Bluebird Skies and Topwater Whites — 77 Fish — Belton Lake, 26 May 2011

Bottom line: I dodged a bullet today. When I saw the forecast for a late-season cold front to come through and winds to shift to the north in the morning and go slack by mid-day, I was just shaking my head, knowing this was going to be like pulling teeth.

From L to R — Pa, Sam, Jamie, and Joe. We were prepared to pull teeth but got to put the vice-grips away when a light breeze saved our hides!!

Joe O. of Wills Point, TX, contacted me over a month before to set up two back-to-back trips. The first trip was to include himself, his 81 year old dad (“Pa”), Joe’s brother, Jamie, and Jamie’s son, Sam. This first trip was in honor of Sam’s high school graduation from Westwood High School in Austin (Go Warriors!). We set the dates for today and tomorrow. By last Sunday, the weatherman had today’s forecast down pat. I kept hoping for a change, but, as the day drew closer, the likelihood of a change grew more and more remote.

By Tuesday, I phoned Joe to see if there was any flexibility in his schedule given that Friday’s forecast (with the return of a strong S. wind) looked great. There was no flexibility. So, we took lemons and made lemonade!

As I got my first glimpse of Belton around 3:40pm, driving in for our 4:30 meeting time, I noted that the wind was just starting to puff from the NE after going flat calm over the midday period. That would help some. I ran sonar for 30 minutes over 2 different areas before my guests’ arrival — nothing! When all were on board we looked over two more areas with sonar — again, nothing! I felt like the bad dream was coming true.

The NE breeze began to shift ENE and finally, targets on sonar!! As expected under high pressure conditions, the fish that could be found were scattered and suspended.

We went to work with the downriggers and from ~5:00pm to ~7:40pm we managed to boat 36 fish including 1 small blue cat, 1 short largemouth, 2 freshwater drum, and a mix of 32 white bass and short hybrid stripers, all on small Pets. These fish came from 17-26 feet of water in an area bounded on the N, S, E, and W by Area 813, 814, 811, and 812, respectively, with Area 793 in the midst of these being the “spot-on-the-spot”. When a brief lull in the action occurred, we also downrigged over Area 794 and picked up 4 of our fish there.

All during the time spent downrigging, we observed small schools of small to average-sized white bass very briefly break the surface and chase very small shad for short distances before sounding. This action slowly but steadily increased, leading me to think that if the winds stayed light, we’d see some catchable quantities of topwater whites near sunset.

By 7:40pm, the occurrence of the topwater feeding was consistent enough that I felt we could change over from a downrigging approach to a casting regimen and do at least as well as we were doing on the Pets. We made the change and it paid off. The area in which we found fish with the downriggers saw more and more small schools coalesce as the light grew dimmer, and, using silver Cicada blade baits, we were able to more than double our catch in the last 70 minutes of the trip, taking our tally to 77 fish. These school fish were, on average, smaller than the ones we took on downriggers, but, on a day that started off looking like a recipe for disaster, we were glad to consistently boat fish from start to finish.

The topwater action began in earnest at Area 811, then tracked westward to Area 012, then ended up near Area 027. The fish followed the contour, not a straight line from point to point.

TALLY = 77 FISH, all caught and released


Start Time: 4:30p

End Time: 9:00p

Air Temp.: 84F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: ~78.7F

Wind: Winds were NE3-4 at trip’s start, slowly turning ENE5-6 by trip’s end.

Skies: Skies were clear blue and bright

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