Today’s trip was a bit out of the ordinary. Mr. Tom Behrens of Texas Fish and Game magazine contacted me a while back and asked if I’d be interested in providing a guided trip for their monthly Trophy Quest contest where a subscriber is randomly chosen to go on a guided fishing trip, complete with free lodging and meals. I agreed to the arrangement. Today was the agreed upon date for that Trophy Quest trip. Here’s how things played out:
Wayne and Richard double-teamed a double limit of hybrid today on deep-trolled Pet Spoons
This month’s Trophy Quest winner was Wayne Vaclavik of Missouri City, Texas. Wayne was guided by central Texas fishing guide Bob Maindelle, owner of Holding the Line Guide Service, based in Salado, Texas. Bob contacted Wayne well in advance of the trip to determine his preference for species and techniques, as well as to gauge Wayne’s ability level so he could best meet his guest’s expectations. On Monday, August 31st, Wayne and his brother, Richard, met Bob at Belton Lake. The trip came 3 days after the season’s first cool front had passed, shifting winds to the NE at 6-9mph, and dropping the overnight temperature to 69 F, with a surface temperature at about 85 F. Skies were fair. Wayne chose this lake over Stillhouse Hollow, as it offered the brothers a shot at hybrid striped bass — a fish they’d never caught before, as well as a chance to use downriggers — a technique they’d never tried before. By 6:45am the trio was hunting fish over a deepwater breakline using sonar. By 6:55am the first of 40 fish came over the gunnels — this one was a white bass, followed by another shortly afterwards. Although only about 11 inches in length, these two fish allowed the brothers to experience what a strike looks like using downriggers, and exactly how to properly respond and play fish hooked on this gear.
As the sun rose, this early action dried up and the trio was off again in search of fish. They searched over 30-40 feet of water off a steep point. Bob marked a lot of bait on sonar and plugged in a waypoint on GPS which would allow them to return later and see if gamefish had located the bait. Next it was off to a similar point, this one with timber — nothing showed on sonar. Next, up the Leon River arm they went. As the sun shone on the water, the spray of aggressively feeding white bass, hybrid stripers, and largemouth could be seen for over 1/2 mile away. Bob sped to the action while arming the brothers with Cicada blade baits rigged on spinning gear. Bob motored as close as he dared without spooking the fish and then covered the rest of the distance with his trolling motor. The brothers fired casts into the fray, kept the baits moving fast and up high in the water column and were immediately rewarded. 25 minutes later, after this short, intense feed was done, the boys had landed an additional 13 white bass and 3 school-sized largemouth.
Next, they headed further up the Leon River arm and again searched with sonar, this time locating gamefish suspending in a horizontal band from 27 to 33 feet deep over 35 to 40 feet of water. The downriggers were once again employed, but multiple passes gave up only 2 whites and a few missed fish. Bob marked the most dense concentration of fish with a buoy and stood off a cast’s length so the three of them could work Cicada blade baits horizontally through the fish. This resulted in the first hybrid of the day, a just-legal 3 pounder, as well as a freshwater drum. This area then shut down.
Next, it was off to a deepwater hump. No sooner did the boat come off plane than the sonar lit up with fish which would turn out to be a mix of hybrid striper and white bass in a horizontal band at 33-35 feet over 37-45 feet of water. Again, downriggers were the ticket. Two ‘riggers went down here with Pet spoons trailing rigged up on Lamiglas downrigging rods. As with the previous area, the fish here were a bit stubborn, but after a few passes, the team got them figured out and wound up putting 8 keeper hybrid up to 5 1/4 pounds in the boat, as well as 5 white bass and 1 freshwater drum. After about an hour spent on this area, it went quiet.
The team made a final move back to that waypoint Bob had marked earlier in the morning when he sighted bait with no gamefish yet showing. Upon arrival they hooked up on a hybrid, then another, then two more white bass. By 12:10pm things had gone quiet and the boys knew they’d seen the best of it. They called it a day at that point and headed for the ramp. The day’s tally stood at exactly 40 fish, including 10 legal hybrid stripers, 3 largemouth bass, 2 drum and 25 white bass. As is Bob’s policy on all fishing trips, all fish were released in good condition to grow larger and be caught again.
Downriggers: Cannon Sport-Troll manual downriggers
Rods: Lamiglas CG70DR downrigging rod
Reels: Ambassadeur 4600C3
Line: Berkeley Big Game, 15 pound test clear mono
Lure: Pet Spoons, #12 & #13
Rod: Lamiglas XPS703 spinning rod
Reel: Pflueger Medalist spinning reel, model #7035
Line: Berkeley Big Game, 10 pound test Solar Collector green mono
Lure: Reefrunner’s Cicada, 3/8 oz. and ½ oz.
Holding the Line Guide Service