 90 nowadays.

Jerkbaits Then and Now

The biggest change nowadays is that in the old days Dobyns used bright, flashy baits and running depth didn’t matter; the fish would come up to hit the baits. The bigger and brighter, the better.

Dobyns thinks back, “I only threw two baits in the old days. I threw a Bomber Long A chrome color and I threw a Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue in the clown color. Both really bright baits. Over time, the fish have got conditioned to jerkbaits and nowadays, those big bright baits, they just don’t get the bites anymore.”

“With jerkbaits today, now we’re trying to downsize, trying to use infinitely more subtle colors and we’re also trying to get baits down to that 10-12 foot range where we used to just run them under the surface and the fish would come up after them.” He adds, “Perhaps the subtle colors we need to use today are the biggest change. It’s just harder to fool them. They have seen every jerkbait known to man and they’re just harder to fool. Today, you want some wind or cloud cover, something to break some of that light penetration in the water, so they won’t get as good a look at a jerkbait. All of this is a factor nowadays whereas in the old days, give me a calm day with lots of light penetration in the water, and a really bright bait and they’re just going to come that much farther for it. That’s just not true in today’s world; it just doesn’t work that way anymore.”

Impact of the Umbrella Rig

In recent years, the jerkbait has been kind of knocked out by the umbrella rig on a lot of the deep, clear highland lakes of the Southeast USA, and that has also been the case on the deep, clear impoundments of the West.

First introduced with an FLW Tour win by Paul Elias on Lake Guntersville, AL in October 2011, the umbrella rig has proven to be a player in the West from November (December’s even better) through March. The umbrella rig works best when that water is cold and the bass are in that wintertime pattern, maybe even starting to get into their pre-spawn pattern, moving up a little bit. But it’s primarily a wintertime deal. That’s when that umbrella really shines – and so do jerkbaits.

Dobyns says, “For example, I won the WON BASS on Lake Oroville (February 2013) on the umbrella rig. In that tournament, normally I would have been throwing a jerkbait that time of year. Conditions were perfect, but the umbrella in most cases today, it beats the jerkbait. It just catches them too good. It’s definitely a bait to reckon with.”

He continues, “The umbrella rig took the country and the West by storm since it was first introduced, and it is still a definite tournament winning technique (where it’s still allowed) in winter. Like I said, I won a WON BASS on it. However, it is amazing to see how quickly and how much the umbrella rig has fallen off. The fish just don’t bite it like they did the more it gets used from one year to the next. I think it is always going to be around, it’s always going to be a big fish bait but it is no longer the catch ’em every time bait like it was in the beginning. It has tailed off quite a bit from one year to the next.”

“When they first started, you could have a big old ugly resin head on there, bright chrome wires, big baits. Now, guys are having to put finesse baits on them, they’re trying to color and camouflage their wires. They’re already trying to go that real subtle route on the umbrella rig.”

“If it continues to slow down as much with each passing year, then I’ll be back to throwing jerkbaits. The umbrella will still be around – but the phenomena about it will be a thing of the past,” claims Dobyns.

Year-round Jerkbaits

Although umbrellas don’t work well in warm water, jerkbaits do. “The good thing about a jerkbait is I will throw one throughout the year. I prefer it in the wintertime and pre-spawn is my best time – but it catches tons of fish guarding fry in late spring, and you can throw it year-round. Once it starts warming up, that umbrella rig bite is just not good; a jerkbait I think is better.”

When Jerkbaits become Ripbaits

Dobyns say between March and October, that’s his favorite time of the year to throw a ripbait too. A jerkbait is a ripbait in most cases, meaning if it works best when ripped hard and fast. Some work better as ripbaits than others. “I tend to jerk or rip the bait harder and pause it shorter periods of time as the water gets warmer. When the water’s colder, I tend to work it a little bit slower on my jerks and I tend to let it set just a little bit longer. I adjust my cadence and how much power I am putting into the bait. I don’t move it as hard or as fast and let it set longer in winter.”

Russ Bassdozer

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