'Keep it simple' brings home bass, cash


January 18, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Last August, Missouri angler Dion Hibdon won the closest Bassmasters Classic in history, topping a field of 40 expert fishermen by one ounce in total weight after three days of fishing -- and he did it despite breaking off five fish on the final day.

Hibdon is a light-line, finesse fisherman, and line breaks and lost fish are not unusual. Simply, they are the price he is willing to pay to fish the way he wants.

"Fishing has really gone to strength -- you know, line that will pull a train; big, stiff, strong rods and all," Hibdon said Thursday while in town for the Bass Expo at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium. "But you really don't need all that. You're better off keeping it simple."

During the classic, Hibdon fished a skirted, soft-plastic grub named "Dion's Secret," skipping it far back under boat docks and deftly working it along the bottom, mimicking a crayfish.

"I like to think what a fish is thinking; put myself down there where he is," said Hibdon, who is 30 and lives in Stover, Mo. "A fish needs a place to hide and a place to eat, and if you can find both those places at the right time, you can catch him. But first you have to fool this fish into thinking [your lure] is something he'd like to eat."

Feeding bass, Hibdon said, respond to movement, whether they're working schools of baitfish near the surface or lying in wait along a drop-off or near the bottom.

Soft-plastic grubs such as Dion's Secret, he said, provide supple, realistic movement, and light line and jig heads a quarter of an ounce or lighter allow the grub to fall slowly and move along the bottom easily.

"Think of a crawfish. It can do one of two things when a bass approaches. It can throw up its claws in defense or it can skitter away," said Hibdon. "And if he's still alive, he probably knows that its claws usually won't stop a bass. So most of the time he's going to skitter from rock to rock looking for a place to hide."

At the classic on Lake Logan Martin in the heat of an Alabama summer, Hibdon reasoned correctly that the bass would be under boat docks, where there was shelter and food. The bait he chose was green and pumpkin in color, twin-tailed and had a tentacled collar.

"I wanted to get a natural presentation, through color and movement," said Hibdon. "So once the bait was down among the rocks and logs, I'd let it set for a second, as if that crawfish had found himself a place to hide.

"And then rather than pull it up and over that log, I would wind down tight on the line and snap it up, short and quick, to imitate a crawfish trying to escape."

Color and sound in a bait are very important, he said, and, when imitating crawfish, the color of the pincers is crucial. Hibdon carries colored markers with him and colors the pincers on his lures according to the shell phase of the crawfish wherever he is fishing.

"I never fish a jig without a rattle," added Hibdon, who uses a small corer to hollow the heads of his grubs and then inserts a small brass rattle.

"Again, you have to think about what it's like down there where they are. A crawfish is a noisy creature. His claws click. His shell makes noise as it bumps into things. Be certain your crawfish has a rattle."

While Hibdon used boat docks to win the classic, he said he often uses similar tactics along shorelines, drop-offs and in submerged wood.

"Common sense will catch more bass than all this high-falutin' technology that's on the market," Hibdon said. "Keep it simple. See what they're eating, pay attention to why they're eating and adjust accordingly."

Pub Date: 1/18/98

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