Dad Battles OPFOR; Daughters Battle Fish — 78 Fish w/ Aliyah & Kensleigh

WHO I FISHED WITH: This morning, Wednesday, August 9th, I conducted the 2023 season’s 5th S.K.I.F.F. program trip for military kids separated from their military parents.

Joining me were Aliyah and Kensleigh Womble. Their stepdad, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Bart Palmieri, is currently battling the heat and the OPFOR (opposing forces) in California’s Death Valley on a rotation through the National Training Center there at Fort Irwin. Upon his return, a multi-month deployment is likely.

SFC Palmieri has been in the military for 14 years and manages logistics like water, fuel, and ammunition.

The girls’ mom, Courtney Palmieri, found out about the SKIFF program through Mrs. Denise Igo‘s Fort Hood Area Events Facebook page.

ABOUT SKIFF:  This fishing trip, like all SKIFF trips, was provided to this military family at no charge.  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.

Here is how the fishing went…


Here’s an up-to-date calendar so you can check availability:

Next available dates are 21-24 Aug. (AMs)

PHOTO CAPTION: That’s Aliyah and me with her first legal hybrid.  She made a long, cross-wind cast, counted her MAL Mini down to a 4-count, and retrieved smooth and fast.  Thanks to Manuel Pena for the camera work.

PHOTO CAPTION:  It was my turn to take photos at the end of the trip.  That’s 6-year-old Kensleigh standing in front of Manuel, and 11-year-old Aliyah “gripping & grinning”.



PHOTO CAPTION: This was Aliyah’s final fish of the morning, caught just as her mom returned to pick her and her sister back up after good morning of catching.


WHEN WE FISHED: Wednesday, 09 August 2023 (AM)


With an infant at home, Mrs. Palmieri decided it best to leave her older girls in my care and keep the baby out of the heat and wind. For that reason, I very much welcomed the assistance of Austin Fly Fishers’ member Manuel Pena, who joined me this morning to assist.

We started off the trip dropping some bait in an area I’d hoped to catch catfish from later. Once that chore was out of the way, we began hunting for white bass. The white bass were, thankfully, quite cooperative today. At exactly 6:44 AM they begin to feed on the surface under low light conditions and stayed up for around 40 minutes. Manuel and I assisted the girls in landing 38 white bass as we downrigged on the perimeter of these schooling fish using a Pet Spoons behind three armed umbrella rigs.

Once this action died, we were able to do some sight-casting as fish began to “popcorn” feed over open water. By “popcorn“ I mean they would churn the surface briefly, then disappear, then crop up a few yards away, and continue this process. Today the frequency at which these fish appeared was quite high, thus we did not have to move far nor wait long between seeing schools show themselves on the surface.

During this time, Manuel did the casting for Kensleigh and had her reel in hooked fish while I showed Aliyah how to cast and retrieve in order to catch her own fish. This action lasted until approximately 8:45 by which time we had landed 74 fish including one largemouth bass, two hybrid striper, and 71 white bass, all of which were legal.  All sightcasting fish were taken on the MAL Mini.

We moved on and gave our baited area a try for catfish. Unfortunately, we had whitecaps and swells by this time, which really jerked our slip floats around far more than I would desire. We did land two channel cat and missed several other strikes before changing our game plan and wrapping up the trip with a final round of downrigging. Aliyah landed a final legal hybrid, and Kensleigh landed one last white bass when we noted mom pulled up in the parking lot and wrapped it up right at 10 AM with 78 fish in the boat.

TALLY: 78 fish caught and released.

See a tutorial on the Smoking Method here:

Here is a tutorial on the Sawtooth Method:

Find the entire family of MAL Lures  here:

OBSERVATIONS:  Here was the water temperature profile down to 50′ (taken on Lake Belton, Monday, 07 Aug. 2023):

0 feet, 86.4F
5 feet, 86.5F
10 feet, 86.7F
15 feet, 86.7F
20 feet, 86.7F
25 feet, 84.7f
30 feet, 77.9F
35 feet, 72.7F
40 feet, 68.2F
45 feet, 65.6F
50 feet, 64.3F



Start Time: 6:30A

End Time: 10:10A

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 82F

Elevation: 15.87 feet low, 56 CFS flow

Water Surface Temp: 87.5F on the surface.

Wind Speed & Direction:  SSW 7-8 thru 8:30, then ramping up to SSW14-16

Sky Condition: 0% cloud cover cover on slightly hazy blue sky.

Moon Phase: Waning crescent moon at 39% illumination.

GT = N/A




Area vic 1937 – downrigging around topwater schools at low light

Areas B0230G to B0027G & 491 – sight casting

Area 1506 – catfish

Area B0082C – downrigging


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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