Asking Good Questions — 136 Fish with the TuffMan Champs

WHO I FISHED WITH: This past Friday evening I fished Lake Belton with last year’s TuffMan tournament series champions Ryan Warren and Frank Ellis.  Ryan’s 6 year old son, Brayden, joined us as well.  Ryan and Frank routinely tune in to my fishing reports and noted that my clients regularly catch largemouth bass in deep water during the cold months while not even targeting that species.  To their credit, Ryan and Frank did not ask me to do anything differently, but rather just observed closely what it was that we were doing.  They came prepared with good questions like, “Is there anything you do during your cold-water jigging that seems to increase the number of largemouth you land?”  I tried the best I could to both answer the questions and illustrate these answers, as well.  For example, my answer to this question was, “Fish near isolated timber.”   To illustrate this answer, I used Spot Lock to hold us in 50 feet of water, in an open space of bottom between two trees spread about 15 yards apart.  We caught white bass, as usual, but we also caught multiple largemouth bass here — more than we would catch at any other area the rest of the evening as we fished over clean bottoms.  I told Ryan a few days before the trip that I was concerned about keeping Brayden engaged in winter fishing with its typical lack of variety.  So, it was music to my ears to hear him say several times enthusiastically, “We need to do this every year, dad!”



Frank Ellis came up with a bonus blue cat weighing 10.50 pounds on a medium light spinning rod and 3/8 oz. slab while we jigged in 51 feet of water for schooled up white bass.


Towards dusk Ryan and Brayden boated this nice father-son double.  Little Brayden’s fish went 22 1/8″ and came on a slow-smoked slab; Ryan’s fish came on a deadstick bait fished closer to bottom.


WHAT WE FISHED FOR: This was a multi-species trip focused on white bass using artificial lures.


WHEN WE FISHED: Friday evening, 02 February 2018

HOW WE FISHED:   We fished vertically 100% of the time this evening.  Our first 90 minutes was spent searching out deep schools of what turned out to be smaller white bass on breaklines.  We caught fish steadily by snap-jigging.  The weather got more ‘fishy’ as the afternoon went on, with the winds turning more easterly and the cloud cover increasing and thickening.  I noted some birds working, which turned out to be the first action of what would be the norm for the remainder of the trip as terns led the way to 3 entirely different populations of fish thru sunset.  All three of these populations of fish were found from bottom up to around 25-30 feet over 50-55 feet of water.   The active fish beneath these birds allowed Frank and Ryan to get good at a number of different cold-water tactics.  Frank tended to prefer the slab and both snap-jigging and slow-smoking, while Ryan seemed drawn to deadsticking using sonar for precise depth placement.

OBSERVATIONS/NOTES:   1) The water temperature was up to 50.5 from a low of 47.4 just about 2 weeks ago.  2) The fish we found under birds were active and suspended.  They did not respond nearly as well to a deadstick as they did to a slowly, steadily moving bait. 3) The fish we found on bottom with sonar were all 2017 year class fish; the suspended fish under birds were primarily 2016 year class fish.

TALLY: 136 FISH, all caught and released


Start Time: 2:00p

End Time:  6:10p

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start:  53F

Water Surface Temp:  50.5F

Wind Speed & Direction:  ENE7-8

Sky Conditions:  50% light grey cover, increasing slowly to 80% by trip’s end

Water Level: 3.37 feet low

GT = 60




**Area vic 1738

**Area vic 1490

**Area B0029C

**Area vic 1945

**Area B0030C



Bob Maindelle, Central Texas Fishing Guide

Owner, Holding the Line Guide Service

254.368.7411 (call or text)




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