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Mister Rippin'
by Gary Dobyns with Jon Storm
Reprinted by permission of Bass West USA Magazine.

Rippin', in my opinion, is really very easy. I like to call it a "bonehead" technique. People make it out to be much harder than it really is; but in essence, it's simple. That's its beauty, plus the fact that it catches an unbelievable amount of fish.

And right now, during the coldwater months, is a fantastic time to use this technique. The best. So I'd like to help remove some of the mystery--for beginners and experts alike--so more people can capitalize on this awesome technique.

But first, a few words about the early days of rippin'.

In the Beginning

I've been rippin' now for over 20 years. It really jumpstarted my career early on because, back when I started, it was relatively new. Hardly anybody was doing it.

The first time I became aware of rippin' was from a guy fishing down on Lake Mead named Jimmy Crisp--and he called it "crispin'." He was using big jerkbaits, and making big, long sweeps with a spinning rod. Crispin' was basically a stop-and-go retrieve, and my system just kind of evolved from there.

Aside from Crisp, I was one of the first anglers to really get on the ripbaits here in the West (called jerkbaits in other parts of the country). I always tell people that I like to fish for dumb fish--ones that aren't educated by fishing pressure. And boy were fish dumb back then. You just caught so many fish with this technique, because it was something they hadn't seen. It was unbelievable. We could pull fish from 30 feet away, easy--meaning, fish would travel 30 feet to hit the bait.

In 30 feet of water it was funny, because the bass would stand right on their heads, come up, and if they swiped and missed it, you'd seen them go right back straight down. So we knew how far we were pulling these fish.

And thinking back, it was odd that rippin' took so long to come around to prominence, because baits like the Smithwick Rogue had been around for years. Trouble was, people were using them as crankbaits, not with a stop-and-go, jerking retrieve. It took just a change in retrieve to create a presentation the fish had not been conditioned to at all.

And that technique was so new, nobody was doing it. And I'll be totally honest--the first 10 years I did it, I didn't tell anybody. It was my little deal. I was catching tons of fish and cashing a lot of checks.

Times were different back then, though, with a lot less overall sharing of information. Plus, since I was just starting out, I didn't have any sponsors. There was no need to plug any baits, and it was like, "Why give up something for nothing?" But rippin' definitely jumpstarted my career, and really, it was the only way I fished for years. I could catch them year-round, as long as the water wasn't cold and muddy.

"Rippin' definitely jumpstarted my career, and really, it was the only way I fished for years."

Today, things have changed. Nowadays everybody's rippin', and the fish are definitely a lot more conditioned to it. Back in the old days, we used as much flash as we could get--many baits were pure chrome. Bomber, for example, made a pure-chrome Long "A", which was one of my favorites.

Today, after these fish have seen every kind of ripbait coming along, the big flashy thing is just not the way to fish anymore. Now you want more subtle, more natural, lifelike colors.

So rippin' has evolved quite a bit, but remains a really great technique, especially for the prespawn, which is coming up pretty quickly. Sure, I still rip year-round, but I like late winter and prespawn, and even post-spawn, which is a great time to throw the bait around fry in the water. It looks like a fish that's eating fry. The male, guarding a nest, will jump all over a ripbait.

But during prespawn, the fish are just starting to come up. The water temperature's warming up. The fish are moving out of the deep and are very accessible with a ripbait. It's just, by far, the best time of year to rip, especially during warm afternoons.

Water, Water Everywhere

You can catch fish by rippin' almost any kind of structure. I've ripped big fish off bridge pilings, straight vertical walls, etc., but my favorite place above all others is the flats. Specifically, spawning flats and the outsides of spawning flats in late winter and early spring. Preferably, I like to be fishing over a hard bottom, but it's not absolutely necessary.

One of the things I like best about rippin' is the sheer amount of water you can cover. That's really the beauty of the technique. You're going to move along quickly, pick off the aggressive fish that have moved up, then just keep on going.

The other beauty of this presentation, as I mentioned, is you can rip almost anything--any type of structure. If I pull up on a point, for example, I'll cast out over 20 feet of water. Reason is, even if I've got a ripbait that will run down eight to 10 feet, I feel like I can pull a fish 10 feet. So I'll throw the bait over 20 feet of water and not think anything of it. And a good tip for fishing points: throw out and work deep before ever tossing shallow.

Not to mention, rippin' is a great way to catch those spotted bass that love to suspend. I throw ripbaits over 200 to 300 feet of water. When Bassmasters came to Shasta for the first time, everybody knew I was big on catching suspended fish, and everybody knew I fished for them. Well, word had gotten to the camera crews and the writers about me catching these suspended fish over deep, deep water. So they chased me down the first day of practice and said, "We want to see it."

I said, "Well, go right out there," and that was in the middle of Arbuckle, a big cove, over a couple hundred feet of water. And on my third cast I caught one, just because they always stacked up out there, suspended, chasing the bait around.

"One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with a ripbait is they keep tension on their line between rips."

What I'm getting at is, you don't need a bottom to rip. You don't need a depth. You can rip over serious deep water and pull fish up that are chasing schools of bait.

The only negative to rippin' is that on clear days, with high pressure or a north wind, you can catch them, but other presentations probably work better. For rippin', I prefer wind, cloud cover and low-pressure fronts. I really like those conditions the best.

But that's true of any reaction bait. You can't pull fish from a distance in tough conditions. They're not in a feeding mode and they don't feel good after that big barometric change, so you've gotta slow down and fish deeper with alternative baits.

Pop'N Stop

I fish both floating and suspending ripbaits. I don't care for the countdowns--they sink too fast and don't really get the job done. Picking one style versus the other, however, is really trial and error. I don't have a set of circumstances where I think I need a suspender or a floater. However, most of the baits I throw do suspend. I like that bait to just sit in front of that fish's face, so when I pop it, it just takes off and triggers a strike.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with a ripbait is they keep tension on their line between rips. On the pause, if you have tension on the line, the bait is still be dragging forward. You won't get nearly as many bites.

Instead, you need to give that rod back to the fish: the bait has to stop dead in the water. And really, the whole key to rippin'--above location and bait type--is the cadence. How you work the bait makes all the difference.

First of all, I use a 7-foot rod. I do not like fast-tipped rods. Every other rod I fish has a fast tip, except for my ripait rod. Plus, I want a parabolic action, so when I drop the rod back, the tip won't recover too fast. I want the whole rod to move quickly, not just the tip. You can rip with a fast tip, but you won't get as many bites because it just doesn't work the bait properly.

I used to throw only throw glass rods when rippin', but about four years ago I tried one of the new Loomis CBRs--the 845 to be exact, which is 84 inches, 5 power. That is the perfect ripbait rod, and I've converted a lot of really good ripbait fishermen to it. It's graphite, but it's got fiberglass action and really works the bait right. There's no sense in using those big, heavy rods that work you to death.

I like to hold the rod to my side, down at a pretty hard angle. Not straight down, but with my tip low to the water.

Then, I work a series of pops and pauses. I use one to three pops, and vary it within the cast. For example: pop-pop-pause, pop-pause, pop-pop-pop-pause, making the bait pause on TOTAL slack line. Make sure you move the rod back toward the bait as you pause, and watch the line. They'll sometimes hit it on that dead pause.

Aside from slack line, the second most important tip I feel I can offer is: Always try to figure out how long the pause needs to be on each given day, because it'll vary. You can get a standard retrieve going and yeah, you're going to catch fish, but a lot of times a longer or shorter pause will make all the difference. Most of the time, a longer pause is needed.

Lastly, hooksets are very important when rippin'. You can't set the hook. What you want to do is make a sweep--just tighten up on them and make a firm sweep. Also, run a fairly loose drag so you don't pull the hooks out of them.

For line, I only throw 10- and 12-pound mono. I throw 10-pound on most of my baits, only moving to 12-pound for the largest baits--like the Rapala Magnum 18. I feel 8-pound is too light because there's too much stretch.

Great Baits

Almost all my ripbaits are made by Lucky Craft. I still throw a Rapala Magnum 18, and I still use one Rattlin' Rogue--the old, original 1/2-ounce Rogue with a black back, black belly and chartreuse sides. But 98 percent of the time, I'm throwing Lucky Craft.

I don't feel that a "true" suspending bait makes a difference. I've had a lot of fish hit as a bait slowly rises up--which is a good deal. I don't care if my bait slowly sinks or slowly rises--I don't think it makes any difference. It doesn't sit there long enough to matter.

But, if you're trying to add weight to create a suspender, don't add so much that the bait sinks fast. I don't care if it sinks a little bit, but I don't want a ripbait to sink a lot.

By far, my favorite ripbait is the Lucky Craft Staysee 90SP. It fishes down six to 10 feet, and is the one I throw for spots. Close behind is the 128 Pointer, which debuted last year. It's a big bait, and the main reason I don't really throw the Rogues and Magnum 18s anymore.

Not to be too commercial, but I do think Lucky Craft is miles ahead of the other ripbaits out there right now. Several things really set the baits apart. The first thing I noticed about Lucky Crafts was I could cast them in the wind. They cast very well--weight-forward into the wind--and don't cartwheel like a lot of the balsa baits. Plus, they're very consistent in their actions, and their colors are very consistent as well.

I like the diverse lineup too. Lucky Craft makes baits you can fish real, real shallow, like the Flash Minnow, or you can choose baits that run very deep--deep for a ripbait being 8 to 10 feet. I mean, if you can get a ripbait down to that depth, that's a good one.

Another thing that made Lucky Craft so popular was, with a lot of the old ripbaits, you had to rip them really super hard. You had to hit them so hard to get a good wobble action, it just wore you out. With the Lucky Crafts, you don't. You can pop them pretty slowly.

The old ripbaits with the big, heavy fiberglass rods, and the way you had to hit the baits really hard to get the action, it was a workout. Your forearms would cramp up and you hands would cramp up, and you had to work yourself into being able to fish them all day long. The first couple times of the year, you were just in agony. But today, with lighter rods and more efficient baits, anyone can rip their first time out.

A very last tip is, a lot of the Japanese baits come with hooks that I believe are too small. I upsize and put as big a hook as I can on there without taking away the action of the lure. I usually go up at least one size on each hook. And I'm a big believer in the Gamakatsu EWG trebles. They've got a lot more bite, and can hook fish that just want to slap a ripbait.

The Staysee 90 is the exception to the rule. It comes with No. 6s, and I put on Number 4s, but not Gamakatsu EWGs. I put round-bend trebles on the 90--they just work better with this bait.

And that's it. That's all there is to it. Concentrate on the slack-line pause, get a good set of ripbait together, and fish them for a few hours every time you go out.

I don't mean to insult anyone, and certainly not myself, but it really is a "bonehead" technique. Yet, if a bonehead technique is going to fill my well with big bass, I'd be a bonehead myself if I didn't use it. Right now is the best time to rip, so rig up and get out there. A big ripbait bite is calling your name. Mine too. See ya'!

Gary's Box Unlocked

I really don't throw that many different ripbaits, and I could easily get by with just a half-dozen. Then again, I could probably whittle that number down to just four. Here they are.

I must have the Staysee 90SP (Ver. 2), which is a deep-diving bait. It runs between six and 10 feet. I also must have the Pointer 128--my big bait, which runs between four and six feet. Those two right there are absolute gold..

As far as colors for these two, I throw a lot of the Ghost Minnow, a lot of the Chartreuse Shad, plus Aurora Black and American Shad. I've got the other colors, but these are the ones I reach for time and time again. I like the Ghost Minnow in clearer water; Chartreuse Shad in dirtier stuff.

I'm also really excited about the new Table Rock Shad color available on the Staysee 90. It's chartreuse with a shad dot and purple back. The thing that's weird about that color is, it seems a natural dirty-water color, but I catch more fish in clear water on it. It's deadly on spotted bass and smallmouths.

Another little bait I really like right now is the Pointer 78DD, which runs between three and four feet, but has an incredible little action. It's a very easy bait to cast and work. Great around weeds, too. It doesn't get too deep, so you can kind of guide it around the weeds, into the little pockets, then just pull it out and make another cast.

The fourth great bait always in my box is the Flash Minnow 110. It's a very shallow-running bait, and a good pick to fish around grass. This model is what replaced all the small Rapalas and twitchbaits I used to throw. It's a bait that I tend to rip pretty fast, too, with not very much of a pause. You know: bang-bang-bang, bang-bang, bang-bang-bang. Again, I most often throw Ghost Minnow.

With all my baits, there are times I'll throw an oddball color--especially Mat Pumpkin. It's not one of my favorites, but I've caught some big fish on it.

Reprinted by permission of Bass West USA Magazine.

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