Wow! What a trip! On the afternoon of Saturday, 12 Dec., I conducted a “make-up” fishing trip for 9-year-old Zack Giertz and his 7-year-old brother, Nathaniel.
7-year-old Nathaniel Giertz landed this 15.75 inch, 2.00 pound white bass, thus beating the existing Junior Angler white bass lake record that has stood since 2010.
9-year-old Zack Giertz landed the largest fish of the trip, this freshwater drum that weighed in right at 3 pounds.
We originally planned to fish the Saturday following Thanksgiving, but a wet cold front put the brakes on that outing.
The timing on this trip was intended to beat the arrival of the next cold front which would arrive around 1:30 AM Sunday morning. We enjoyed grey cloud cover, an unseasonably warm ambient air temperature of 72F, and an even more unseasonably warm water surface temperature of 62F. The only thing that hindered was a bit of rain and the winds — the direction (south) was ideal, but the velocity (20 and gusting higher) was dicey. Seeing the NOAA prediction for calming winds around 15-16mph for the afternoon, we decided to head out at that time instead of risking a morning trip.
As we got going, I tried to learn a bit about the Giertz family. Matt, the boys’ father is currently deployed with the U.S. Army in Kuwait. Liz, the boys’ mom, is a 1997 U.S. Military Academy graduate who left active duty when she and Matt started their family. Liz was attending a fundraiser in support of Fort Hood’s Santa’s Workshop when one of the vendors there, Beads for Life entrepreneur LeaAnn Crawford, saw Liz alone with her boys and mentioned the SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) program fishing trips I offer. Ft. Hood Chaplain Bill Shelnutt had also mentioned this program to Liz, so, she decided to give me a call.
The fish were in a strong, pre-frontal feeding mode, so much so that we saw light surface action at 2 of the 3 locations we fished, and bird action at one of these locations. The fish were so aggressive that there were times when I watched on sonar as bottom-oriented fish rose 6-8 feet off bottom to attack our descending slabs.
As we used i-Pilot technology to hover over the first area I’d chosen to try, I attempted to give the boys instructions on the slow jigging tactics we’d be using with spinning tackle. I first instructed Nathaniel on how to open his bail and ensure his line was on bottom, then, I turned my attention to Zack. By the time I was half-way through tutoring Zack, Nathaniel had his first fish on and was shouting in excitement on the port side. As I went over to Nathaniel to unhook his fish, Zack hooked and landed his first fish and was now shouting in excitement over on the starboard side.
And so it went for nearly four hours of fish-catching fun in the blowing rain.
Zack got the idea early that we might be able to catch 100 fish, after our first stop of the trip yielded 26 fish in under 40 minutes. He kept mentally comparing our “catch to date” with the time remaining in the trip, and kept his eyes set on that 100 fish goal.
As we steadily caught fish, including white bass, hybrid striped bass, largemouth bass, and freshwater drum, the boys really got the hang of jigging, and rarely required much coaching after the first hour.
In our third hour on the water, Nathaniel hooked into something much larger than the average white bass we’d been catching up to that point. He was grunting and groaning as he tried to keep his rod tip out of the water and keep his line from contacting the boat. When we “saw color”, I realized he had a record-class white bass on the line. I scrambled for the net and we landed a new Belton Lake record!!
Nathaniel’s white bass measured 15.75″ and weighed 2.00 pounds on a certified Boga Grip scale. This beat the previous Junior Angler record of 1.50 pounds which measured 14.88 inches and which was caught by another young client of mine, Alex Harman, back in November of 2010.
Both boys caught numerous hybrid stripers and freshwater drum in the 2-3 pound class, as well.
As the daylight dimmed and the window for catching fish was closing at around 5:15pm, our fish count stood at 98. I put my own rod away and told the boys that if we were going to hit 100 fish, it had to be through their efforts alone.
Zack did his part, bringing in an 11″ white bass. The count was now 99. Things got really quiet as the boys concentrated on jigging and feeling for a bite. Finally, Nathaniel spoke up and said, “I’ve got him! I’ve got him!” and in came a short hybrid striper — our 100th fish of the trip. Then, with the pressure off, we landed one more fish for good measure and, as the sonar screen when clean and the day turned to night, the bite died and we called it a great day on the water!
SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service, thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals, organizations, and companies from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date. SKIFF is open to children in elementary and middle school, as well as youth in high school.
TALLY = 101 FISH, all caught and released
Start Time: 1:45p
End Time: 5:30p
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 74F
Water Surface Temp: 62F
Wind Speed & Direction: SSE20-25
Sky Conditions: 100% cloudy with occasional, spitting light rain.
Note: Lake continues to fall at ~.30 feet per day and is currently 6.30 feet above full pool with a night of rain forecast.
Other: GT= 0
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area 1659 – solid bite on slabs with light sub-surface feeding occasionally reaching the surface
**Area triangulated by 1660, 1661, and 1662 – solid bite on slabs under birds and with light sub-surface feeding occasionally reaching the surface
**Area 1626 – moderate low-light final bite on slabs
Owner, Holding the Line Guide Service
254.368.7411 (call or text)