In January 2009, Dobyns Rods was started. It was one of the worst economic times in the world to think of starting a rod company but “It was the right time for me”, stated Gary. Dobyns Rods is now a strong, family run company that is now supplying the bass fishing world with fantastic rods. Gary Dobyns has been designing rods since the late 80’s when he built his first rod with Abu Garcia, the Rippin’ Stick. He designed rods for several rod companies in the next two decades. Gary has started several companies from the ground floor up. With his daughter, Miranda, having the education and experience for the business side of things, his son, Richard, handling customer service and day to day operations and Gary’s design and promotion skills, makes it a strong family business. The fact that both Gary and Richard are strong competitors with many Angler of the Year titles and wins for each helps to further the promotion of Dobyns Rods. They have quickly become one of the major players in the fishing rod industry. Gary was gracious enough to take time and talk with me not only about Dobyns Rods but rods in general. I think you’ll find some answers and great information in the next few paragraphs.
All fishing rod manufacturers use some common terms when they describe their rods. Action and power ratings are the most common. I asked Gary if he would help me discover some easy descriptions to these terms.
Manufacturers use the phrase ‘tip action’. It’s easy to understand that this is talking about the tip of the rod. However, what do the terms “fast” or “extra fast” mean exactly? According to Gary, the tip action is best explained as how fast the rod actually starts loading up. When you set the hook, the tip of the rod is the first thing to start bending. How fast the tip stops bending and the rod starts taking up the load is the action. The faster the rod takes on the load (the less the tip actually bends) the faster the rating. So a fast action tip may bend 16-18 inches down the blank when loaded up, but an extra fast action tip will only bend 10-12 inches down the blank before the rod starts to transfer load into the whole rod (distance depicted is example only). So in easy terms think of tip action of when the rod will shut off the bend starting from the tip. The faster the action the quicker that bend is going to start coming into the power of the rod.
Next I asked Gary about power ratings. After he stopped chuckling I asked why the chuckle. “Well, power rating is very difficult to explain. It really depends on the category of rod we are talking about. A 3 power or Med/Hvy action rod for general fishing is going to be quite a bit different than a 3 power or Med/Hvy rod that is in a flipping or swimbait category.” In general, power ratings are talking about the “back bone” of the rod. The higher the power rating, the stiffer and more powerful the rod is going to be. Most rod companies have a swimbait power rating, a flippin’ stick power rating, a crankbait power rating and a rating for regular spinning and casting rods that aren’t technique specific. These power ratings will vary a lot. For example, a 5 power rated swimbait rod is on the light side for a swimbait rod. A 5 power rated crankbait rod, many times, is a fairly powerful crankbait rod. A 5 power flippin’ stick is a middle power rating. There are lighter or much heavier powers in a flippin’ stick. Now, for your regular spinning and casting rods, a 5 power is very powerful and is many times called a Mag/Hvy. This is a part of the power rating that is confusing to many anglers.
We used to hear a lot about parabolic bend rods and that they were a ‘must’ for crankbait fishing. I asked Gary why this has seemed to fall off the bass fishing ‘must have’ scene. “With today’s technology and materials, we are able to build better action rods that are lighter and Mod-Fast and they better fill the need that the ‘parabolic’ rods filled. It was all about catching bass on baits with treble hooks and how that action was able to prevent the bait from tearing out. We build glass rods that are fantastic at absorbing any surges, yet still give you strength to control that fish.” I asked him what the true definition of a parabolic bending rod was. “It’s a rod that has a slow bend or action throughout the rod. When you load a true parabolic rod, the whole rod bends back close to the handle and even into the handle. Parabolic rods are not very popular today and Dobyns Rods doesn’t make any.” Gary stated that he did make one very slow action glass rod that is fairly close to being parabolic. He said he made this rod for the old-school glass rod guys that are looking for that “loose action”. The model is a 705 CBMF Glass rod.
I also asked Gary about EVA foam handles versus cork handles. Which is better? He replied, “From a manufacturer stand point the EVA is better. It’s easier to get and it’s a lot cheaper. However, our general customer base prefers the cork handles. Cork is very expensive so many companies choose to not use it. Since day one our company has always tried to give the fishermen what they want. Therefore, we use cork on every rod except our swimbait rods.” Most diehard swimbait guys prefer EVA type handles.
The big rage on the bass fishing market right now seems to be Micro guides. What is your take on them? Gary quickly replied with a laugh, “I hate them.” He went on to say that Micro guides lighten the tip of the rod which helps some manufacturers with tip heavy rods. Even though Gary is not a Micro guide fan, he will build what the customer wants. He has been asked many times about Micro guides and will be offering them very soon. Gary said that Micro guides will be available in the Savvy Series line in July this year.
Inside the Dobyns Rods lineup you will find a variety of rods that have full grips and split grips. This got me to thinking why? So Gary, what are the advantages or disadvantages? “I prefer full grip myself,” he said. “However our customers like both for different reasons.” He went on to say, “If I was building custom rods for myself only, I’d mostly make full grips. I like to be able to get hold of a rod to make a cast but many anglers like the knob on the end of a split grip to help make roll casts. For me that knob is always stuck in my jacket pocket and it drives me crazy (again with a chuckle – Mr. Dobyns is a blast to chat with).” He closed this by saying, “It’s all about the customers. We have to build what they want to use. Just because I like something or the way it feels doesn’t mean that it’s a perfect match to someone else. We are always looking for input.” He went on to say that split handles offer a different, more modern look. Gary feels that longer handled rods like crankbait, flippin’ sticks, and swimbait rods should have full handles.
I’ve always heard that you should decide the length of rod to use by how tall you are. I’ve even given some advice to that effect. However, Gary said that this is one of the biggest misconceptions in the industry. Height has nothing to do with the best rod length. Type of baits and presentation do. Longer rods cast farther, take up more line on hook sets, and fight fish better. The longer rods tend to make up for anglers’ mistakes when they get out of position for a hook set. If you get bit with a high rod, the added length can help you still get a good hook set. According to Gary, the only time a short rod is beneficial is for anglers that work a jerkbait with the rod pointed at the water. In this case, the longer rod will hit the water preventing a proper presentation of the bait.
This led me to ask Gary why all the different sizes in the same model then? He replied, “It’s all about the anglers. We want to give them what they feel they need. One group likes a 7 foot rod while another likes a 7 foot 3 inch rod. While we can’t make every size in single inch increments we have narrowed down the most popular.”
Let’s get to the nitty gritty! From the man that designs them, what rod do you recommend for these applications?
What rod do you recommend for deep crankbaits?
“The 805CBRM. This rod was designed to launch deep diving crankbaits a mile but still maintain that Mod-Fast action. Because of the great materials there is the added sensitivity so you can feel everything down there with your crankbait,” said Gary. “When fishing a deep diving crankbait, the key is to get it down to the strike zone and cover as much water as you can there. Being able to cast further allows that bait to stay in the strike zone longer. Randy McAbee, FLW National Guard AOY, dominates with a crankbait so we worked very closely with him to design the perfect rod for this presentation. “
What rod do you recommend for square bill crankbaits?
“The 764CBRM is a great all around rod for smaller cranks from square bills to your medium diving crankbaits”, said Gary. “Again we pinned Randy down to help design the perfect rod and we did. Anglers absolutely love this rod. That said, both the 704CB and 705CB Glass are fantastic rods for square bills, as well. We have customers that use all three and swear by them. Our glass rods are not any heavier than the graphite and the performance is fantastic.”
Gary, you’re known as a jerkbait master. What rod do you recommend for jerkbaits?
“My favorite has got to be the 704CB graphite,” responded Gary. “It casts well, works the bait perfectly and loads just right so I don’t lose fish.”
What rod do you recommend for shaky heads for soft plastics?
“Most people use spinning tackle for this application and the 702SF and 703SF are the most popular and very effective rods,” answered Gary. “If you’re more of bait casting angler then the Champion 702C or DX742C are the perfect rods and will give you phenomenal sensitivity.
So Mr. Dobyns what’s next in the Dobyns Rod line up? “We are always working on something. Right now we are field testing an 8 foot Carolina Rig rod for folks in Texas that use 6-7 foot leaders. We are also working with some swimbait anglers that want to be able to throw a 2 pound bait. Right now we have our line up pretty much set and we are working on some niche markets. We are working with some new materials so stand by for something new within the next 6 months. It’s dangerous from a manufacturing stand point because you never know if you’ll sell enough to cover the R and D side of it. But we try to our best ability to give the anglers what they want/need.