On the evening of Tuesday, 28 July I met Pastor Doug Lindley and his youngest of four children, Michael (age 16), for a few hours of fishing targeting white bass and hybrid striped bass on Belton Lake.
Michael Lindley of Burnet, TX, with the 15.25″ Belton Lake white bass that earned him a TPWD “Big Fish Award”.
Fisher of fish and men, Pastor Doug Lindley, with our largest fish of the trip, an 18.50″ hybrid striped bass.
Doug serves as the pastor at the First Baptist Church of Burnet, well-known for the “Main Street Bethlehem” production the church puts on each Christmas holiday season, turning several blocks of Burnet, TX, into a re-creation of the Holy Land around 1 A.D.
Thanks to the consistent high pressure we’ve experienced due to a high pressure “dome” now firmly in place over Texas driving all other weather around it, the fishing, both morning and evening, has been the most consistent I’ve seen since all of the flooding and subsequent draw down really threw fish and fishermen for a loop as late spring turned to early summer.
We got lines in the water around 5:30pm and initially relied on a downrigging approach to coax more active individual fish out of bottom-hugging schools of fairly lethargic fish. This tactic worked well and allowed us to cover a lot of terrain very effectively while at the same time getting to keep a close eye on sonar for heavy schools of fish which might be susceptible to other techniques. Indeed, we found several nice schools of fish numbering perhaps 30-80 individuals, but, each time we stopped downrigging to either cast bladebaits to them or vertically jig over them, the fish failed to respond in the least.
On one of our downrigging passes, I sighted a tight cluster of fish on sonar and gave it 5-8 second for our baits to cover over that area the boat had just passed. Michael’s rod went off with what I could tell was a larger fish because the fish popped the line out of the release clip by its own strength (most smaller fish require manual clearing of the line from the release clip). When we got that fish to boatside, Michael had landed one of the larger white bass I’ve seen come out of Belton in several years — a nice 15.25 inch fish that was quite plump. This earned him a Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. “Big Fish Award”, available to anglers who land fish exceeding set threshold lengths on a species-by-species basis. The threshold for white bass is 15.00″.
SInce our attempts at working baits vertically and horizontally fell short, we kept right on with what was working. All this time I was hoping for (even anticipating) a nice finale to the evening by fish feeding on topwater, given all the gamefish, bait, and the disposition of both in the time leading up to 7:45 to 8:00pm when the low-light conditions typically spur a final feed before dark.
All seemed to be falling in place nicely; in the 7 o’clock hour I witnessed shad begin to pop out of the water here and there acting nervous, and from time to time small schools of white bass would erupt on the surface but then quickly sound.
By 8:10pm, I spotted the first large, sustained schools of fish feeding on topwater and quickly got us to them. I though all heck was about to break loose. We changed over to topwater rigs and enjoyed a 10 minute flurry allowing us to boat 9 more fish in addition to the 21 we’d already caught. During this time, fish drove bait to the surface, but really didn’t stay on the surface — it just wasn’t a strong feed. By the time we saw and heard the last fish splash around 8:20p, and with plenty of light left, the fishing just died. Our finale had kind of fizzled — but, that is the nature of fishing.
I’ve said many times before, if we (mankind) had ever figured out all that drives fish to do what they do, we would have exploited them into extinction long ago. I’m glad there is still a bit of mystery to it!
TALLY = 30 FISH, all caught and released
Start Time: 5:30p
End Time: 8:50p
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 97F
Water Surface Temp: 86.0F
Wind Speed & Direction: SSE9-11
Sky Conditions: <10% clouds on a fair sky.
Note: Lake has dropped 0.08 feet in the last 24 hours and now stands at 595.05 above sea level, with 594.00 being full pool
Other: GT= 10
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area 788/163 downrigging
**Area 183 topwater action
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