Threading the Eye of the Needle — 117 Fish, Belton, 15 Nov. 2014

This Saturday morning, 15 Nov., I fished with Tom Tharp of Temple, Texas, and 3 other family members including Tom’s niece, Jennifer Rand, Jennifer’s niece, 7-year-old Alyssa Rand, and Jennifer’s boyfriend, Jonathan Kusch.


Jennifer landed our largest fish of the trip this morning, a nice 23″, 5.75 pound hybrid.


L to R: Tom Tharp, Alyssa Rand, Jonathan Kutsch, and Jennifer Rand all worked over the white bass and hybrid striper this morning using TNT180 slabs in 32-38 feet of water.  This photo shows our 4 best white bass of the trip, ranging from 12.25 to 13.25 inches.

Tom and I first met at the Central Texas Boat Show last January where we spoke at my booth about sonar use and settings for Belton Lake and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir.  Tom is an internal auditor working at Scott & White in Temple, Jennifer is a student at the University of Texas in Austin, Jonathan works at a golf cart dealership in Austin, and Miss Alyssa is a 2nd grade student in the Austin area.  About 2 weeks ago Tom called and wanted to get on the calendar.  Fortunately, the weather cooperated for us today and we did quite well.

We’ve been plagued all week by high north winds that came in on Tuesday with the season’s most severe cold front thus far.  This cold front dropped our surface temperatures from 66-67F down to 61-62F in a matter of 4 days.  Today was the only day where a wind with a southerly component was in the forecast out of the previous four days, as well as for the next 3 days.  This return to southerly winds always makes for solid fishing, as does the wind shift through the west in advance of an approaching front.  We truly threaded the eye of the needle in regards to being on the water in these ideal conditions.

We caught fish from start to finish today.  As I waited on conditions to brighten after our 6:55a launch, we did a bit of downrigging for some “high-riding” white bass and hybrid striper, putting (go figure!) a single largemouth in the boat.  We  didn’t spend long at this as it brightened up pretty well (despite the cloud cover) once the sun rose.

With good wind and light conditions now in place, we used sonar to sweep deep-water areas in a search for active, congregated fish.  We did not have to spend long looking, as we found what we were after fairly quickly and got to work using a “smoking” technique to elicit a predator response from the active fish in the area we were fishing.  The action steadily rose to a peak at between 9:00a and 9:30a, then begin to fall back off again thereafter.

During this peak time, I observed the first bit of helpful bird activity of the season, sighting 6 gulls working over a suspended school of mixed white bass and short hybrid driving bait to near the surface.  We made a series of “short hops” with the boat using i-Pilot technology to “Spot-Lock” ourselves on top of active fish as dictated by sonar returns.  During this peak, it was not uncommon for 2 or 3 rods of our 5 rods to be bent with fish on at any given time.  Easily 40 of our fish came over the side during this window of high activity.

Although I experimented from time to time with a few variations on the vertical jigging theme, the smoking tactic beat them all, which is not surprising given that the water is still in the 60’s.

With the 117 fish boated on this trip, the average catch per trip on Belton this November now stands at 89.8 fish/trip with a total of 449 fish caught over the course of 5 trips taken on this lake thus far.  I expect this fishing will hold up at least until the Thanksgiving week and until the surface temperatures dip into the lower 50’s; things will then moderate and fishing will get a bit tougher as the fish get more lethargic.

We landed 1 largemouth, 3 drum, 9 legal hybrid striped bass, and a mix of 104 short hybrid stripers and white bass of all sizes up to 13 inches.  Since they kept track among themselves, Alyssa caught the most fish, Jennifer caught the biggest fish, Jonathan caught the first fish, and Tom got to pay for the trip!!


TALLY = 117 FISH, all caught and released






Start Time: 6:55a

End Time:  11:25a

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start:  41F, increasing slowly to 47F due to thick cloud cover.

Water Surface Temp:  61-62F

Wind Speed & Direction:  SSE11-12.

Sky Conditions: 100% clouded, grey skies

Other: GT=60; BA = 6 G, 7T



**Area  1403/1223 downrigging early

**Area 1288, 1482, 1483, 355/955, 1152, and 1484 (spot hopping to stay on top of fish with some bird assistance)


Bob Maindelle

Owner, Holding the Line Guide Service

254.368.7411 (call or text)

Salado, TX