Gleason hopes his “candy” will be sweet today

Darold Gleason’s no one-trick pony. An accomplished tournament angler and seasoned fishing guide on Toledo Bend, he’s mastered just about every technique relevant to southern waters.

Today, however, he’ll likely keep his blinders on, as he focuses on the technique that propelled him from 16th place on Day 1 to the top spot at the Bassmaster Central Open on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

The pro from Many, La. opened with 17 pounds, 3 ounces, but roared back with yesterday’s limit of 27-1 — the event’s third-largest sack.

His key technique: Bomb casting a 3/4-ounce V&M football jig with a V&M J-Bug trailer, both in the Gleason’s Candy color. Gleason described his namesake color as a blend of green pumpkin candy and purple.

“It’s a color that’s near and dear to me; it’s the color I used to win (the 2019 Central Open on Toledo Bend),” Gleason said. “I think it’s a great bluegill imitation.

“It’s ridiculous how much I have of it in my boat, but it’s just something I have confidence in. And with the bite being so tough, I feel it’s imperative to feel good about what you’re doing.”

Gleason trims his jig skirt just past the hook point so his trailer has plenty of room to move. For added appeal, he dyes his trailer tips chartreuse.

“I’m not trying to mimic crawfish; I’m trying to mimic bluegill,” Gleason said of his big-fish strategy. “I think that’s what’s around the brush piles I’m running.”

Also key — a stealthy approach. Knowing how Rayburn’s pressured fish can turn awfully skittish, he wisely kept his distance and launched long casts of 100-plus feet and then fed out line to ensure maximum separation.

“I think that’s the key — not spooking them; sneaking up and catching them by surprise,” Gleason said. “I don’t think the fish I’m catching are necessarily feeding; I’m just throwing that jig in their living room where they’re chilling out and dragging it by them enough and they like the cricket I have on it.”

Gleason said the late-summer dog days have the fish in a generally lethargic mood. Bite windows are few and far between, so he believes a strategy based on sudden intrusion best suits the playing field.

“I don’t know the lake well enough to have a bunch of honey holes, so I’m trying to hit as many high-percentage spots as I can,” Gleason said. “I’m fishing each spot 10-15 minutes and gone to the next one.”

If all goes as planned, Gleason will make most, if not all of his final-round casts with this bait. The first two days, he fished a Carolina rig and a dropshot to secure a limit and then went hog hunting.

At yesterday’s weigh-ins, Gleason said he would likely bypass the conservative part of his game plan and devote his day to seeking “ocean ponies” — giant bass, like the 9-7 and 8-13 that anchored his Day-2 bag.

“Swinging for the fence” is one of fishing’s classic cliches, but today, it fits. Gleason entered Championship Saturday with only a 1-pound, 5-ounce lead over Day-1 leader Matsushita Masayuki, who stumbled on Day 2 with 15-5 after weighing 27-10 on Day 1.

Following in third with 41-15, Josh Douglas has been a consistent producer with 22-5 and 19-10. Not far behind, local pro Brian Schott and Bassmaster Elite Keith Combs will, no doubt, be gunning for the top.

Gleason’s course to a second Bassmaster Open title will be no cakewalk, but maybe his “candy” will reward him with a sweet finish.