This past Monday evening I did a combined sonar training, downrigger training, and fishing trip with Brandon Rudloff.
One of the tactics I use while downrigging is to stop over top of larger congregations of any bottom-hugging fish I see on sonar. I then work slabs vertically for these fish and then move on once the school moves or loses interest. Brandon caught this hybrid on such a “slab stop”.
Brandon was grinnin’ like a kid when his first triple came over the gunwale using a 3-armed umbrella rig as he learned the ins and outs of downrigging on Lake Belton with me this evening.
Brandon is a dedicated catfisherman, typically pursuing large catfish during the cold months. However, with his son about to turn four, Brandon needed to figure out how to steadily catch quantities of fish so as to keep his son engaged.
As we met up at Lake Belton, I first went over some sonar fundamentals addressing the pros and cons of traditional colored sonar, of down-imaging, and of side-imaging.
We then set out on Brandon’s boat, and dialed in his Humminbird Helix so that the map, the colored sonar, and the down –, and side – imaging were all as fishing – friendly as they could be for him. We then left his boat at the launch area and took my boat out so that I could demonstrate how I use slip floats for panfish, and how I use downriggers for white bass.
Brandon immediately grasped the efficiency of my slip float system, and realized he was using tackle much too large, thus only taking the largest of whatever sunfish may be present where he fishes. My method allows even the smallest sunfish to be caught. This, of course, is ideal for youngsters.
After that slip float demonstration, we set out to deeper, open water and I begin explaining all the components of my downrigging system. Over the next two hours, we caught singles, doubles, and triples of white bass in the one, two, and three year class taking our tally of white bass to 26, plus a hybrid striper thrown in for good measure, all in addition to the half-dozen sunfish we had landed earlier. The entire time I explained why I was doing what I was doing as I responded to what information sonar continued to feed me.
Based on what I was seeing on sonar, with white bass moving closer to shore and closer to the surface as the sunlight began to dim, we put away the downrigging equipment around 8:15 PM and began to search on the surface for signs of topwater feeding fish.
By 8:25 we had found what we were looking for and spent the next 25 minutes throwing quarter ounce grubs to topwater feeding largemouth bass and white bass in large schools. We took our grand total up to 60 fish before the topwater action ended at 8:55.
Brandon was beyond enthusiastic about all he had learned and the potential these lessons held for making his son successful. To me, this was very gratifying.
TALLY: 60 FISH, all caught and released
Start Time: 4:45p
End Time: 8:55p
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 96F
Water Surface Temp: 84.1F
Wind Speed & Direction: E3-4
Sky Conditions: Fair with a fine layer of haze
Water Level: 0.20 feet above full pool and falling; 200 cfs release at dam
GT = 0
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area 1391 thru 1750 – downrigging primarily for suspended, small schools of white bass
**Area vic 1186 – downrigging primarily for suspended, small schools of white bass
**Area vic 1800 – downrigging primarily for suspended, small schools of white bass
**Area vic 1206 – mix of white bass and largemouth bass on grubs/jigheads on topwater
Owner, Holding the Line Guide Service
254.368.7411 (call or text)