A Fisherman, and a Fisher of Men … 113 Fish, Central Texas Fishing Guide Report, 17 Dec. 2012

Today I fished with father and son team Larry and Brett L. Larry serves as an assistant football coach at Lampasas High School and Brett works at the Wildflower Country Club and golf course in Temple.

Father and son fishing means father and son results. Here Brett (L) and Larry (R) lip one of the many 13-14+ inch white bass we boated today.

Larry and Brett had both done a good bit of white bass fishing in the past, having fished the spawning run in the Sabine River and Angelina River, and having fished in the slack water of Lake Livingston.

We had a stiff constant northwest breeze today which got the fish going early and kept them going until beyond 11 AM. Our first success of the morning came at Area 130/1159. This area features a slow taper from 20 feet out to 27 feet. As we found fish scattered and tight to the bottom on sonar, we hovered over top of them, made long casts into the wind, and worked our blade baits lift–drop style all the way back to the boat. I chose half-ounce Cicada blade baits for this duty. By 9:15 AM the bite in this area died, and we once again began searching for fish. By this time we had boated 34 fish and nearly every one was a beefy 13-14 inch white bass.

A loosely organized and fairly wide ranging flock of terns helped solve the location puzzle for us pretty quickly. We once again found ourselves on top of fish at Area 334. With these fish down between 28 and 31 feet, I decided to go with a smoking tactic at first, and when that produced less than I’d hoped for, we switched over to straight vertical jigging with TNT180’s in 3/4 oz. We added another nine fish to our tally here, but as went the terns, so went the fish – they, too, were loosely organized and fairly wide ranging. We wound up catching nine fish here.

We caught up with another more concentrated flock of terns working over top of Area 335. These fish were right on the shoulder (or breakline) where a deep flat rolls off into the old river channel. This group of white bass were much more tightly bunched thus making them much more competitive. Given the fishes’ demonstrated reluctance to chase a smoked slab at our last stop, and given that the hour was now late in the morning, we decided to start with a straight vertical jigging approach, assuming these fish would be a bit sluggish. This area produced at a moderate pace, but it produced well. In an hour’s time, with 3 rods going, we added 45 more white bass to our tally. These fish were mixed in the year class from one to three years old.

Since neither Larry nor Brett had any experience with downriggers I did a little on the water demonstration to show their effectiveness. As the fishing began to wane around 11 AM, I put down twin tandem rigs (that’s four lures in the water total), and we worked a 60 yard stretch of breakline in the vicinity of Area 335. Larry’s rod went off first just minutes after we got going, and he came up with a single; then, both rods went off and both men came up with a double (that’s four fish landed at once). I watched sonar closely as we trolled and saw a strong congregation of fish at Area 1158. I marked that area and we returned to vertical jig over it after quickly stowing the downrigging gear. Our fish count stood at 93 as we begin fishing this location, and by the time the fish had turned off, we had boated another 20 fish including 19 white bass and one freshwater drum.

We decided to call it a real good day right there with scarcely more than five minutes gone by without catching a fish at any point in the day’s trip.

I particularly enjoyed today’s company and conversation. Larry has an evangelist’s heart and is now honing his evangelist’s skills. His forthcoming retirement coupled with his good standing and reputation in his community will allow him to reach a lot of people in Lampasas and the surrounding area with the Gospel and the message of hope it brings. May God bless you in that pursuit, Larry.

TALLY = 113 Fish, all caught and released, including 1 drum, 1 largemouth bass, and 111 white bass

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Start Time: 7:20a

End Time: 11:40a

Air Temp: 53F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 59.8F

Wind: NW12-14.

Skies: Clear, “bluebird” skies.

Great Screenshots Today — Central Texas White Bass Fishing Guide Report (Stillhouse)

Today, Thursday, 13 Dec., was my first day back on Stillhouse following the hard cold front that pushed through Sunday night into Monday. I focused on scouting current fish locations and on collecting sonar screenshots for an upcoming presentation at the Cabela’s store in Buda.

The two distinct “peaks” of fish showing in the center of the screen were fish that raised up off bottom to chase fish that I’d hooked and was reeling toward the surface. If you look above the “e” in Range (Less) and at about the 23 foot mark, you’ll see a lone fish arch up there by itself. That’s my hooked fish.

If you look just above the letters “R” and “e” in the word “Range”, you’ll see a dark blue line traced from about 20 feet downward to about 42 feet at about a 30 degree angle. That is my 3/4 oz. slab. You can also see that the line stops at about 42 feet. That’s where a fish swam up off bottom to strike the slab. I hooked this fish and reeled it to the surface, as shown by the blue, red and yellow line that slopes upwards and fades into the surface clutter, starting at the “e” in Range and ending above the “o” in “Stop”. I then released that fish. You can see the trace of the fish swimming in a beeline toward the bottom starting at ~7 feet deep above the “S” in Split, and tailing out at 38 feet deep above the “u” in Source. You can also see about 9 other fish followed this hooked fish upwards out of curiosity.

Although the bottom is not well defined because I was stopped over top of a sloped bottom, you can clearly see fish on bottom in 63 feet of water. Until today’s trip, the deepest I’d ever consistently caught fish on Stillhouse was 55 feet, but, this is an unusual year with water much warmer than usual given the date.

As you can see, there is a massive school of fish here — 20 feet thick with hundreds of white bass — and extending for yards in all directions around the boat. I refer to these as winter “mega-schools” which begin to form now and stay formed until at least late February.

Here’s a shot off of my Lowrance Structure Scan in downlooking mode showing a school of white bass clearly relating to the downwind side of a deep rocky hump.

Despite the cold days and nights, we only lost about 3 degrees on the surface, dropping from ~63F to ~60F.

Although I looked over many areas today those areas holding the fish all had two things in common: they were in deep water and they were adjacent to the river channel.

I found fish at three areas today: Area 947, 1005, and 946, in that order. As is typical as we transition into the winter these fish were in very large schools with literally hundreds of fish per school. Because my object was to find fish for upcoming guided trips and not catch a bunch of fish, I stayed on each area only until I boated 15 fish and then moved on to find more fish.

Each of the three productive areas I located fish on today fished in the same manner. First I observed the fish were in an active, feeding posture by observing sonar. Next, I got a slab down into the school and used the smoking technique to see how active the fish were. In each case, the fish were extremely aggressive, so I continued using the smoking technique which served to keep the fish agitated and striking.

Long story short, I put an easy 45 fish in the boat in under 2 1/2 hours’ time.

TALLY = 45 Fish, all caught and released

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Start Time: 2:30p

End Time: 5:00p

Air Temp: 65F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 60.3F

Wind: SSW10.

Skies: Fair and cloudless until 3:30, then a thick bank of grey clouds moved in from the SW, dropping the temperature and light level.

Fishing with Santa (and his brother-in-law, Larry) — 73 Fish, Stillhouse Hollow, 07 Dec. 2012

This morning I fished with Dave H. and his brother-in-law Larry S. As you can see from the photo below, Dave looks an awful lot like Santa Claus, and in fact, he does a lot of volunteer work as a Santa Claus in and around Austin.

Here Santa (a.k.a. Dave) shows two presents he pulled out of Stillhouse on a well-worked bladebait.

Happy Birthday, Larry! Although not our target species, we always put a few largemouth in the boat while fishing Stillhouse for abundant white bass.

I first got to know Dave through his work in and participation in the Austin Fly Fishers. Since meeting back in 2009, we’ve been fortunate enough to work together to make the S.K.I.F.F. program (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) available to the children of Ft. Hood’s deployed soldiers. Dave gave this trip as a birthday present to Larry.

As we met shortly before 7 AM, a moderate fog was blanketing the area. Fog is typically accompanied by calm wind, or vice versa, and neither is particularly helpful to fishing. Due to the low light conditions, I chose to start up shallow. We began our search for fish at Area 717/745. Due to the shallow depth and flat taper of this area, I chose to start us off using blade baits (Reef Runner Cicadas) cast horizontally. We fished these “lift drop style”, and in so doing kept them near the bottom. We knew fish were in this area as sonar clearly showed both game fish and shad, however, for the first 15 minutes we couldn’t draw strike. I told Dave and Larry not to worry, that when the light level hit a certain point, the fish would turn on. And that’s exactly what they did. We stayed on these fish for nearly 2 hours for two reasons: 1) we were consistently catching fish albeit at a moderate pace, and 2) we didn’t have many other options given the persistent fog and calm. We wound up catching exactly 25 white bass and one largemouth bass off of this area before moving at around 9:15 a.m., after these fish finally shut down for good.

For the next hour or so, I checked a number of different areas at a number of different depths all with little result. Finally, over a patch of very deep, very clear water, just as a light northwest wind begin to ripple the surface, a few gulls and terns begin to fly and point the way to schooled white bass that were just becoming active. We moved in, observed sonar closely, found numerous large schools of white bass in the bottom 25% of the water column, and began to fish for these right on top of Area 1157. Due to the feeding posture of these fish, we went first with a “smoking” presentation using TNT 180’s in three-quarter ounce white and silver. In 90 minutes time, we boated an additional 47 fish, including three largemouth bass and 44 white bass. Nine out of ten of these white bass went 13 to 14.5+ inches.

Because neither of the fellows had ever done any downrigging, and because these fish were deep, schooled, and still active, I offered to do a down rigging demo as they learned by O.J.T. I set one downrigger up with 40 feet of line behind the boat and 48 feet of cable beneath the boat. We trolled a pair of Pet Spoons on a tandem rig, and on our very first pass Larry came up with a nice double (see photo below, courtesy of Dave). On our next pass, Larry did all the rigging and was rewarded with another nice, plump white bass of his own.

Larry doubles up on the downrigger!! Two at a time!

By about 12:15 p.m., the winds had gone calm again, what few birds remained were now resting on the surface, and the fishing died hard. We knew we had seen the best of it today, and decided to head back in with a tally of 73 fish boated despite the tough conditions.

As typically happens this time of year, the days around the holidays are all booked now, but there are still a few half day trips before the holidays open including:

Monday, Dec. 10th, 7:15a to 11:15a

Monday, Dec. 10th, 2:00p to 6:00p

Saturday, Dec. 15th, 7:15a to 11:15a

Monday, Dec. 17th, 2:00p to 6:00p

Tuesday, Dec. 18th, 7:15a to 11:15a

Tuesday, Dec. 18th, 2:00p to 6:00p

Wednesday, Dec. 19th, 2:00p to 6:00p

Thursday, Dec. 20th, 2:00p to 6:00p

It just takes a phone call to 254.368-7411 to make it happen. Fishing will only get tougher as the cold fronts come more frequently and with colder and colder winds. Our water temperature (incredibly!) is still in the mid-60’s. Take advantage of it while you can!

TALLY = 73 Fish, all caught and released

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Start Time: 1:45p

End Time: 5:55p

Air Temp: 69F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 65.1F

Wind: NW12-13, changing to NNW10-12 around 4:30, then tapering to NNW8 by dark.

You Know You REALLY Trust a Guy When … 84 Fish, Belton Lake Fishing Guide Report, 04 Dec. 2012

This afternoon I fished with long time client Ryan S., an anesthesiologist at Scott & White (more on that later).

As you can (barely!) see, the bite extended right up until dark.

I know people make a lot of jokes about “doctors’ hours” and such, but, every one of the physicians who fish with me from Scott and White don’t have very much down time, and, what down time they get typically has to be planned long in advance of taking it.

With Ryan’s days off limited, we had to “go with what we got” as far as weather was concerned today. The forecast was “iffy” because a mild cold front pushed through beginning around sunrise. It pushed out some moisture ahead of the front, but the front itself came in dry and from the NW beginning around noon when the skies began to clear (wet cold fronts tend to come in from the N or NE).

We linked up at 1:45p and, given the now favorable conditions, we began our search deep and worked slowly shallower and caught fish consistently along the way.

Our first stop was in the deepest water we would fish all day. We found a decent school of white bass on bottom with some short hybrid stripers working over top of them at Area 717 in 45-47 feet of water (although I marked fish as deep as 51 feet as well, just not as many). This was by far our most productive area, giving up 58 fish altogether. We would fish a “patch” of bottom, get the fish teased up really well, catch them in rapid succession, then see them settle down, work for them a while longer, then see them get lethargic, then move a few yards to watch the same process unfold. We did 3 or 4 “hops” like this in the same area and kept on catching for two solid hours. All of this work was done with TNT180s in 3/4 oz. white, although when the fish were in a chasing mood, Ryan scored as many on a BPS Tail Spin.

Around 4:15 we’d scraped all the fish off of Area 717 I felt we could, so we went searching. We didn’t have to search long as we located another nice school of white bass, this time in 35-38 feet of water on Area 297. We got our slabs down, saw the fish get instantly agitated and rise up off the bottom to chase our baits as well as chase after fish we’d hooked, but, after only 12 fish boated, these fish cooled off very quickly and sent us looking once again. It was interesting to note that these less enthusiastic fish really had to be slabbed for. Ryan tried the BPS Tail Spin on these more lethargic fish as I tied on a similar Strike King Sand Blaster, but the fish really would have none of this.

With sunset only 30 minutes away, I looked for some bird activity to develop, but, after watching both with the naked eye and glassing for birds, we saw nothing of interest.

With the light fading fast, I knew we needed to get to some shallow water quickly to gun for fish using the still-illuminated shallows to feed. We rolled the dice and headed for Area 327. The gamble paid off nicely. As we idled in and upslope, we transitioned into 25 feet of water and on into 20 feet of water. In the band, dozens of fish littered the bottom up about 14″ from it and in a definite feeding posture. We got the boat stopped and hovered over these fish as quickly as we could, got our slabs down and used primarily an “easing” tactic with long pauses to tempt these low-light feeders. We added a fast 14 fish to the count here before it got too dark for the fish and they quit altogether. Again, slabs ruled the roost in this application. We did both give a horizontal approach a try (Ryan with a BPS Tail Spin and me with a Reefrunner bladebait), but the fish refused this presentation.

Now, I recently decided to have rotator cuff surgery done on my right shoulder. Naturally, I’d prefer to have a medical team that I know and trust work on me. So, I asked Ryan if he’d consider being the one to “knock me out” and bring me back out of anesthesia. Now, I know your thinking “Oh, that’s what he meant when he titled this blog entry as he did.” Well, actually, that isn’t right. Although I certain do trust Ryan to be my anesthesiologist, that isn’t an indicator that I REALLY trust him. No, sir!

No, that indicator came at the end of the night’s trip when I asked him to back my Ford truck and guide boat trailer down for me!!! Now that’s when you know you REALLY trust a guy. A shoulder is one thing, but your fishing rig is another matter altogether. Enough said.

TALLY = 84 Fish, all caught and released

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Start Time: 1:45p

End Time: 5:55p

Air Temp: 69F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 65.1F

Wind: NW12-13, changing to NNW10-12 around 4:30, then tapering to NNW8 by dark.

Grumpier Old Men – The Sequel!! — 86 Fish, Stillhouse Hollow, 03 Dec 2012

This morning I fished with Dick C. of Harker Heights, TX, and Claude C. of Ding Dong, TX (yes, that’s a real place!).

Claude (L) and Dick (R) shown here at a “less grumpy” moment, with a few of our nicest 14″ class white bass.

The blog entry for these fellows’ last big adventure about a year ago was appropriately titled “Grumpy Old Men”. Well, since then, both men have gotten considerably grumpier, and with due cause. Each spent over 2 consecutive months of 2012 in the hospital!!

I knew right away the day would be “interesting” when Dick showed up at boatside, showed me a washcloth balled up in his pocket, and asks, “You know what that’s for?” Without waiting for my reply, Dick continued, “It’s to stuff in Claude’s mouth when the fish stories start to get out of hand!” And with that, we departed the dock to look for fish.

The fishing was easy for the first hour and a half. Birds showed us the way to fish feeding in the low light of sunrise up on a flat at Area 718. About 15 gulls and terns fed heavily on the shad forced to the surface by hungry white bass beneath them. We used TNT180 slabs in 3/4 oz. white/silver to get the job done and boated 20 fish in our first 25 minutes of fishing. When the birds lifted, we left and looked for greener pastures.

Next, we headed to Area 713 and found another flock of birds working there. This was to be the shallowest water we found fish in this morning, just 10-12 feet deep. So, we fished horizontally with blade baits (both silver and white got equal results) and scored another 15 fish here. It was interesting to note that 12 of the 15 here beat the 13″ mark whereas only 3 of the first 20 fish we caught at Area 718 did so.

As Area 713 played out, we headed for deeper water with the sky now brightening and the winds picking up to around 12-14.

We enjoyed our next bit of success at Area 036 which has been a very steady producer this fall. We found fish here in 30 feet of water, but they were less than enthusiastic beyond the first few minutes, staying tight to bottom and not responding well to a smoking tactic after the first half-dozen or so were caught. We slabbed for these fish and, after sticking with it a while, were able to put a total of 21 fish in the boat here until the bite died to near zero.

We moved on, this time to the deepest water we would fish on this trip — 40 feet, at area 987. There were a few terns working far and wide in this general area, so, I looked at my sonar’s Navionics map to see what topographic elements were in this area and saw a breakline that rolled off into the channel. I began to search it out and found fish on it. There were two distinct groups of fish — one group suspended at 20-24 feet down (these turned out to be schoolie largemouth) and another group tight to bottom at 40 feet. We used both a smoking tactic (which appealed to the suspended largemouth both on the rise and on the fall) and a slabbing tactic which appealed to the white bass on the bottom. We worked for about 40 minutes here and put another 19 fish in the boat, taking our tally to 75. By way of a quick demonstration (because Claude had expressed curiosity about the device) I showed the fellows how the downriggers worked by putting a ball down at 20.5 feet to target the suspended largemouth. After just a few minutes trolling, the rod went off and Dick reeled in a multi-species double — one white bass and one largemouth bass caught on the same rod at the same time. These fish hit the tandem-rigged Pet Spoons I had on that particular downrigging rod.

It was now about 11:45 so we decided to take a look at two more areas on our way back to the dock. The first area was a scratch, the second area, Area 1156, proved otherwise. We saw fairly heavily schooled white bass right on bottom, and, just as we experienced earlier at Area 036, these fish got very excited when we first presented our baits, allowing us to boat 6 fish very quickly, but then they air went out of the balloon and they turned off, allowing only 3 more fish to be taken via slabbing. The fish were now done and we called it a day right there.

TALLY = 86 Fish, all caught and released, including 2 freshwater drum, 8 largemouth bass, and 76 white bass

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Start Time: 7:10a

End Time: 12:15p

Air Temp: 64F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 64.5F

Wind: SSW the entire trip, starting at 3-4 and tapering up to 14 then stabilizing.

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.