This morning I met Mrs. Lovette Vassar in Harker Heights, TX, to pick up her daughter, Sydney for SKIFF trip #13 of the year. Sydney was planning to bring a girlfriend of hers from church, but plans fell through and so the nod went to younger brother, Josh, who came out with his older brother on a SKIFF trip over Spring Break. So, the SKIFF trip was actually just for Sydney, but Josh got to go along for the ride — little did he know it would be his lucky day!
In under 35 minutes on the water, both Sydney and Josh had boated one legal hybrid a piece and several other short hybrid, as well as white bass.
Near the end of our trip, Josh bagged this new Belton Lake record white bass. The current Catch & Release record measures 14.88 inches; Josh’s fish measured 15.375 inches. It came on a 3/4 oz. TNT slab fished over 33 feet of water.
Just to get you in the right mindset for this whole narrative, you’ve got to think “city girl” when you think about Sydney. Her hair was all braided nicely, her fingernails were all polished well, she had an ornate silver ring on her right hand, and her super-cool sunglasses completed the whole image. Don’t get me wrong — Sydney is very well-mannered, very articulate, very considerate, and very easy going — she just hasn’t had a whole lot of outdoor experiences.
So, as we load into the boat, get lifejackets on and push away from the courtesy dock, I let them know we’ll be going around 30mph to get to our first fishing area. As I cleared the no-wake zone and throttled up, a screech arose from in front of the console where Sydney was seated. She screamed, looked back at me wide-eyed and said, “Okay, where are the seatbelts!?!”.
We soon got settled in over some shallow water hoping for some topwater action, but, none materialized this morning. By 6:35 it was apparent the fish were not going to show themselves on the surface today, so, we began plying our trade in deeper waters.
We downrigged successfully for about 2 hours straight in a patch of water triangulated by Areas 834, 840, and 488. We found suspended schools of hybrid striped bass and white bass down around 24-27 feet and ran Pets behind our downrigger balls to ferret them out. I watched sonar continuously hoping to see a congregation of fish dense enough to allow my rookie anglers to jig successfully, but that didn’t materialize until well into the morning. By 8:55, we’d boated 35 fish, all on downriggers, of which 21 were keeper (18+ inch) hybrid (that’s an unusually high proportion of keeper hybrid for Belton Lake!). Most of these were right at the 18.00″ to 18.50″ size, with 2-3 pushing 19″.
Around 9am we did finally find a sizeable school of fish in the lower 1/3 of the water column in 33 feet of water. I was initially drawn to this spot after seeing a quick burst of topwater feeding activity. As I motored over the area I’d mentally marked, sonar lit up and I put us into a hover over this area. We got our slabs (TNT 180’s in 3/4 oz. white) down to these fish and “smoked” the slabs to provoke the fish to hit. We boated a mix of fish here including 4 more keeper hybrid, several short hybrid, and a mix of legal and short white bass. The last white bass that struck here was on Josh’s line. When he brought the fish to net, I could see it was a nice white bass that just dwarfed the other white bass we’d been catching. I measured and weighed the fish and used my iPhone to consult the TPWD records database and found that the fish beat out the current Jr. Angler Catch and Release lake record (determined strictly by length) by exactly half an inch.
We took all the required photos and I’ve since submitted the record application to Joedy Gray at TPWD who manages the Angler Recognition Program.
That white bass was the last fish we caught on Area 841, and the fish were beginning to thin out now as we approached 10am, after having boated 12 fish off that small patch of water.
I suggested we run the ‘riggers again to shoot for one more fish a piece and then call it a day. The kids, who both had sweaty brows by now in the near-windless, humid conditions, thought that sounded good. The Lord was good to us and granted one more hybrid to Sydney and one more white bass to Josh. With 49 fish boated for the morning, we called it a day.
Sydney “struck again” as we prepared the boat and were about to clear the downrigger lines and reel the balls in. In her deepest, most serious voice she said to Josh and I, “Okay boys, let’s bring ’em in.” She then chuckled and said, “I’ve always wanted to say that!”.
Sydney and Josh’s dad, Dameon is a Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army and is serving in Kuwait, providing communications support to units in Kuwait and Iraq. He is on a 1 year deployment which will end in February of 2012. His wife and 5 children eagerly await his return. By that time his oldest son, Devonte, will have left for college in San Angelo where he’ll be a part of the Air Force ROTC program.
Thank you all for you support, donations of money and equipment, your time spent fundraising, and your notes of encouragement to keep S.K.I.F.F. afloat!!
Start Time: 5:55a
End Time: 10:05a
Air Temp: 77F at trip’s start.
Water Surface Temp: ~85.4F
Wind: Winds were S4 at trip’s start, slowly turning SW2-3 by trip’s end.
Skies: Skies were fair, dry, and bright with no clouds.