A Little Coaching Goes a Long Way! 113 Fish, Belton Fishing Guide Report, 23 April 2012

This morning I fished with returning guests Joe O., the Athletic Director at Central Texas Christian School in Belton, his dad, Mr. Joe O., and their long-time friend and retired Temple High School baseball coach, Larry H.

(L to R) Mr. Joe O., Joe O., and Larry H. with a hybrid tripleheader taken on live shad as a hungry wolfpack moved beneath our boat in 23 feet of water. Joe’s was the largest of the day going 3.75 pounds and 19.75 inches.

This was a jovial bunch, already poking fun at each other before they even hit the courtesy dock. I went over the plan for the day, which was to target hybrid striped bass and white bass using live shad. I gave a dockside demo on how to use the equipment, how to set the baits out and adjust their depth, and then we were off.

We didn’t go very far at all, finding fish at Area 676 in about 23 feet of water. We attempted to get 4 rods out, but had 2 fish in the boat already before that task was accomplished. We fished this area for about 2 hours. The fishing ebbed and flowed some, but, we never went more than 3-4 minutes without action, and wound up boating 6 of our 7 keeper hybrid at this location. By around 9:30 the action was getting soft, so, we decided to try our luck elsewhere with 35 fish boated up to this point, all on live shad.

The coaching part came in where our use of circle hooks was concerned. Circle hooks are a great catch and release tool, as they are designed to slip back up out of a fish’s throat or gullet and catch on the corner of their mouth, just avoiding deeply-hooked fish that would be injured or killed. The trick with circle hooks is that you have to just reel the fish in without any rod tip lift, and certainly no hookset. For folks that have come from a largemouth bass fishing background, this is a reaction that is tough to “unlearn”, but, being coaches, these fellows were all coachable, and, after a few missed fish due to technique, we got them polished up and upped their hook to catch ratio as a result.

We looked at a few different areas, none of them with enough fish or bait to hold my attention until we came upon Area 1074. Here, in about 32 feet of water, we found a heavy concentration of fish holding that magic 18″ off the bottom indicating they were in feeding mode.

We got baits down and Joe popped the first fish, another keeper hybrid (our 7th of the day), but, all the rest of the hybrid we boated here would turn out to be just shy of the 18 inch mark. In all, we boated and additional 78 fish here. Once the first few fish ate our baits and were reeled in, the rest of the school pulled upwards and suspended and responded well to a slab fished through them. This was the first time this Spring where I saw bait and a slab go head to head where the slab performance became more efficient that using bait. Fish were as willing to hit the slab as they were bait, and, given they were much easier to release due to reduced chances of deep-hooking when using the slab, put the slab’s performance ahead of bait for the last hour or so of our trip. As always, I’ve got TNT180’s tied on in 3/4 oz. shad colors (white, silver, silver halo, etc.).

Evidently Mrs. O. was planning on feeding all 3 of “the boys” a nice meal closely resembling Sunday dinner, and it was to be served at 12:00, no excuses.

Regardless, Mr. O called with an excuse at around 11:45, blaming their tardiness on Larry’s refusal to set down his rod. Mrs. O. (who had obviously been down this road before) said 12:30 and no later! So, we pressed on until 11:56 and even then Larry suggested we troll back to perhaps catch “just one more”.

We ended this beautiful, clear, cool, dry day with 113 fish.

TALLY = 113 FISH, all caught and released

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Start Time: 7:30a

End Time: 11:55a

Air Temp:61F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: 72.1F

Wind: Winds were NNE6-8..

Skies: Skies were fair with 20% high thin clouds.