WHO I FISHED WITH:  On Thursday, June 18th, I conducted the season’s 7th Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun (SKIFF) program trip with the 14-year-old Matthew Merchant aboard.

Matthew’s dad, US Army Captain Courtney Merchant, is currently separated from his family attending a course qualifying him to become a hospital chaplain.  Matthew’s mom, a Kindergarten teacher at a local Christian school, dropped him off and picked him up while enjoying some mother-daughter time with Matthew’s sister, Allison.

ABOUT SKIFF:  This fishing trip was provided to this military family at no charge.  S.K.I.F.F. stands for Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun.  This program began in May of 2009.  It is funded by the donations and fundraising efforts of the Austin Fly Fishers and other organizations they have partnered with.  S.K.I.F.F. provides the children of military personnel separated from their families due to duty commitments with the opportunity to go fishing.  SKIFF trips are also provided, free of charge, to Gold Star families who have lost their service member while he or she was on active duty.  In mid-2019, SKIFF also began providing trips to dependents whose parents are bona fide disabled veterans.  I coordinate and conduct these 3.5 to 4 hour adventures on Belton Lake and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, just outside the gates of Fort Hood in Bell County, TX, year ’round.  Call or text 254.368.7411.


PHOTO CAPTION: Matthew Merchant with a pair of Lake Belton white bass.  We landed 6 blue catfish, 1 channel catfish, and 28 white bass during our trip.


PHOTO CAPTION: During the toughest part of this afternoon’s trip, from 5:15 to 6:30, we focused on catfish, then switched over to targeting white bass as the light level diminished toward and beyond sunset.  Here Matthew holds a channel cat he landed from off bottom in about 22 feet of water.

WHEN WE FISHED:  18 June, 2020, PM

HOW WE FISHED:  Just as the last hour (which is typically the hottest and brightest) of a morning trip is often the least productive, so the first hour (also typically the hottest and brightest) of an evening trip is often the least productive.

Knowing this, we focused on fishing for catfish prior to turning our sights on white bass.  Using my “Catfish Plumbs” on spinning rods rigged with braided line, we presented doughbait, cut shad, and prepared cutbaits to catfish which were suspended at 18-22 feet over a deeper bottom which we located using sonar while searching a wind-impacted, steep bank.

We managed 9 catfish including 8 blues and a channel before moving on to fish for white bass, beginning around 6:45.

We found scattered, suspended white bass in an area roughly 300 yards in diameter and worked these over with tandem 3-armed umbrella rigs equipped with Pet Spoons using my two downriggers.

As sunset came a bit early (thanks to the sun “setting” behind a thick cloud bank in the west which completely obscured it), we began looking for larger, organized groups of white bass gathering to push shallow and feed.  We found what we were after off a gentle point in 18-22 feet of water.  We used the downriggers initially to verify that these were white bass and make sure they were in a feeding mood, then we Spot-Locked on them and used MAL lures with a smoking retrieve to tempt them right up until they quit at dark.

TALLY: 35 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  Too windy for topwater action tonight.


Start Time:  5:15P

End Time: 9:00P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 92F

Elevation:  0.08′ low, 0.05′ fall, 34 CFS flow

Water Surface Temp:  81.1F

Wind Speed & Direction: SE14

Sky Conditions: 75% white cloud cover on a blue sky

GT =  NA




**Area vic 687 – blue cats suspended, caught on doughbait, shad, and cutbait

**Area vic 1923 – downrigging for scattered, suspended white bass in the mid part of the trip

**Area B0019G – downrigging and smoking with MAL lures for stacked fish in 18-22′ on bottom



Bob Maindelle

Full-time, Professional Fishing Guide and Owner of Holding the Line Guide Service

Belton Lake Fishing Guide, Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide

254.368.7411 (call or text)


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