Making His Own Path in the Shadow of a Legend

The sports world is replete with tales of family success stories; some of the most prominent names include Bonds, Boone, Barry and Winslow. The fishing world is no different; Brauer and Daves come to mind. While the Hibdon family is perhaps the most successful, as both father and son have won the Bassmaster Classic.

Being the son or daughter of a famous person can bring many benefits, however, if the offspring chooses to follow the same profession, the examination and comparison is often too much to bear. There are those however, who seem to have not only the skills of their parent, but they seem mentally prepared to go forward in light of increased scrutiny; Richard Dobyns is one of those anglers.

Imagine being a full time tournament angler in Northern California and having your every performance judged on how you fared against Gary Dobyns. Each time you took the water in a major championship you could expect that not only would the winner of over a million dollars in the west be there, but more than likely, you would have to beat him to win that title. In addition, if an angler does win a major tournament without Dobyns in the field, there could always be the asterisk next to that date on the trophy, similar to winning a PGA event without Tiger Woods in the field.

The name Gary Dobyns places enough pressure on the shoulders of any competitor, but what happens if you are fortunate enough to be blessed with his DNA making up half of your genetics? It could be assumed that one of two things would be stated; either you are supernaturally endowed with the ability to catch bass out of a wet wagon track, or your father is going to go out and do all of your pre-fishing for you, and therefore all of your wins are tainted.

To set the record straight; whether it is bestowed upon him or a learned characteristic, Richard Dobyns could very well bag a winning limit from that wet wagon track, and he will typically surprise his father by doing something totally contrary to what Gary thinks would be effective during a tournament.

“I have obviously learned a lot from fishing with my dad,” said Dobyns. “I fished my first tournament with him at seven years old, and took second place at a WON Bass team tournament on Berryessa. However, there are some differences in our styles that make me have to approach things in my own way.” While the elder Dobyns is known for finding fish that will eat his preferred method, Richard is known to stay on a group of fish, doing whatever it takes to make those fish bite.

While it may come as no shock that the 23-year-old lists ripping as his favorite technique, it may surprise some that a darter head worm is very high on his list. “I go through a lot of lead heads,” he said. “I spend a lot of time at Oroville and Shasta, and the fish in those lakes are known to respond to a darter head, so if the rip bite slows, I will pull out the worm and try to make them eat it.”

While the younger Dobyns has already begun his winning ways, claiming victory in seven tournaments with his team partner James Avalos, he is competing this year for the first time in the Pro Am events, and is experiencing success. Richard is currently in fourth place in the points standings after three of five events in the 100% Bass one day Pro Am circuit, but more impressive is that he is only six points behind Gary Dobyns for the Angler of the Year title in the Won Bass Northern Pro Am circuit with one event to go.

Ironically, it is Richard’s fault that his father is in first place. “He came up to me in the Delta and said ‘where are they?’ I told him that they were right over there, he didn’t believe me so I told him to go to one end of the bank, I would go to the other, and we would meet in the middle.” The elder Dobyns took full advantage of the tip and boated a six, a four and a three and a half pounder to vault himself into the lead. It is this kind of story that has the elder Dobyns thinking twice about his son’s ability. “He told me that they were on that bank, and I told him he was full of it, that there was no way they were there, but he was right.”

Gary has several stories like this. “ I asked Richard where he was going to start his last day of practice at Oroville, and when he told me where he was going, I told him not to bother, because I practiced there the day before and found nothing. He asked me what time I was there, and when I told him it was in the afternoon, he laughed and went anyway.” Richard was laughing later that day when he informed his dad of the morning he had on that spot. “I guess he knew they were going to be there cause he whacked them good, and it made me think about my strategy a little differently.”

Long time family friend and professional angler Kent Brown says that young Richard impresses him as well. “Richard finds fish faster than anyone I know, and the scary part of the whole thing is that the fish he finds are usually the right fish.” Brown continued by saying; “If Richard ever works as hard as his dad does at the sport, we could all be in a load of trouble.”

Richard, an Assistant Superintendent at Beazer Homes openly states that someday he would like to follow his father’s example and make fishing his full time occupation. He continues to learn from his dad’s developing business skills in the industry. “I joke with him all the time about the early years when he would stumble through his speeches after winning a tournament, now we can’t get him off the mic.” With all joking aside, he continues to watch as his father’s career blossoms, and realizes the value of the experience. “Dad has done well, I can remember how he struggled to get through working booths at boat shows, now he is typically the featured speaker.”

For now, Richard will continue to focus on the task at hand, getting the Won Bass Angler of the Year title in the Northern Division. “I’m like anyone else, I would love to win that title, and it would be great to do it by winning my first big tournament. I know however, to beat this field of anglers, I will have to put in my time, and that is what I am planning to do, we’ll see how it works out.”

One of his competitors is pulling for him. Gary Dobyns speaks with the pride of a father when he talks about the event June 5th and 6th on Clear Lake. “I hope he does it, I would be so proud to see him stand there after claiming the Angler of the Year title,” said Dobyns. “I do know this, if he does pull it out, he will have earned it, because I’m not going to give it to him, nor will the other guys.” To many that statement may sound like the bravado of a champion unwilling to bend to his competition, it had instead the tone of a fatherly lesson. “His mother and I raised him to have respect, and to work hard for what he gets, so I hope he goes out there and puts in his time and does well.”

“A lot of people expect me to do well because of who my dad is,” said Richard. ‘And while that could add a lot of pressure for me, my response is usually quite the opposite. I truly enjoy this sport, and I have fun competing, so I am thinking about that, rather than living up to my father’s reputation.”

If he can accomplish that task, be it from genetics, osmosis, or experience, there is no doubt that there are many of us who would like to see how far he can go. The most interested party will be keeping a close eye. “I really am proud of Richard, as I’m sure that any father would say, but he is quite frankly better at this sport now than I was at his age, and I can’t wait to see how far he can go.”

While the name on the trophy might still be Dobyns, and while it may have a familiar ring, it just might be in a different tone.

Suffice it to say, there will be a lot of us watching,