This past Thursday morning, February 23rd, I fished an “open boat” trip with Mr. Ray Johnson of Harker Heights, and Mr. Clayton Bell of Florence, Texas.
Using live shad on my first guided trip to Belton in the 2017 season, we were able to land a number of legal (18+ inch) hybrid stripers, along with white bass, largemouth, blue cat, drum, and crappie. Here, Clayton Bell of Florence, TX, shows one of the larger hybrid we took this morning.
Fishing was steady on live shad throughout our morning trip. Ray Johnson of Harker Heights holds one of the 18-20 inch hybrid that were duped by our live shad.
Ray is a retired U.S. Navy flight surgeon turned pediatrics doctor, and Clayton is an artist who uses slate and other stone as his media for creating large indoor and outdoor pieces, including fountains.
The two found common ground over southern gospel music and wound up singing a few bars of their favorite tunes between bites.
When Ray originally booked the trip, he was hopeful that a friend could join him. When that did not work out, he was open to having another party previously unknown to him join us so as to reduce his out-of-pocket expense. After posting the open boat seat on Facebook, Clayton gave me a call and, just a few hours later, we met up at Belton Lake.
As I went through my pretrip “briefing” I explained that this was a bit of an experimental trip. By “experimental”, I meant that I would be testing the waters at Belton specifically in pursuit of hybrid striped bass using live shad. I got a positive, credible report from a fellow angler who had fished Belton on Wednesday, and so we left the good size and numbers of white bass behind that Stillhouse had been producing in a gamble for larger hybrid over on Belton.
Netting shad was not a simple task as the shad are definitely not in spawning mode yet. I was able to get about 120 baits of various sizes in one hour’s worth of effort.
We fished with these live baits at four areas and found a mixed bag of fishing at each. By trip’s end, we had landed hybrid striped bass, white bass, largemouth bass, freshwater drum, crappie, and blue catfish.
Although the hybrid fishing is far from the forthcoming spring peak which typically coincides with the threadfin shad spawn, this species has definitely moved beyond the winter funk-phase. We caught fish in as shallow as 17 feet of water and as deep as 44 feet of water.
On two occasions, as I was running sonar in search of hybrid stripers, I came across schools of white bass spread across bottom and tightly congregated together. This just screamed out for a slabbing approach, so we broke out the spinning tackle and used an easing tactic to put 1/2 dozen white bass in the boat at each of these stops before the schools lost interest and moved on.
We finished the trip with 58 fish landed, including 8 “legal” hybrid, each exceeding 18”, with the largest two going right at 4.00 pounds.
TALLY = 58 FISH, all caught and released
Start Time: 6:50a
End Time: 11:50a
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 52F
Water Surface Temp: 60.1F
Wind Speed & Direction: <SSW6 at trip’s start, tapering up to SSW 12 by 10:30, the letting off to SSW9 by trip’s end
Sky Conditions: Fair, cloudless skies
Water Level: 1.53 feet above full pool
GT = 0
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area 1668/788 – mixed bag catch with live shad at 24′
**Area 818/164 – mixed bag catch with live shad at 24′
**Area 1898 – mixed bag catch with live shad at 24′
**Area 1618 – quick stop to slab for whites stacked on bottom
**Area -817 – quick stop to slab for whites stacked on bottom
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