AZ Lakes, AZ Pros Gary Dobyns Winter Tournament Fishing

Bass Fishing In Winter Gary Dobyns Talks Winter Tournament Fishing

 
Series: Arizona Lakes Arizona Pros | Story 44

December 1, 2022

Gary Dobyns is arguably one of the best western bass anglers ever.

AZ Lakes, AZ Pros – Bass Fishing In Winter

Gary Dobyns Talks Winter Tournament Fishing

From Dobyns To Margie Anderson

I know Gary Dobyns is originally a California boy, but he’s in Texas now and no matter where he lives, he is arguably one of the best western bass anglers EVER. So this month, I’m letting Gary tell you how he approaches winter tournaments. Even if you don’t fish tournaments, this will help your winter bass fishing. So here’s Gary:

One of the questions I get most is: What’s the best way to start fishing in the winter? I don’t know yet what the best way is, but I can tell you how I start out, regardless of the weather, the water temperature, or the location. I start out shallow. That’s because I firmly believe that there are always shallow bass no matter how cold it is or what the conditions are.


Locating Deep Is Time Consuming

I know that a lot of guys immediately go deep in winter, and I also know that there are plenty of fish caught deep this time of year. But locating and fishing deep fish is time consuming. When you target shallow fish you’re targeting feeding fish, and they’re just flat easier to catch.

I remember one tournament in particular that drove this lesson home. It was very tough, a brutal bite, and at 10:30 I still didn’t have a fish. I was fishing about twenty-five feet deep, and hating every minute of it. A friend stopped by and asked me how I was doing, and I told him the truth – I was doing worse than lousy.


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His first question was “how deep are you fishing?”. When I told him I was twenty-five feet deep, he said, “Well, dumb-ass, there’s your problem. You ought to be fishing five feet or less!” He was right, even though there was a brutal north wind and the water temperature was 46 degrees. I went to the bank and by the time my 3:00 weigh-in came around I was leading the tournament that first day. I ended up second, and I caught every one of my fish five feet or shallower. I also learned a lesson I’ve benefited from ever since.

Find A Shallow Pattern First

No matter what the conditions are, I try to find a shallow pattern first. If I’m pre-fishing I’ll fish shallow all day long, and even if my pre-fishing hasn’t located a reliable shallow pattern, I’ll still go to the bank the first hour of any tournament. I know that a lot of guys say to go shallow later in the day in winter, after the water has warmed up, but I find that the first hour is usually my most productive time.


The places that produce the most fish, even in the dead of winter, can be surprising. I’ll go clear to the back of a creek, especially if there is water coming in. The fish get in there and put their heads in the current, just waiting for the current to bring them something to eat. It’s amazing how shallow they will be, even in the coldest water.

There's Something About Red Mud Banks

I also love mud banks, especially red mud banks. I don’t care if it’s flat, sloping, or whatever. Something about a red mud bank just seems to attract fish. Points are also a good place for feeding fish, no matter what time of year it is. I like the ones that go way out and have a good big flat area. Fish come up there to feed, and feeding fish are active fish that will take a reaction bait.


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Docks are good places, and I also fish a shallow bait around bridge pilings. I’ll start out in pre-fish trying everything, and watch where the bites are coming from, trying to put a pattern together. Sometimes it might be a suspended fish pattern: I might find them by getting on a steep wall and ripping a shallow jerk bait.

Try A Variety Of Baits

I’ll try a variety of baits, including rip baits and spinner baits, and I’ll also try fishing a jig or a worm shallow. I flat move that jig or worm, too, fishing fast and moving down the bank so I can throw at a 45 degree angle to the bank. I fish it back about five or ten feet, then throw it again. I hop and shake a Texas-rigged worm or hop and shake a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jig. No matter what I’m throwing, I fish it fast. A shaky-head worm works pretty good sometimes, too. Just stick with bait fish colors and work at getting it in front of them.


If I can’t get a shallow bite going after a full day of trying, I’m going to get in a creek and start watching my meter. They’re going to be in there somewhere. Maybe they’ll be at twenty feet, maybe at forty, but you’re going to find them if you watch your meter, and if you’re in a good creek with some water flowing.


When it rains and the fish stick their heads in the current, they are really bait oriented. I fish spinner baits and jigs in current, and I use a lot of Robo Worms if I’m fishing deeper in the cuts. If there isn’t any current and I can’t find fish in the creeks, I move out to other stuff.

Next Stop: Flats, Long Flat Points

Next stop will be flats and long flat points, and I search with my meter, looking for good structure as well as fish in 25 to 60 feet of water. Even if I don’t actually see any fish, I’ll often fish an area just because I really believe that fish will be there. I use a lot of 3/4- to 1-ounce football head jigs and Hula Grubs, and also dart heads and shaky heads with those 6-inch Robos.


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On flats, one of the best ways I’ve found to fish a jig is to simply drag it around with the boat, getting on and off the trolling motor to keep it going. I don’t hop it, I just drag it around. Most of the time on the flats I’m throwing jigs, and in cuts I’m using worms.

Weather Plays A Part

Weather seems to be a big factor. In a low pressure I’ll fish shallow, but a high pressure is more likely to force me to go deep. The exception is the Delta, because there I’ll be fishing shallow no matter what.

If you don’t at least try to get on a shallow pattern, you’re probably going to end up spending way too much time finding fish. No matter what the conditions are like, at least give a shallow pattern a good try. You may be in for a pleasant surprise.


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