WHO I FISHED WITH: This past Saturday morning, June 20th, I fished with Brandon Griffith and Eli Schlabach. The two men are co-workers at Real Star Property Management with offices in Temple and Killeen, and have fished with me previously on several occasions.
As I rose just before 4AM, I thought I needed to adjust one of the sprinkler heads which waters my lawn, as there was water pelting my bedroom windows. As I went to let our dog, Pumpkin, out, I realized it was raining – actually, pouring. There was a steady downpour for over an hour which dropped 1.2 inches of rain on us.
Since there was only a minimal chance of rain overnight, I quickly checked the updated forecast and the weather radar to see what the morning prognosis now looked like. The storm cell which was dumping rain was due to pass just before sunrise, so I contacted Brandon and Eli, letting them know all was still a go.
The rain tapered off to a sprinkle, and then finally ended around 5:50AM. As we launched, the weather was still turbulent with 14mph SE winds, thick clouds, and a rain-cooled atmosphere at 66F. There was actually “sea smoke” on the water thanks to the cool air chilling the lake’s surface and creating this low layer of fog just above the water’s surface.
PHOTO CAPTION: From left: Brandon Griffith and Eli Schlabach used sight casting, downrigging, and vertical tactics to put 162 fish in the boat during their 4-hour morning trip after passing storms left white bass in a feeding mode.
WHEN WE FISHED: 20 June, 2020, AM
HOW WE FISHED: As we got going just before sunrise, the weather’s impact on fishing pressure was immediately evident. The normal sunrise rush of boats at the boat ramps was a fraction of what is normally present on a Saturday morning.
With thick, grey clouds obscuring sunrise and a very turbulent atmosphere left in the wake of the rain event, the fishing got off to a slower-than-normal start from 6:15 to 7:00AM. We picked up 10 white bass spread across two locations but it was clear the fish were off due to weather.
Around 7AM, a noticeable brightening of the skies took place, accompanied by a lessening of the winds down to S8-9, as well as a change from grey cloud cover to white cloud cover.
As this happened, and as I continued looking for fish at a third area, I spotted several small schools of white bass forcing shad to the surface and feeding on them aggressively. These shad were mature, 2.75 to 3+ inch long forage fish. The changing, clearing weather was definitely energizing these fish.
Although the boat traffic slowly increased, we had these fish to ourselves the entire time they fed on the surface, which is a rarity on a summer Saturday. Part of this was because there was a chop on the water making the fish hard to see.
I chose Gangbanger spoons with my own tandem stinger hooks attached in order to match the forage size and give Eli and Brandon enough weight in the lures to cover the distance they needed to cast in order to maintain a standoff distance from the fish so as not to spook them and drive them from the surface. We went through 60+ fish before the thinning clouds and brightening sky conditions drove these fish down.
Our next stop came in a decidedly more crowded area; we picked up another 30 fish downrigging and working MAL lures vertically once well-congregated fish were located, then getting right back on the ‘riggers once the school we were working vertically moved on. We noted that boats strictly fishing vertically were not faring well at all.
We moved on to our final stop of the morning a few minutes before 10AM. A bottom-oriented school of white bass was holding on a gentle slope. These were mostly 2- and 3-year class fish, and allowed us to close out the trip on a good note with a final 50+ fish landed in our final 30 minutes on the water. The fish were taken vertically from the lower 1/3 of the water column.
In all, we landed 162 fish this morning including 1 largemouth bass and 161 white bass in the 1-, 2-, and 3-year class.
TALLY: 162 fish caught and released
OBSERVATIONS: The white bass we caught regurgitated shad routinely, whereas those we took on downriggers and via vertical jigging did not.
Start Time: 6:10A
End Time: 10:30A
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 66F
Elevation: Lake was at full pool following a , 0.08′ overnight rise, 34 CFS flow
Water Surface Temp: 79.5
Wind Speed & Direction: SE14 following storms, backing off to SE9-10 thereafter
Sky Conditions: 100% grey skies following the storms, tapering to 75% white cloud cover on a blue sky thereafter
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area vic 811- sparse whites on downriggers under turbulent conditions
**Area vic 1081 – sight casting to topwater feeding whites blitzing ~3” shad for 60 fish
**Area vic 687 – downrigging with multiple, short, productive stops for vertical work
**Area B0020G – vertical work for a final 50 fish in 30 minutes
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)