SKIFF Trip #11 for 2012 — 52 Fish, Stillhouse Hollow Lake, 30 Nov. 2012

The following blog entry appears in the form of a report to those who support the Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun (S.K.I.F.F.) program which serves to put the children of deployed or deceased soldiers on the water at no charge to their families…

Toby proudly holds this trip’s trophy — a 2.25 pound largemouth that nailed his TNT180 slab in 32 feet of water .

30 November 2012

Dear Friends of S.K.I.F.F.,

This evening I fished with 8 year old Toby S., the son of Staff Sergeant Cheyenne S. and his wife, Anitra. Toby’s dad is currently serving in Afghanistan as an infantryman with the 2-7 Cavalry.

Mr. Marty Wall and his younger son, Evan, also accompanied us tonight as our videographers.

I had fished a morning trip with a U.S. Navy veteran in his 70’s, so I already had a good idea as to where the fish were hiding. We essentially drove straight from the courtesy dock at the boat launch to the fish, found them on sonar, buoyed them, and began to catch fish from the very first time we dropped our lures to bottom and for the next 2+ hours!

Today’s late afternoon bite offered plenty of quality white bass action for fish exceeding 13″.

The weather conditions were favorable with a manageable breeze from the SW and partly clouded skies. We were just barely past full moon which can make the daytime fishing a bit tougher than otherwise, but, there were plenty of fish to go around.

Prior to this experience, Toby had fished a time or two, but had only one fish, a sunfish, to his credit. Fortunately, Toby was both a fast learner and an enthusiastic learner. When theory (my explanation of a given method) turned to reality (with a live fish on the end of his line), his brain made the association very quickly and he was quick to replicate the movements that led to success.

We primarily used a combination of smoking and vertical jigging today, both with 3/4 oz. TNT slabs in silver/white.

Our first success came at Area 638/805 in about 32 feet of water. We boated a total of 47 fish at this location before the failing light made this deep-water area a bit too dark to allow for a continued strong bite.

We moved on to a shallower, brighter area, Area 767. We found fish scattered and tight to bottom, but gave it a try here anyway and wound up boating only 2 white bass here, although both were healthy 13+ inch fish. The sun set around 5:30 as we fished this area.

In the winter months, fish tend to feed shallow early and late in the low-light conditions around sunrise and sunset. With this in mind, we made one final move to a shallow flat and ran downriggers down at 12-17 feet over an 18-19 foot bottom. We ran two rods, each rigged up with a tandem rig of 2 Pet Spoons each (4 lures in the water). Less than 3 minutes went by and we had our first strike. Toby handled that one very well after following instructions closely on how to work around the downrigging hardware to keep the fish free to play in to boat side. After we released that fish, we got the gear back down to depth and this time scored a double! Two fish at one time on one rod! Toby was very excited about the novelty of that catch.

Around 5:50 the bite died with the failing light and we got packed up and ready to run back to shore, but, not before doing a little onboard tackle craft. Toby’s dad had given Toby a new Gerber multi-tool as a present on the day he departed for Afghanistan and Toby has been itching to use it. I had a few rods rigged with crankbaits for flatline trolling which I knew needed to come off, so, we got out the old (new) Gerber and went to work cutting line and trimming knots down to size.

We managed to boat a total of 52 fish this afternoon, with the largest of the white bass going between 13-14 inches, and with a token largemouth thrown in for good measure, which weighed in at 2.25 pounds.

Toby’s mom was very appreciative of the opportunity we presented to Toby. We are all looking forward to the final copy of the video that Marty and Evan produce!

Thank you all for your support of S.K.I.F.F. — whether you are an individual donor, one of the Austin Fly Fishers who works behind the scenes, a state employee who sends “First Fish” or “Big Fish” awards out to the kids, or on staff at one of the companies in the fishing industry who made the decision to supply line, rods, reels, lifejackets, electronics, lures, gear etc. to this effort, I can tell you it makes a difference to the families of our soldiers who volunteer to serve in harm’s way to keep the fight outside America’s borders. Thank you very much!


Bob Maindelle


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Start Time: 3:00p

End Time: 6:00p

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 63.5F

Wind: SSW6-7 the entire trip.

The Real “Old Navy” — 65 Fish, Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide Report, 30 Nov. 2012

This morning I fished with former naval flight surgeon Ray J. of Harker Heights, TX. Ray joined the U.S. Navy in 1959 and is now enjoying retirement.

Ray and I primarily vertically jigged today for fish that insisted on staying tight to the bottom. We used the TNT180 slab in 3/4 oz. on braided line to get the job done.

The fishing conditions were good today, albeit a bit murky in the first hour and a half due to thick, grey cloud cover. We had good wind direction (south) and a fair wind speed at around 6 mph. The full moon always seems to put a drag on fishing and today’s results were a bit softer than normal given the great weather conditions, but we managed to put together a nice bag when all was said and done.

We began our trip in shallow water at Area 1155 (17-21′) and moved gradually deeper as the skies brightened. In this area we found scattered fish along the bottom and so went with bladebaits cast horizontally to work a greater area than a vertical presentation would allow for. Ray had mentioned earlier that he was “okay” using baitcasting equipment, but had much less experience with spinning gear and would like to learn to use the spinning gear more effectively. We did some “OJT” and within a few casts he was covering the distances we needed to cover and was getting more accurate with each cast. We boated only 6 fish here and moved on.

Our next stop came at Area 556/385 on a deeper flat. A few birds were looking “fishy”, so I ran sonar over the area and found a lot of bait with some fish both on the bottom and up as high as 4 feet off the bottom. We again cast bladebaits and then did a bit of downrigging here to cover a great amount of water quickly and consistently found only very small fish here, so, we moved on after boating 8.

Our third (and final) stop came in the vicinity of Area 1154 and a few yards to the south of it. As we got down to fishing this area, out conditions improved, and the fishing took an uptick. The cloud cover lightened a bit to where it was still grey and the sun was still obscured, but the skies were no longer murky. We also saw periodic increases in the wind velocity by just 2mph or so for a few minutes at a time, but it was enough to make the fish notch up their efforts a bit. We put 51 fish in the boat here, every one via vertical jigging. Although as we hooked fish, I could see schoolmates follow those hooked fish toward the surface on sonar, those schoolmates returned immediately to bottom, not up off bottom as they do when they are really turned on. Thus, we were not able to use a smoking tactic for these fish and caught fish more slowly and methodically using a jigging tactic.

TALLY = 65 Fish, all caught and released, including 1 freshwater drum, 1 largemouth bass, and 63 white bass

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Start Time: 7:10a

End Time: 11:50a

Air Temp: 66F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 63.5F

Wind: S6-7 the entire trip.

Mr. Clean & the Long-Cast Queen — 72 Fish, Stillhouse Fishing Guide Report, 26 Nov. 2012

This morning I fished with a very nice young couple from the Austin area, Richard R. and Abby R. who came out with me for the first time.

As Abby brought this fish to the surface, it teetered on the rim of the net just as her slab pulled free. It could have tipped either way, but today luck was on her side. This baby went 4.75 pounds on a certified scale.

White bass were the mainstay of our catch today, although a few bass and drum added some variety.

Richard is a small businessman who owns his own industrial cleaning service and manages ~100 employees, and Abby is just starting out in the Austin real estate and leasing business. Abby was the one that initiated the couple’s interest in fishing, and she brought some “good skills” (sorry, Napoleon) to the table, including a great two-fisted cast. The best thing was that she’s a lefty caster, so, I had her on the left pedestal seat and Richard on the right as I stayed in the middle and we stayed relatively tangle free at times when the fish required that we cast and work our baits horizontally.

The closer we got to today’s date, the more excited I got about our fishing prospects as the weather setup was just perfect — SW winds blowing in advance of an incoming cold front which would actually hit about 10 hours later.

Murphy’s Law took effect during the couple’s morning preparations and put us about 30 minutes behind getting on the water, but, this allowed me to thoroughly glass for bird activity and so, by the time they arrived, we literally drove from the dock, to the birds, and began catching fish … no waiting for, watching, or chasing the birds in the pre-dawn cold required!

Our first action of the day was also the shallowest action we would encounter. We found fish in as little as 17 feet right down the centerline at Area 994. We smoked slabs (TNT180’s in 3/4 oz.) and threw bladebaits worked in a lift-drop fashion for a total of 19 fish before this shallow bite died. We then downrigged our way back out to deeper water following the fish and birds as they exited, picking up a single and a double (two fish at at a time on one rod) on a tandem Pet Spoon rig.

We moved on to deeper water and spent about 90 minutes in the vicinity of Area 1154/036 after seeing abundant, bottom-hugging white bass on sonar. The wind hadn’t really kicked in yet, so these fish were kind of lackadaisical. We’d catch a few smoking, then they’d lose interest but hit a slabbed lure; next, they’d perk up again and lift off bottom requiring us to go back to smoking, and so on. We pulled another 26 fish off this area as we waited, hoping that stronger wind would materialize. Our tally now stood at 48 fish.

Once the wind came up and had been working on the water for a good 20 minutes or so, we made one last move to Area 103/995 and found the bottom carpeted with white bass in a solid feeding posture. I buoyed an especially large concentration of schooled fish, we got slabs down to them and the party started … we boated our last 24 fish in all of 20 minutes and had to leave them biting so we could head back to the dock to allow Abby to honor an appointment she had to keep back in the city.

During our 3 1/2 hours out, we employed a variety of techniques including downrigging, vertical jigging, smoking, and working bladebaits with a lift-drop method. Richard and Abby really enjoyed the variety, but, when asked, said the smoking was hard to beat!

TALLY = 72 Fish, all caught and released, including 2 largemouth bass, 3 freswater drum, and 67 white bass

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Start Time: 7:30a

End Time: 11:00a

Air Temp: 64F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 63.5F

Wind: SW2-3 at trip’s start, slowly and steadily building to SW8 by trip’s end.

Frozen Fishin’ Buddies on Belton — 29 Fish, 24 Nov. 2012, Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report

This morning I fished with fishing buddies Cindy S. and Kathy W. of Austin. We were faced with cold-front conditions, but worked through it to put together a nice catch today.

Cindy took this big boy on a downrigged Pet Spoon. We had to move, move, move today to keep up with the fish and downrigging gave us an edge on this mobile fish.

Kathy slabbed this hybrid up out of 40+ feet of water just as our bite was about to die today.

Cindy works at the University of Texas in Austin, and Kathy works at BAE in Austin on a military system that enhances survivability for our troops downrange. The two braved the elements and camped out at the Westcliff campground on Belton Lake overnight in advance of our trip this morning.

Our cold front came in around 10am yesterday with cloud cover and ~20mph winds. Overnight, the winds settled and the skies cleared to drop the temperature 20 degrees down to 41F. As we began our trip, a ~9mph NNW wind remained, which was enough to move the water and thus the fish still fed albeit tentatively.

We found some bird activity, but, instead of dipping down to the water to feed on shad in a handful of areas, the birds traveled long and fed briefly, traveled long and fed briefly, and so on. This indicated that 1) the fish were really moving (something we also clearly observed on sonar), and 2) that the gamefish, although pursuing shad, were not pursuing them all the way to the surface where the birds could take advantage of them.

For these reasons, we found downrigging to be much more effective than jigging today as it allowed us to get baits in front of more fish than we could by simply sitting in one spot waiting for these fast-moving schools to roam beneath us. We did pick up a few fish on slabs by “smoking”, but could only boat 2-3 at a time before the fish would move off or lose interest.

We fished primarily a crescent-shaped region from Area 152, thru Area 672, and east to Area 1144.

A brief “spurt” of bird/fish action occurred a between Area 715/081, but was immediately mobbed with boats due to the visible birds, so, we forewent that mess to find fish without birds working over them so as to avoid the fleet of “weekend warriors”.

We found fish in and around Areas 930/1012 and put our last fish of the trip in the boat from off of this area. By this time the wind had gone all but slack and the fish had really slowed down. We changed over to a slabbing approach to give the fish a good, long look at our baits, and this worked well for us.

Cindy and Kathy have made a number of attempts at fishing in the past in both saltwater and fresh, but none so productive as this trip. They were eager learners and came prepared with a number of good questions not just concerning tactics we employed, but tactics they could employ on their own outings. I tried to completely answer these questions for them, as well as provide some casting lessons/coaching at the end of our trip to help enhance their success in the future.

TALLY = 29 Fish, all caught and released, including 5 legal hybrid stripers, 7 short hybrid stripers, and 17 white bass

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Start Time: 7:00a

End Time: 12:00a

Air Temp: 41F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 63.5F

Wind: NNW9 at trips start, slowly and steadily tapering to calm by 11:15.

Thanksgiving Day Fishing – 134 Fish, White Bass Fishing Guide Report, 23 Nov. 2012

This morning I fished with returning client Curtis W. of Georgetown, accompanied by his 12 year old son, Josh. We just couldn’t convince the sisters to rise before 7am … maybe next time!!

134 fish made for some lasting Thanksgiving Day father-and-son memories today.

Josh landed our big fish of the trip — a 17.75 inch largemouth which evidently was a long-term deepwater resident given how pale his coloration was.

I first fished with Curtis last winter after his wife, Debra, purchased a Christmas fishing gift certificate from me for Curtis. Curtis works a lot of hours and days off come few and far between, so, he was ready to get after them today.

Josh is a middle-schooler with interests in basketball, football, and computer programming. He came into the trip with limited fishing experience but was a very fast learner, picking up the skill of casting with spinning gear in all of 3 practice throws!

As we got going, I’d hoped birds would help point the way to some fish, but, that was not to be this morning, so, we had to find them “the hard way” — with sonar.

I’ve noticed a trend over the past 3 weeks for the fish to be moving gradually upstream, even if just by a hundred yards or so at a clip. Given this, I began looking a bit farther uplake than I had been at any point in the fall thus far. This paid off as we began our day at Area 103, finding fish on a gentle breakline from 21 down into 40 feet of water. We got stopped right overhead and began “smoking” with TNT180 slabs in 3/4 oz. and immediately began to put fish in the boat. Eventually (as often happens in shallower water) the school scattered, but, side-looking StructureScan showed fish out to our starboard side, so, we began to work bladebaits through these fish and picked up our final 4 fish here on these baits worked “lift-drop” style . We landed 19 here before the well went dry forcing us to look elsewhere.

The sky had brightened now with sunrise in the rearview mirror, so, I decided to probe a bit deeper figuring the shallow bite would be tapering off due to the increased light level. We hit Area 1153, found fish on the prowl here, buoyed them, got on top of them, and worked them over with smoked slabs, taking our tally up to 43 fish before this school lost interest and drifted away.

We made another move, deeper yet, to a breakline that topped out at 31 feet (Area 036). We found another sizeable, and even more active, school of fish here. Again, they responded well to the smoking tactic and we stayed on these fish for about 50 minutes, taking our tally up to 97 fish before they shut down. Toward the end of our stay here, I kept seeing “bottom huggers” on sonar which would linger for a few minutes, but which failed to respond to a smoking tactic. So, I experimented with an outright slabbing tactic, and the fish immediately gave a “fins up” to that. I got Curtis and Josh both switched over to a slabbing outfit and they both continued to catch fish after the smoking tactic no longer produced.

With 97 fish in the boat, and the cloud cover and wind building, I had no doubt we could exceed the 100 fish mark again today, but, it wasn’t going to happen at this particular location. We moved once again, but, this time I just cut a serpentine idling pattern over the very same breakline we’d just been fishing and followed it downstream (deeper) until I once again contacted fish. This didn’t take too long and, as soon as our lures struck bottom, we were fast into fish at Area 1154. We stayed here until our previously agreed upon “Thanksgiving curfew” of 11:00am (actually fudged back to 11:15, but don’t tell my wife) at which time my kitchen pass expired. During our time on this area, we again saw an initial interest in a smoking tactic which then declined to nothing, followed by an interest in a slabbing tactic accounting for our last few fish taken. We brought our tally to 134 fish on this location.

TALLY = 134 Fish, all caught and released, including 1 largemouth bass, 2 freshwater drum, and 131 white bass

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Start Time: 7:00a

End Time: 11:00a

Air Temp: 56F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 64.5F

Wind: SSW the entire trip, building from 2-3mph at sunrise up to 13mph by trip’s end.

Calm, Bright Days — Like Pulling Teeth — 53 Fish, Belton Lake Guide Report, 21 Nov. 2012

This morning I fished with long-time client Shayne O. who brought as his guests his son, Jayce, as well as his brother-in-law, Dave, and Dave’s son, Drew, both of Denver, CO.

Dave took big fish honors this morning with this 3+ pound hybrid. A resident of Denver, Dave is more accustomed to trout fishing in moving water. This was Dave’s first experience tangling with hybrid stripers.

My crew today: from L to R: Jayce, Shayne, Dave, and Drew.

All four men had prior fishing experience and although the solid numbers that Stillhouse has been producing lately were tempting, we decided to roll the dice for a shot at some hybrid and chose to fish Belton today instead.

Regardless of where one fished today, it was going to be a struggle. Despite a “Wunderground” forecast for winds SE at 6 mph, we had no sustained wind to speak of, and the cloud cover was just marginal.

We were on the water at sunrise and the birds did come off roost and search for gamefish-pushed bait, but they, too, found little on top and headed back to the shoreline hungry this morning.

We caught only one fish via downrigging in the vicinity of Area 1144 during our first hour on the water.

We relocated entirely to Area 955/1152 and, on a gentle slope in about 38 feet of water found a large, mixed school of white bass and hybrid stripers. We caught the majority of our fish in this area over a 75 minute window, taking our tally up to 37. Even though the fish were active for quite a while, they never really got going strong and, even when we did get some fish to pull up off bottom and respond to our presentations, they would settle right back down again. We used a combination of smoking and slabbing here to boat these fish using TNT180 slabs in 3/4 oz.

From here, we moved back over to Area 1144 and put 3 more fish in the boat after idling through and finding a school of about 60-70 fish right on bottom. Again, this school lost interest very quickly and despite plucking fish off bottom, very few other schoolmates gave chase or got excited enough to provoke feeding.

Our final flurry of activity accounted for our last 13 fish of the day. These fish were caught after noontime on Area 717 in over 40 feet of water. These fish first presented on sonar as loosely congregated and tight to bottom. As we began working our slabs among them they tightened up out of curiosity right beneath the boat allowing us to take a few, but, again, the sustained interest just wasn’t there.

By nearly 1pm we knew we were looking at diminishing returns and decided to call it a day right there. This wasn’t all I was hoping for, but I felt we did the best we could with the conditions we faced.

TALLY = 53 Fish, all caught and released, including 4 hybrid bass, 2 freshwater drum, and 47 white bass

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Start Time: 7:00a

End Time: 1:00p

Air Temp: 56F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 64.5F

Wind: Calm at trip’s start, with calm to light and variable puffs for the entirety of the trip.

Skies: High thin clouds until noon, then clearing to partly cloudy at 15%.

Nature Works on a Bell-Shaped Curve — 112 Fish, Stillhouse Fishing Guide Report, 20 Nov. 2012

This morning I fished with Harker Heights-based chiropractor Jason D., and his two boys, Dylan and Drake. The boys were fast learners and our trip tally of 112 fish reflected that!!

Jason took this nicely colored largemouth on a slab. It was no doubt “ghosting” along near the school of white bass looking to make a meal out of a small one. With her fist-sized mouth, she could easily have done so!!

White bass action for fish up to ~13.5″ was excellent this morning. From L to R that’s Dylan, Jason, and Drake.

The morning started off looking tough — no wind, bright sun, and no helpful bird activity. So, we relied on our eyes, ears, and sonar as our means of finding fish today. Our first stop came as we witnessed multiple small white bass chasing shad to the top on the glassy surface. We idled in, looked around with sonar, saw fish primarily in the top 10 feet of the water column, and picked up one fish to “break the ice” (nice going, Dylan!), but decided to move on after a few minutes as the fish were not showing consistently.

We headed over to Area 1146 which has been very productive of late. As the depth rose out of 40+ feet of water up to the 25 foot range and shallower, we saw schooled, active fish in a feeding posture right at a gentle breakline at the 25 foot mark. I buoyed these fish and we got down to business. We boated 15 more fish here in about as many minutes, including 4 fish that went over 14″. The action died here pretty quickly, and sonar scans of the general area revealed little in the way of fish holding nearby. So, off we went again in search of fish.

We contacted fish, fortunately, at the very next location we checked (Area 371). This area treated us very well, especially given the less than optimum conditions. We had bright skies and just a breath of wind, but, that wind was from the west and a westerly wind nearly always gets the fish into a feeding mode. Long story short, we stayed over this one patch of bottom and boated 96 fish at that location, hitting the 100 fish mark at exactly 9:50am.

While here, we began with a “smoking” tactic which accounted for a vast majority of our fish. We used TNT180 slabs in 3/4 oz for this work. For variety’s sake, I spent some time with Dylan (a 3rd grader at Central Texas Christian School in Belton) teaching him to cast and retrieve with spinning gear. He picked this skill up in about 3-4 practice casts and was casting very smoothly and consistently thereafter. I put a bladebait on for him, thus allowing him to work in a horizontal plane out away from the boat (lift-drop style), while Dad and Drake kept the fish directly under the boat on their toes (fins?). Of the fish boated in this area, 4 were largemouth bass, 1 was a freshwater drum (gasper gou), and the other 91 were white bass primarily 1, 2, and 3 years old.

By 10:10, the morning bite was beginning to fade, so we geared up with downriggers in an attempt to comb out from among the many inactive/uninterested fish a few that were still willing to give chase and strike. We spent the next 40 minutes working the downriggers for a final 8 more fish including 1 largemouth, 1 drum, and 6 white bass, 4 of which were landed in pairs (one pair for each boy) as we used twin Pet Spoons on a tandem rig. This all took place at Area 371, where we’d been “smoking” slabs earlier.

By 10:50, nature’s “bell-shaped curve” had played out once again, going from zero activity at sunrise, slowly building and peaking, then slowly declining, and finally going back to zero. We watched the whole cycle unfold today and were grateful it lasted as long as it did.

This turned out to be just a great trip — having active fish all through the 4 hour span where younger kids are involved is an ideal situation. I thank the Lord for every trip I get to conduct, but I can’t help having a little extra enthusiasm in thanking Him when it all comes together nicely like it did today!

TALLY = 112 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:00a

End Time: 11:00a

Air Temp: 55F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 63.5F

Wind: Winds were SW2-3 for the entire trip.

Skies: Skies were fair with 10% high, wispy clouds.

A Clear-cut Correlation between Wind & White Bass — 112 Fish, Stillhouse, 17 Nov. 2012

This morning I fished with long-time clients Jim and Shena S. of Cedar Park, TX. We were anticipating vertical fishing today for white bass on Stillhouse.

Shena, rosy-cheeked from the cold, with a few of the larger white bass that came from among the first 80 fish we boated in our first 2 3/4 hours on the water.

Jim used a combination of “easing” and “smoking” to boat these 13+ inch white bass.

On the heels of a 100+ fish day yesterday, I was hopeful we could squeeze out yet another trip eclipsing the century mark. The forecast looked “just okay” the closer we got to start time … easterly winds all morning from 4-7mph. As I launched, we actually had a SW breeze at ~6mph which, fortunately, lasted about 2 3/4 hours. It was during this time that we caught the majority of our fish.

We fished in the vicinity of Area 1146/1150 and channel-ward from there. We found white bass in large schools moving steadily through this area and feeding as they moved, primarily in the lower half of the water column, but occasionally pushing bait to the surface (BA:6HG). We began up shallower early in 25-28 feet, and, as the sun rose higher, moved deeper into as much as 36-38 feet.

We began with an “easing” technique using light TNT180’s in 3/8 oz., but the fished showed they were plenty aggressive enough for us to switch to larger baits (TNT 180’s in 3/4 oz.) and a faster presentation, so, we “smoked” for a majority of the time the favorable SW wind blew.

During the time the SW wind blew, we boated exactly 80 fish (78 white bass, 2 largemouth). At around 9:45, the wind died, and with it the fishing. In less than 10 minutes’ time after the surface went calm, the fish completely went off their feed, and we boated only 3 more fish during this time.

We then spent the next hour and 45 minutes searching for fish with sonar, primarily in deep water which occasionally buffers the impact of calm conditions. We found bait, but no fish, save a lone sunfish out in no-man’s land.

As the noon hour grew closer, I decided to deploy the downriggers so we could have baits in the water, running near bottom so that lethargic fish holding so close to bottom that they remained undetected by sonar could be tempted by these low riding baits. This tactic produced very quickly, producing two sets of doubles on tandem-rigged Pet Spoons. These hooked fish, as they were reeled in, caused their schoolmates to get agitated and rise slightly off bottom, just enough for sonar detection. Once I saw them, I buoyed them, and the game was back on.

We fished over these buoyed fish near Area 148 for about an hour using blade baits with a “lift-drop” technique, and boated another 27 fish, about 40% of which went 13+ inches (3 year old fish).

By 12:45 we’d pulled just about all the fish off this area that it was going to give up and so, at the six hour mark decided to call it a good day having once again pushed pass the magic “100 fish trip” milestone.

TALLY = 112 Fish, all caught and released, including 4 largemouth bass, 1 bluegill sunfish, and 107 white bass

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Start Time: 7:00a

End Time: 1:00p

Air Temp: 33F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 64.5F

Wind: SW5 at trip’s start, calm from 9:45 to 11:00, then ENE to NE wind at 5-6 thereafter.

Skies: Skies were clear.

“…An Excellent Transfer of Knowledge” — 131 Fish, Stillhouse Fishing Guide Report, 16 Nov. 2012

This morning I fished with Adrian and Melinda A. of Harker Heights, TX.

Adrian and Melinda boated 103 fish in a shade over 3 hours of fishing this morning. Melinda boated this 1.75 pound black bass from among schooled white bass.

Adrian seemed to have the knack for outsized white bass today. We boated many whites exceeding 13.5″ this morning.

After waiting out the last 2 very calm days, we hit the water again hoping the forecast wind would materialize, and, thankfully, it did.

Adrian and Melinda are occasional anglers with their own boat who hoped to “put the pieces together” on Stillhouse and learn how to fish better. In trying to meet their expectations, I focused on fish location. Many times on the water and in this blog, I’ve stressed that fish are not all that difficult to catch, but can be extremely difficult to find. Thus, location is the key.

As we fished today I gave them some pointers on natural signs to look for in this cool season, showed them what parts of the lake to focus on, demonstrated how to get the most from sonar equipment, and explained what weather conditions tend to produce the best action.

We caught fish essentially non-stop from 7:15 to 10:15. Our first success came at Area 1043 (BA:3HG,3C). We found a school of yearling white bass here and used small TNT180’s (in 3/8 oz.) to target these fish using an “easing” technique. We put 7 fish (all white bass) in the boat very quickly before this action dried up.

Next, we hit Area 1146 (BA:9HG) and found a significant feed underway here. Fish were spread throughout the water column and were actively driving bait to the surface. We kept our TNT180’s on, but upped our size to 3/4 oz., and fished them using a “smoking” technique in order to take advantage of these fishes’ willingness to chase. We boated an additional 36 fish here including 34 white bass, 1 drum, and 1 largemouth bass. By 8:15 this action ended.

We moved to the vicinity of Area 037, made several sonar passes, and spotted fish holding just off bottom in a feeding posture right on the gentle breakline at 25 feet. We got the boat hovered right over top of these fish, let our slabs down and used a smoking technique initially (as fish were aggressive), followed by an easing technique (after they settled down). We added another 42 fish to our tally here, including white bass from the 1, 2 and 3 year old year classes, as well as another drum.

Once this action died, I moved us to a deeper, more wind-exposed area as the sun was getting higher and the wind was fairly light due to the somewhat protected area we were in.

We moved to Area 1147 and, at the deep end of a 28 to 41 foot breakline, found another large concentration of white bass. As we experienced at the previous location, these fish were very aggressive at first, but then calmed down more quickly here, so, we used appropriate tactics to match the activity level and came away with 17 more fish here. As we transitioned into an “easing” technique, we could see at one point on sonar that there still remained plenty of fish beneath us, but, they were quickly and increasingly becoming unwilling to strike. The morning feed was fast coming to a close and I let Adrian and Melinda know this was the “beginning of the end”.

We decided to do one thing before wrapping up, and that was a demo on the use of downriggers. This could not have played out more perfectly … I explained the equipment and the purpose of it — to precisely control the depth of a trolled bait so as to effectively cover lots of water. I rigged up a tandem Pet Spoon, saw bait holding around 25 feet over a 35 foot bottom, and so lowered the ball to 25 feet. We covered about 50 yards during which time I pointed out the appearance of the ball on sonar. Right at that moment, a fish appeared on sonar at 28 feet. I made a fast, manual adjustment, lowering the ball an additional two feet to get the ball closer to, but still above, that target fish. A few seconds went by during which time our bait traveled close to this target fish, and BAM!, that fish hit the lure and allowed Adrian and Melinda to see a “turnkey” demo of downrigging. Adrian landed the largemouth, thus putting our 103rd fish in the boat for their trip.

The couple was ready to head in, warm up, and sip some coffee, so, we took a few photos of our largest white bass and got them headed home after a very productive morning. Adrian paid a nice complement saying, “This was an excellent transfer of knowledge.”, meaning he had gained insight on many of the things necessary to be consistently successful in his future angling pursuits.

With a trip on the books tomorrow, I set back out to check a few more spots. I looked over seven areas with sonar, found fish on two of them (Areas 1148 and 1149) and boated an additional 28 fish off of these areas over the next hour and 45 minutes (that’s a far slower catch rate than the first 3 hours provided). This was much more technical fishing as the fish were now holding tight to bottom, unwilling to chase, and bit very subtly. Every one of these fish came on a light 3/8 oz. TNT180 fished “slabbing” style.

TALLY = 131 Fish, all caught and released, including 4 largemouth bass, 6 drum, and 121 white bass

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Start Time: 7:00a

End Time: 10:15a

Air Temp: 48F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 64.5F

Wind: NE6-8.

Skies: Skies were fair with <10% cloud cover.

Playing the Fronts — 65 Fish, Lake Belton Fishing Guide Report, 12 Nov. 2012

This morning I fished with returning guests Steve N. of Temple, his son-in-law, Ryan, and Ryan’s son, 7 year old Caleb — 3 generations of anglers.

As yet another cold front blew in, the white bass and hybrid striped bass cranked up at dawn today and stayed active until around 10am.

The fishing was strong yet again today! The high pressure behind yesterday’s cold front continued to build in today, thus keeping the NW winds strong and dry. This typically equates to good fishing with the water temperatures as high as they still are.

We got on the water 15 minutes before sunrise and boated our first fish about 20 minutes thereafter, at around 7:15. From 7:15 to 9:45 the fish fed hard and we caught fish consistently, but had to keep up with the fish to do so. This was a matter of being on the lookout for fish breaking the surface which was tough at times given the winds which were at 13-14 mph (BA: 70G).

When we saw fish breaking, we’d run to that vicinity, search with sonar, stop when sonar revealed fish, and worked slabs for them as long as the fish would stay put. Once they moved, we searched for more fish with sonar until the next visible cue got us closer.

The number of hybrid striped bass we caught today was once again remarkable. Of the 65 fish we boated, all were white bass and hybrid stripers, with hybrid making up a majority of our catch. Sixteen of our hybrid were legal fish.

We did all of our fishing with TNT180’s and KastMasters using a smoking technique. I experimented with an easing technique using the TNT180 once things slowed down and did well on that, too.

By 9:45a the bite was winding down and so we gave downrigging a try. We boated a set of double white bass on Pet Spoons fished on tandem rigs, then picked up a third white bass, and, realizing things were winding down, decided to call it a day and head back in to thaw out.

I was really impressed with young Caleb on this trip. He’s been coming out with his grandpa now for about 4 years and has really progressed to where he doesn’t just “do” a technique as he’s told, rather, he’s beginning to understand “why” a technique works, thus allowing him to “do” it even better. Truth be know, I think he outfished his grandpa on this go-round!!

As we ease into our cold weather period, “reading” or “playing” the fronts will become critical. The best fishing typically happens on the stiff winds and cloudy conditions immediately preceding a front (from SSE to WSW) and on the W to N winds blowing hard as the front comes in and as high pressure builds in after that front’s passage. The calmer, warmer, bright, pleasant days following a front’s passage tend to make for a difficult bite even though they make for more comfortable conditions to be outdoors in. Wet cold fronts, typically with a NE wind direction tend to sour a bite, as well.

TALLY = 65 Fish, all caught and released

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Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 10:00a

Air Temp: 41F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 66.5F

Wind: NNW13-15.

Skies: Skies were clear and bluebird bright.