School Sizes Grow as Water Cools, 56 Fish, 25 Aug. 2012, Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide Report

This morning I fished Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir with active duty medic Specialist Michael M., originally from the Phoenix, Arizona area.

After years being “bound to the bank”, Mike saved up his pennies and headed “offshore” today. That investment paid off!

Mike was a cop before coming on active duty, and, following this term of enlistment which included a combat tour in Iraq, will return to law enforcement. Most of Mike’s previous fishing experience has been with light or ultralight spinning tackle pursuing trout and panfish in the high elevation lakes in Arizona and near the Stillhouse Marina here in Central, Texas.

Our conditions this morning were “made to order” until around 10am. Until that time we had a SW wind, enough grey cloud cover to completely obscure the sun, and wind speeds at 8-11.

We started off our day pre-sunrise gunning for some largemouth on soft plastics up shallow. Mike wasn’t well-practiced at this, so, there was a bit of a learning curve to get through, but we managed to hook one fish going ~14+ inches which stayed on to within about 5 feet of the boat and then got away on a jump and a head-shake. That bit of action came at Area 433.

One the sun rose (albeit obscured), it was time to focus on the white bass. We probed with downriggers set at 28-29 feet today based on what sonar was revealing and immediately got into a very large and aggressive school of white bass. These fish were within the bounds of Area 1130/1131/1132 and were found scattered from bottom up to 15 feet below the surface. Our first success came seconds after encountering these fish as Mike broke the ice with a double. We e-anchored and began to work slabs (TNT180’s in 3/4 oz) through these fish both vertically and horizontally and did consistently well. Over the next 2 full hours we downrigged very briefly to find fish and then e-anchored to exploit what we’d found. We determined that the 1/2 Cicada bladebait performed better than the slabs today (for whatever reason!?!) and worked these in a lift-drop motion putting a grand total of 55 fish in the boat including 1 drum, 1 largemouth bass, and 53 white bass. We only had 3 fish that didn’t make 10 inches, and all the rest were 12-14+ inches.

By 10am the winds cranked up two notches to around 17mph, still from the SW, and boat control became an issue. This wind increase coincided with a drop in the fish action; from 10 to 10:45 we only picked up 6 of our 55 fish. At this point, we decided to take one final poke at largemouth bass on soft plastics. We headed to Area 469 to escape the high wind, and Mike pulled a solid 1 7/8 pound largemouth off a gravel point here on a Zoom worm. We made attempts at two other areas, but they were heavily wind-impacted and line and boat control were just a bit much for someone new at fishing soft plastics. So, we called it a day right at noon and headed on in.

TALLY = 56 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:30a

End Time: 12:05p

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 83.7F

Wind: SSW10-18.

Skies: Skies were 70% cloudy and overcast.

This blog entry was authored by Bob Maindelle, owner of Holding the Line Guide Service, Belton Lake Fishing Guide and Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide.

The Family that Fishes Together, Stays Together – 51 Fish, Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report

This morning I fished on Belton Lake with Javier K. and his 3 sons, Javi, Miguel, and Gabe, ages 17, 15, and 13, respectively.

The Kane boys all celebrate the second keeper hybrid striped bass that we boated today. From L to R that’s Javier, Gabe, Miguel, and Javi.

Javier is a pediatric oncologist at the new Scott & White Children’s Hospital and is a new arrival here in Central Texas, having previously worked at St. Jude’s in Memphis,TN. When Javier first contacted me, he simply wanted to give his boys a good introduction to fishing in Central Texas. We chose Belton over Stillhouse for this trip as Belton has offered more variety.

Indeed, over the course of this trip we caught fish via topwater, downrigging, vertical jigging, and on live shad with a special “sunfish demo” thrown in for good measure at trip’s end.

I was immediately impressed that Javier really loves his sons and that his sons love their dad. The way they spoke to one another, recalled good times shared in one another’s company, and were considerate of one another all pointed to a very tight knit family. That was good to see.

As the sun rose, partially obscured by some low clouds to the ENE, we encountered about 15 minutes of moderate topwater action by white bass and short hybrid striped bass. This action occured in the vicinity of Area 1019/133. The bait these fish were feeding on was small, so the gamefish did not make a big commotion on the surface trying to capture these forage fish. Due to the chop on the surface, the action was difficult to see from any distance away. Despite the presence of ~6 other boats nearby, we were able to fish for these schooling fish relatively undisturbed. By the time everything was over, we had boated 14 fish.

We remained in this area, searching with sonar to follow these fish back out to deeper water, and used slabs to target them when we encountered them. We had but one successful encounter at Area 1129. We saw these fish on sonar, got our slabs down to them and quickly boated an addtional 5 fish before these fish moved on and broke contact.

Things got a little tough at this point — we headed to Area 214/905 and worked the downriggers with mid-sized modified Pet Spoons fished tandem on the downriggers. We boated our first keeper hybrid, a crappie, and several white bass in this area before deciding to try elsewhere.

We headed to within the bounds of Area 369/382/788 and, upon arrival, spotted some mid-morning topwater action that actually stayed on top for more than a nano-second. We manuevered to within casting distance and fired away with Cork Rigs, boating another 6 white bass before the school sounded for good, however, these fish had shown their hand and we now knew they were in the vicinity. So, we used a search technique with twin downriggers deployed to try to locate the “spot on the spot” and added white bass to our tally steadily as we worked this area over. Several times, upon seeing heavy congregations of fish on the bottom, we stopped to vertically jig, but the fish did not respond well to that approach today. Observing this, I placed the boys all on one side using slabs and hung live baits on the other side. The live baits caught fish, but, for better or worse, these fish all had whiskers — blue cat and channel cat! Time to move…

We headed back to Area 214/905 and once again ran downriggers at around 28′. We immediately hooked and lost a keeper hybrid, then hooked and boated another. We thought we were on to something, but, our final 40 minutes worth of passes yielded only small white bass on the downriggers. We had now boated a total of 49 fish for our efforts and decided to head in.

Knowing that this family does not have a boat and that they live in Salado (and spend some time on the golf course there), I took some extra time to show them a “sure-fire” way to consistently catch sunfish wherever they swim (Belton, Stillhouse, golf course pond, Salado Creek, or anywhere else). We baited up a slipfloat rig with maggots and went to work on a nearby sunfish population. We landed 11 bluegill and blacktail shiners in no time flat, giving each of the boys a couple tries at the technique so they could replicate it on their own and then sent them on their way following this, their last “big event” before the start of the school year.

TALLY = 51 FISH, all caught and released.

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Start Time: 6:55a

End Time: 12:15p

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 83.7F

Wind: SSE 5-8.

Skies: Skies were bluebird and clear.

This blog entry was authored by Bob Maindelle, owner of Holding the Line Guide Service, Belton Lake Fishing Guide and Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide .

Of Coldfronts, Supraspinati, Witchcraft VooDoo, and Such Like That — 42 Fish, Stillhouse, 20 Aug.

This morning I welcomed back two long time clients — father and daughter Jim and Shena S. of Cedar Park, TX.

Persistence paid off. We worked for every one of the 42 fish we boated on this post-frontal fishing trip.

Today we launched in the wake of an unusual August cold front which came in wet on Saturday and left clear, cooled skies and a NE breeze in its rearview mirror today. You may know the old fishing truism:

Winds from the West, fish bite best.

Winds from the East, fish bite least.

Winds from the South, blows the hook in the fish’s mouth.

Winds from the North, the fisherman goes not forth.

Without fail, when I recite this verse, people then ask “Why is that?” This is where some speculation is called for. Jim, a learned fellow, threw his hat in the ring voting for “witchcraft voodoo” being the driving force behind this. I’m an analytical type, so, I voted for barometric pressure being the culprit. Shena, a pragmatist, just said, “It is what it is!” and kept right on catching fish.

As long has men have correlated fishing success and weather, a negative correlation has been made to the north wind, and with good reason. But, not all north winds are created equal — dry north winds still allow for fish to be caught, whereas wet north winds make for great days to stay home, tie flies, and do boat maintenance!

Today we had a dry north wind, and, given Jim and Shena’s tight schedules and fairly rare opportunities to fish together given their responsibilities, we decided to make a go of it.

I was very pleased — surprised, really — when, not 2 minutes after our downriggers were set (literally) we’d boated 3 fish. I thought my concerns about the north wind were for naught, but, as we were to discover, the fishing got tougher as the morning went on.

We focused our efforts on Area 1127/1128. We started the day catching here, and, despite looking elsewhere (actually, many elsewheres!) we kept returning to this area as it had fish, bait, and was consistently producing, albeit reluctantly.

I half jokingly told Jim and Shena that finding fish and having them not bite is in many ways worse than not finding fish at all. When you don’t find fish, there is always the possibility that you can press on, check more areas with sonar, and find fish. But, when you find fish and they don’t bite, all you can do is hope; and hope doesn’t impress the fish much in my experience.

Right around 11am the wind, which had almost died to calm, picked up suddenly to NE8-9 again. Almost instantly we saw 3-4 wolfpacks of largemouth begin to blitz bait on the surface, but this was very short-lived. We redoubled our efforts on the downriggers and did experience an uptick in our catch, but it was far from gangbusters.

Well, all this said, we downrigged for 27 white bass and 2 drum using tandem rigged and doctored Pet Spoons. On several occasions we encountered loosely schooled fish holding on or near bottom and worked these fish over with TNT slabs. Shena was the slab-master on this day, landing 2 more white bass in this manner (which is a depressed result in and of itself), for a total take of 31 fish.

By 12:15 I let Jim and Shena know that we’d likely see a plateau in the action, as they had mentioned doing a “refresher” on sunfishing so that son/grandson James could be coached a bit better on this technique when the two returned home. So, for our last 45 minutes or so we headed to Area 200 and baited up with maggots and managed to put a variety of sunfish (greens, bluegills, and longears) in the boat, adding 11 more fish to our count, and finishing up the day with a tally of 42 fish boated.

Along the way, we enjoyed one another’s company and good conversation ranging from surgical procedures for the supraspinatus, to great recipes on the Six Sisters Stuff website, and from Miss Norma’s stalwart watch over Jim’s Christian character to young James’ upcoming school year and everything in between. Good stuff (except that darned witchcraft voodoo)!!

TALLY = 42 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 12:45a

Air Temp: 74F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 83.7F

Wind: NE7.

Skies: Skies were bluebird and clear.

We Came, We Caught, We Got Rained Out! 14 Fish, Stillhouse, 18 Aug. 2012

This morning I welcomed Pathom and Tammy T. aboard for what would be a rain-shortened Saturday fishing excursion.

Pathom and Tammy with the four largest white bass we caught before the rains came.

Pathom and Tammy have been in the Central Texas area for less than a year now. Pathom serves as a physician on the medical staff at Darnall Army Medical Center on Ft. Hood and Tammy is a registered nurse enjoying some down time from nursing at present. Pathom brought quite a variety of fishing experiences to the table — from angling on Lake Okeechobee in Florida, up the East Coast to Currituck Sound, over to the Great Lakes, and now here on Stillhouse.

As we got going I explained the fundamentals of summertime fishing on reservoirs — mainly concerning appreciating how the water stratifies by temperature, with most of the “life” found above the thermocline. We got immediately down to downrigging and never did anything but that during the two hours of fishing we got in before the storms moved in on the lead edge of a rare summer cold front.

During this time we found fish in “wolfpacks” of 4-6 fish each showing up suspended at 1 to 6 feet off bottom generally in the vicinity of Area 658/1115. The fish were in a neutral mood, neither aggressively chasing after bait, nor completely shut down and inactive. No surface feeding, bird activity, nor bait schools were seen the entire morning.

We used modified Pet Spoons on a tandem rig and, over the two hours we fished, boated 12 white bass, 1 drum, and 1 largemouth bass.

At exactly 8:45 the first bolt of lightning could be seen out to the west as rain enveloped that portion of the lake near the Cedar Gap Park and the long bridge. We had about 10 minutes to run for cover and made it back to the dock in time to take shelter and watch the storm roll in. Weather radar revealed a “training” effect where storm after storm developed out near Lampasas and headed eastward right down Highway 190 and towards us. We camped out in the marina for 3 hours hoping for a break, but a break never came. By 11:45, with more rain on the way and no breaks in the thunder and lightning, we decided to scrub our plans.

So, the day ended prematurely with the 14 fish we’d boated.

TALLY = 14 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 8:45a

Air Temp: 77F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 84.7F

Wind: NE7.

Skies: Skies were 100% greyed over with rain falling from 9a to 1p.

Confidence — The Best Lure in the Tackle Box, 159 Fish, Belton Fishing Guide Report, 16 Aug. 2012

This morning I welcomed long-time client Ryan S. of Temple aboard. On Ryan’s last trip his wife, Lacey, landed the current Catch & Release lake record hybrid striper. I wasn’t sure how we could beat that!

Ryan with 1 of 15 hybrid we took on large topwater plugs during a 25 minute feeding spree.

If Ryan is nothing else, he’s persistent. He’s been in this area several years now working through his residency at Scott & White hospital and recently landed a full-time physician’s job there upon concluding his residency. A “toy” in the form of a 22′ NauticStar center console recently found it’s way into his garage, so, he’s really stepped up his efforts on trying to locate fish on his own. For various reasons (which we discussed and worked on resolving) he’d met with little success so far. Today was intended as a confidence booster.

As we got going pre-dawn this morning, we looked for some topwater action but found none in the fairly heavy chop of the SSE wind already blowing 10mph. We did find bait and suspended fish where we’d hoped to see some topwater, so, we took advantage of what we did find, put downriggers to work for us, and came up with 8 fish, all white bass, at Area 014/133, including a double (two fish caught at the same time on the same rod) — always fun!!

We next headed to the vicinity of Area 188 where, after spending a little while fishing with live shad (for 1 blue cat and 1 channel cat), we saw some surface action erupt. We got into the fray pretty quickly and, by the time all was said and done, boated exactly 20 fish here including 15 hybrid and 5 white bass of which ~12 of the hybrid went just-keeper size (it is pretty uncommon to catch many keeper hybrid from off the surface, so we were particularly please with this!). We started off throwing small shad imitators on a Cork Rig, but, when the hybrid smashed the cork instead of the imitator, we knew we had to increase the size of our offering. This stood in stark contrast to the very small fish that our downrigger-caught fish vomited up, and in stark contrast with the preference the fish showed today for smaller shad (at least the few willing to hit live shad). After the topwater action died, we continued to work the area over with slabs using a lift-drop method and Ryan did well on that method.

We next worked in the vicinity of Area 1106 with downriggers to find fish and then with live shad to zero in on them. We caught 1 white bass on the ‘rigger, then e-anchored, then boated 2 keeper hybrid and 1 blue cat on the live shad before things got difficult.

We finally left this area behind and headed to Area 1126. We found abundant, heavily schooled, bottom-oriented white bass here inhabiting the bottom 4 feet of the water column in ~31 feet (just above the thermocline). We literally sat on top of these fish for 2 hours and 45 minutes boating fish non-stop the entire time. The bite was strongest at first, but never stopped over the entire time span. Our best tactic was smoking and lift-dropping 3/4 oz. TNT 180 slabs (silver and white). We decided to stop at exactly 125 fish taken off of this one area. Of these fish, only 1 was a keeper hybrid, and only 4 others were short hybrid; the balance consisted of all white bass ranging from some short 6-7″ fish, up to some nice, beefy 13+ inch fish.

This trip was intended to be a confidence booster. Ryan walked away more confident in his sonar interpretation skills, more confident in solving the location puzzle for summertime fish (above the thermocline!), more confident with a handful of methods for taking these fish from on top, from off the bottom, or suspended in between, and more confident his ability to formulate a fishing plan and know when to stick with it and when to flex.

TALLY = 159 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:30a

End Time: 2:45p

Air Temp: 80F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 85.6F

Wind: SSE10 at sunrise and increasing to S12 by trip’s end.

Skies: Skies were 60% cloudy at trip’s start, clearing to fair and cloudless by trip’s end.

To Your Battle Stations!! White Bass at 6 O’Clock!! 66 Fish, Stilhouse Fishing Report, 13 Aug. 2012

This morning I welcomed long-time clients David, Jack, and Jay B. of Temple, TX, aboard, accompanied by their Uncle Chip from Bartlett, TX.

From L to R: Uncle Chip, Jay, David, and Jack with our 4 best white bass, all at or over 14″.

This is the family’s 4th year fishing with me and I always enjoy getting David’s call (always well in advance) letting me know he and the boys are headed my way! Each year the boys’ interest and skills increase.

As the days slowly get shorter moving towards the fall, the white bass slowly coalesce into larger and larger schools. Before we began the pursuit of fish today we practiced what to do if, as we were downrigging, we encountered a large school of white bass. This “drill” really paid off as it allowed us all to know just what our role was on the boat as we worked together to quickly get our lures down to the fish and work them effectively before the fast-moving schools of fish move off. This “battle drill” paid big dividends today as we encountered 3 scenarios while downrigging where this tactic paid off. Instead of going through the learning curve and losing out on the potential to catch fish, we practiced first and scored on the schools we had worked hard to find.

We began our hunt for fish in the vicinity of Area 1112/658 finding suspended white bass in schools of up to 20 fish holding around 23-27 feet in water ranging from 24-32 feet deep. We worked two downriggers with two tandem rigs, each outfitted with modified Pet Spoons matching the size of the forage now most attractive to the white bass. With two men and two boys on board, and great teamwork going on between all four of them, there was scarcely a time when we didn’t have our rods in the water and working for fish. We boated 24 fish in the first 90 minutes of the day in this area after which things slowly began to taper off here, indicating it was time for a move.

As we transitioned to Area 1124 and were slowing down to begin searching this new area with sonar, I spotted a tightly congregated school of white bass holding tightly to the bottom in 27 feet of water. I put the boat in a hover over top of these fish and we got 5 slab spoons (TNT 180’s in 3/4 oz. chrome/white) down and working among them. The first fish — the ice breaker — is always the toughest nut to crack. After that first one is reeled in, the rest of these school turns on, at least for a while, and subsequent fish from the same school are then easier to fool. We boated 11 fish in just minutes here on this “postage stamp”-sized area before things cooled off once again indicating it was once again time to work the downriggers over Area 1123/1122.

And so it was — we downrigged to find fish and worked slabs vertically if and when bottom-oriented concentrations were found. We connected at Areas 1112 and again at Area 197/1102.

By 10:45 things we on the downhill slide. The fish were getting tight-lipped, the wind was calming and the heat was building. We had to do a lot of looking to find any fish at all and those we found were more likely to ignore our offerings than to go for them. By 11:45 it was all over. We ended our day with 66 fish boated and a few more lost. We put 2 drum, 5 largemouth bass, and 59 white bass in the boat today. Of the white bass, only 4 were “throwbacks” at less than 10″; the rest were upwards of 12″, with our best 5 fish all exceeding 14″.

TALLY = 66 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 12:05p

Air Temp: 83F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 87F

Wind: SSW9 at sunrise and tapering to near calm.

Skies: Skies were 50% cloudy at trip’s start, clearing to 20% by trip’s end.

Father & Son Fishing — Can’t Beat It!! — 49 Fish, Stillhouse Fishing Guide Report, 11 Aug. 2012

This morning I fished with Jimmy and Josh B. This is the first time I’d had them out on the boat, but I suspect it won’t be the last! They really enjoyed the variety versus the bank fishing they normally do.

Josh (L) and Jimmy (R) with our four best white bass of the trip today.

Jimmy and Josh work together daily as a father and son team offering services such as lawn maintenance, tree trimming, and the like, so it was only natural that they would decide to fish together, too.

We had a light N. wind today which is uncommon for summertime in Texas, and I wasn’t sure if that was going to impact the fishing or not. We never saw a stitch of topwater action, but, the suspended fish bite was solid.

As Jimmy met me at the boat, he commented how clean the park and the shoreline were. He’s been accustomed to fishing at the Cedar Gap area on the upper end of the lake where floods have deposited tons of timber and where the groundskeeping efforts seem to be less thorough. He was excited just to be in such an ideal outdoor environment.

As we got underway I explained how summertime fishing typically involves the pursuit of suspended fish holding just above the thermocline and how we would go about consistently presenting our lures to fish in that horizontal band of water, primarily by using downriggers. They both grasped the concept of what we were doing and why we were doing it, so, off we went to put theory into practice.

These fellows are used to working with their hands, so, they caught on pretty quickly concerning how to rig up the downriggers and get them properly set. Once we eliminated some unproductive water over the first 15-20 minutes, we hit paydirt and stayed in the fish for the remainder of our trip, rarely going more than a few minutes without boating fish.

We began our day over a stretch of water near Area 041/658. We found loosely schooled white bass within 3-4 feet of the bottom over a 27-32 foot bottom and used tandem rigs equipped with modified Pet Spoons to do the dirty work. We boated 19 fish in the first 90 minutes of effort before this area played out.

We then moved on to Area 1117. This area was a bit shallower at 24-26 feet deep, and we found fish holding a bit closer to the bottom here and also schooled together a bit more densely. For this reason, I chose to try using slab spoons (TNT180’s in 3/4 oz.) in a chrome/white color to tempt these fish. We boated 6 fish in short order, then moved a few yards very slowly while closely watching sonar then hovered over the fish we’d found and picked up 4 more fish here, again, using the slabs both vertically and horizontally.

After these fish lost interest and slowed down, we returned to downrigging and stuck with it until right around 11:20. Over this period of time we worked over Area 1122/1123 and put a final mess of 20 fish in the boat, including an unheard of 5 sets of doubles (two fish caught on one rod at the same time), including a “multi-species double” boated by Josh, consisting of a white bass and a largemouth bass hitting the tandem rig at the same time.

Over the course of the entire trip, the boys boated at least 10 sets of doubles. As we move into the hottest part of the summer and the size of the schools of fish tends to increase (that is, the number of fish in a school) the likelihood of such multiple hookups increases, as well.

We ended the day with a total of 49 fish, including 45 white bass, 2 largemouth bass, and 2 freshwater drum. The best part of the trip to me was the consistency of the bite. We caught fish nearly at the same rate from start to finish and kept it engaging the whole trip.

TALLY = 49 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 11:25a

Air Temp: 77F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 86.4F

Wind: N5-7.

Skies: Skies were fair and cloudless.

Topwater Toned Down — 69 Fish, Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report, 09 August 2012

This morning I fished with Steve R. of Killeen and his 13 year old daughter, Victoria.

Steve and Victoria with one of the 69 fish we boated today. This hybrid hit a large gizzard shad fished on a downline and was suspended over a 40′ bottom.

Steve recently returned from a 1 year tour in Afghanistan and has been enjoying 30 days of leave which will be coming to a close soon, after which his unit will “reset”. I had the pleasure of taking Victoria on a free SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trip over the winter while Steve was serving in harm’s way.

Today we were fortunate enough to see a continuation of the strong topwater action that Belton has offered all week. A little wrinkle in the weather last night brought some late afternoon thunderstorms in, and there was an easterly component to the wind this morning, so, I expected to topwater to be less than what is has been, and it was just that. We had about 40 minutes of action this morning compared to 2 hours’ worth back on Monday, and, there were not near as many fish feeding on the top during this time, but, we stayed up with what fish were there and, by, 7:20, had already boated 43 fish from the vicinity of Area 811/133. A good start!!

The fishing never did get really strong the rest of the morning, so, we had to “peck” here and there to put together the rest of our catch.

Our first run of average success came at Area 833/214 where we consistently caught white bass and hybrid stripers on downriggers running modified Pet Spoons targeting suspended fish in this area. We boated 11 fish here.

Our next run of average success came at Area 1120 where we boated 3 fish on live bait (2 keeper hybrid and a blue cat). Steve just loved to hear that bait-clicker go off!!

Our last bit of success came when we returned to Area 214 after seeing some brief topwater churning there. We boated 1 keeper hybrid and a channel cat there.

As we finished up our day, we put in a final 20 minutes or so showing Steve and Victoria how to bait up for sunfish so that they could do some fishing and expect success from the bank. We broke out the slipfloat rigs, baited up with maggots and put a mixed bag of 10 fish on the counter in no time, including bluegill, green sunfish, and black-tail shiners.

We ended the day with a tally of 69 fish.

TALLY = 69 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:20a

End Time: 10:40a

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 85.7F

Wind: SSE7 at sunrise, changing to SSW5 by 9:00a and until trip’s end.

Skies: Skies were fair and ~40% cloudy.

Topwater Went Wild — 178 Fish, Belton Fishing Guide Report, 06 August 2012

This morning I fished with returning guest Nate H. and his fishing buddy, Sean. Both men are combat veterans stationed at Ft. Hood; Nate serves in the Signal Corps and Sean in Transportation Corps.

Sean tagged this double on a tandem rig set up with doctored Pet Spoons as we downrigged after the topwater bite died.

Nate holds the largest of the hybrid we took on topwater this morning.

Nate has really come a long way as a fisherman since I first went out with him in February of 2011. I attribute this to several things: 1) he is eager to learn, 2) he is willing to listen, 3) he asks the right questions (for instance: “Why did you look for fish here?” and NOT “What lure did you use?”), and 4) he puts in the time on the water and has gained a lot of experience as a result of it.

Much of his focus has been on largemouth bass, even giving club tournament fishing a try. Today, his focus was on expanding his horizons to be able to target white bass and hybrid striped bass.

As we got underway, a gentle south breeze began to ripple the surface making things just right for topwater action to occur — and occur it did!! From 6:40am to 8:45am we experienced a very strong topwater bite with fish present on the surface the entire time. As we boated fish we noticed most fish were gorging themselves on young of the year shad only ~1 1/8″ long. Other fishermen who approached and used traditional baits did not catch near the quantities we did as their large offerings often got ignored. We used a “Cork Rig” to present our “match the hatch” baits and did very well. In two hours’ time we put exactly 143 fish in the boat including a 70/30% mix of white bass and hybrid striped bass. Every white bass we caught was of legal size, with some going as long as 12.75″. All but 1 of the hybrid were short, with most going 14 1/2″. We experienced this action in the vicinity of Area 010/812 .

After the topwater died and the few boats in the area with us departed, we used a “lift-drop” technique with TNT180 slabs in silver/white to continue to boat fish that were settling towards bottom at the conclusion of the heavy topwater feed. We added 9 more fish to our count employing this technique before the action died here once and for all.

Now the real work began … finding concentrations of still-active fish using sonar. We hit a bit of a down time from 9:00 to 9:30, then sighted a pod of white bass feeding on bait over open water near Area 1084. We pulled up into these fish and broke out the Cork Rigs once again and put another 11 fish in the boat here, taking our tally up to 164. As this action waned, a tip from a fellow fisherman led us to some sub-surface hybrid action in the vicinity of Area 1119.

At this location, we graphed loosely schooled hybrid down between 22-30 feet over a deeper bottom. We put live baits down and immediately had 3 fish on, and landed 2 of them. We noted that the first two fish boated on bait were larger than any of the 164 fish we’d taken up to that point, primarily on topwater; this is a very typical scenario — big fish just don’t spend much time swimming hard in pursuit of small, fast bait.

We closed out the trip searching with downriggers and exploiting what we found using both slabs in a lift-drop scenario and concentrating our downrigger pattern over top of previously located fish in the vicinity of Area 1106/1118. This accounted for our last “run” of 12 fish including a few just legal hybrid, a few short hybrid, a few white bass and 1 small largemouth.

By 11:45 things were slowing down so we called it a day and headed on back in. For their time spent on the water Nate and Sean got to experience one of the best days of topwater action this year, as well as the methodologies we employed after the fish slowed down and we were forced to “go looking”.

TALLY = 178 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:20a

End Time: 11:45a

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 85.7F

Wind: S3-5.

Skies: Skies were fair and cloudless.

The Ultimate Sibling Rivalry?? 68 Fish, Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide Report, 03 Aug 2012

This morning I fished with Doug L. of Salado, TX, and his college-aged twin children, Alex and Ashley.

Persistence paid off today. We went into the trip’s 5th hour with just 14 fish caught, and ended that hour with a tally of 68 fish after finding an aggressive, bottom-hugging school ready to do business.

I first met Doug through a mutual friend, Dick C. of Harker Heights, when Dick invited me to a morning Bible study that he and Doug attended at The Kettle restaurant in Killeen. That was several years ago. Later, after Dick has several good experiences out on the water with me, Doug thought he’d give it a try and do so while his younger two kids were home from college. Today was the day. Alex is heading into his junior year at Texas A&M majoring in chemical engineering, and Ashley heads into her junior year at the University of Texas, majoring in industrial design.

Once again under the influence of a bright full moon which shone along with the sun, we struggled a bit today until around 10:55 when things finally started going our way.

We started the day well with 7 fish boated in the first 30 minutes (5 white bass, 1 drum, 1 largemouth), including a double for Ashley, all coming on the downriggers using a pair of tandem rigs outfitted with doctored Pet Spoons. These fish all came from 23-26 feet, suspended over a bottom just a bit deeper, in the vicinity of Area 1112/658. After this action died, we failed to find fish at two other locations.

We re-established contact at Area 644/444, but, of the 7 fish we boated here, 3 were yearlings. I typically move when such small fish are present because 1) there a typically a lot of them and they’ll beat the larger fish to a bait, 2) because they can be hooked and go undetected, thus reducing the chances of catching another fish on the second bait, and 3) because undetected fish can be drowned as they are pulled through the water too forcibly for them to keep their gills working. So, we moved on with 14 fish on the “clicker” at this point.

I left the downrigging behind and began searching some humps and breaklines and came up clean (not even largemouth or shad on most areas) until checking on Area 1117. At the 25-26 foot mark here, the colored sonar and downscan sonar both began to light up real well revealing a lot of fish holding on or near the bottom. This was looking good. I got us positioned in a “hover” over top of the fish and we broke out the “smoking” rods to allow us to work 3/4 oz. TNT180’s in white/silver in and around these fish. We had excellent results right off the bat as Alex stuck a fish before his slab even hit the bottom on his first drop. For the next 40 minutes we continued to catch fish immediately beneath the boat and out and around the perimeter as we used a “smoking” tactic and a “lift-drop” tactic. Every one of these fish was in the same year group (I estimate 3 years old) and was right at 13″ +/- 1/2″. We boated a total of 54 fish here, 53 of which were white bass, along with 1 largemouth.

Just as quickly as the fish turned on, they turned back off again, and, by 11:45 sonar showed a clean bottom and the fish had simply vanished again.

TALLY = 68 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 11:45a

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 85.7F

Wind: SSW8-13.

Skies: Skies were fair and cloudless.