DEEP WATER FINESSE – 41 FISH @ STILLHOUSE

WHO I FISHED WITH:  This morning, Wednesday, January 20th, I fished with bass tournament fishing partners Frank Ellis and Ryan Warren.

There has been an upwelling of interest in fishing vertically in deep water for winter bass in advance of the high-stakes Tuff-Man championship event to be held this coming Saturday and Sunday, with the first day’s event on Stillhouse, and the final day’s event held on Belton.  This was the second team associated with that series to seek input on fishing deep water with sonar this week.

As with my trip yesterday, these experienced bass anglers wanted me not to take them bass fishing, but wanted to really study the approach I take to consistently boating white bass in the winter months, knowing that my bycatch often consists of enough quality fish to place in tournaments this time of year.

I shared with Frank before we agreed on the trip that, “I want to respectfully remind you that I am a white bass/hybrid specialist who happens to pick up a few nice largemouth bass as bycatch every winter.  I would not in good conscience accept a client wanting me to take them largemouth bass fishing.”

He and Ryan understood where I was coming from, we agreed to the date, and I had the freedom to pursue fish as I normally would while they closely observed what was going on for anything they could seize on to help them in their own efforts.

PHOTO CAPTION:  Stillhouse continues to produce quality bass.  Thanks to slackening winds following yesterday’s cold front, tough fishing in 49F water got even tougher as we had to finesse these fish into biting on my smallest 3/8 oz. Hazy Eye Slabs with stingers attached.

 

PHOTO CAPTION:  Ryan came up with twins!

 

PHOTO CAPTION:   Frank got a little more than the white bass he bargained for, as well!  This 8.125-pound rascal came from over 50 feet of water.

WHERE WE FISHED: Stillhouse Hollow

WHEN WE FISHED: Wednesday (AM), 20 January 2021

HOW WE FISHED:

This morning’s fishing was slow, with already cold (49F) water and a post-frontal weather scenario overlain on that.

Regardless, we got out there an fished, knowing the “reject rate” (the number of fish that nose at a bait but ultimately refuse it) was going to be high.  We raised countless fish this morning from as much as 57 feet of water, but even that extra deep water did not serve as an insulator against the cold front’s effects.

We devoted our first two hours to chasing fish aided somewhat by bird activity, then relied solely upon sonar during the last half of the trip to find channel-oriented fish.

Most of our effort was invested in fishing the 3/8 oz. Hazy Eye Slabs vertically while observing them, and fish response to them, 100% of the time via Garmin LiveScope.  Thanks to the fact that both Frank and Ryan already had LiveScope experience, we avoided the premature hooksets many “LiveScope rookies” tend to make while watching the screen instead of feeling the line and observing rod tip.

We finished up with exactly 41 fish, including 4 largemouth bass, 1 drum, 1 channel catfish, and 35 white bass (all well-exceeding minimum size).  Ryan was especially appreciative of the help I offered in understanding the bass/forage relationship as we discussed shad and sunfish in detail, and as he was able to observe the things I explained in real time on the water.

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 41 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  The water temperature remained at 49.6F for a third consecutive day.  Although the COE is releasing ~240 CFS, the lake actually rose slightly due to intermittent, light rain fall following yesterday’s frontal passage.

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  7:20A

End Time: 12:00P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 45F

Elevation:  0.79′ high with a 0.05’ 24-hour rise and 240 CFS flow thru the dam.

Water Surface Temp: 49.6F  (third trip this winter with sub-50F water)

Wind Speed & Direction: NNE at 5-6 all morning

Sky Condition: 100% cloud cover

Moon Phase: Waxing crescent moon at 46% illumination 

GT = 95

Wx SNAPSHOT:

 

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas SH0020,1013, SH0013C, and 0113

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

#WhiteBassFishing #LakeBelton #StillhouseHollow #BeltonFishingGuide #LakeBeltonFishingGuide

#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday

#Fitec

TARGETING TUFF-MAN — 60 FISH @ STILLHOUSE

WHO I FISHED WITH:  This morning, Tuesday, January 19th, I fished with bass tournament fishing partners John Del Rio and John Riley.

There has been an upwelling of interest in fishing vertically in deep water for winter bass in advance of the high-stakes Tuff-Man championship event to be held this coming Saturday and Sunday, with the first day’s event on Stillhouse, and the final day’s event held on Belton.  Only those in the top 50% of the field based on day one’s performance will advance to Lake Belton.

These fellows wanted me not to take them bass fishing, but wanted to really study the approach I take to consistently boating white bass in the winter months, knowing that my bycatch often consists of enough quality fish to place in tournaments this time of year.

Although we did catch bass this morning, I believe the biggest eye-opener for these experienced bass anglers was the effective use of multiple forms of sonar to find, position on, then effectively fish for fish of several species, as well as seeing the intricacies of really working a slab vertically, based on fish behavior.

 

PHOTO CAPTION:  Although our focus was on white bass, as is typical in the winter months, and especially when fishing with some form of cover nearby, we also landed quality largemouth bass using the same 3/8 oz. and 3/4 oz. Hazy Eye Slabs (with stinger hooks) which the white bass find so appealing.

 

PHOTO CAPTION:   Fat and sassy white bass, the females bulging with eggs, were the staple of our 60 fish catch as a wet cold front moved in this morning, dropping the ambient temperature 11 degrees in 5 hours, from 60F to 49F.

WHERE WE FISHED: Stillhouse Hollow

WHEN WE FISHED: Tuesday (AM), 19 January 2021

HOW WE FISHED:

An incoming wet cold front is about as hurtful to fishing as an incoming dry cold front is helpful.  With limited time to get this trip in in advance of the lakes going “off-limits” in advance of the Tuff-Man tournament, we fished through the weather this morning, and, although the fish were pretty lethargic, they allowed me to demonstrate some of the winter fishing fundamentals the fellows were interested in.

Birds were of little help today — mostly flying high and looking tentatively or focused on loons.  This correlated with the non-aggressive feeding activity we witnessed on sonar.  When gamefish are not willing to venture far from bottom to chase shad, dead and crippled shad do not show on the surface with enough regularity to draw the birds’ (gulls and terns) attention.

So, we really had to rely on sonar this morning to find our fish.  The first tool put to use is side-imaging to cover great expanses of open water looking for baitfish, and looking for gamefish patrolling for those baitfish.  The second tool put to use was Garmin LiveScope, once we Spot-Locked atop the fish we’d found.  The LiveScope allowed us to see all three of our vertical presentations simultaneously, as well a fish response (and lack of response) to them.

We wound up fishing mainly deep flats today and never really found fish congregated along the river channel.  We took our first 30 fish on slabs, then switched over and put our last 30 fish in the boat primarily on bladebaits (which is something John D. specifically wanted me to give him a refresher on).

We finished up with exactly 60 fish, including 2 largemouth bass, 1 drum, 1 channel catfish, and 56 white bass (all well-exceeding minimum size).

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 60 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  The water temperature remained at 49.6F.

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  7:20A

End Time: 11:20P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 38F

Elevation:  0.79′ high with a 0.05’ 24-hour drop and 240 CFS flow thru the dam.

Water Surface Temp: 49.6F  (second trip this winter with sub-50F water)

Wind Speed & Direction: Calm at launch time, with the wet cold front moving in during our first hour on the water, dropping rain and the ambient air temperature with a cold wind blowing N10-12.

Sky Condition: 100% cloud cover

Moon Phase: Waxing crescent moon at 37% illumination 

GT = 25

Wx SNAPSHOT:

 

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas 0226, 0270, and 0220 through 1179.

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

#WhiteBassFishing #LakeBelton #StillhouseHollow #BeltonFishingGuide #LakeBeltonFishingGuide

#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday

#Fitec

BONUS BASSING CONTINUES! – 77 FISH @ STILLHOUSE

WHO I FISHED WITH:  This past Saturday morning, January 16th, I welcomed aboard father-and-son team Tim and Reese Atkinson.  Tim just retired from Wilsonart International in Temple where he led the sales department for many years.  Reese is himself a salesman focused on heavy equipment down in the Austin area.

Tim’s wife presented him with a fishing gift certificate for his birthday back in October, and today was the day to redeem it.

Despite less than ideal conditions (bright, cloudless skies, and just-sufficient winds) we were able to put 77 fish in the boat, including another quality take of chunky largemouth.

PHOTO CAPTION: Reese Atkinson with a sweet 6.75-pound largemouth bass taken while fishing vertically in deep water under less-than-ideal, post-frontal conditions.

 

PHOTO CAPTION:  Later in the morning, Tim pitched in with this nice 5 1/8-pound largemouth.  This one took the 3/4 oz. Hazy Eye Slab with stinger hook as we worked larger baits for more aggressive white bass.  The weight helped get our lures back to bottom more quickly while the fish were ramped up so we could “make hay while the sun shone”.

 

PHOTO CAPTION:  A sampling of the quality white bass we took this morning — the females’ flanks are beginning to bulge with spawn.

WHERE WE FISHED: Stillhouse Hollow

WHEN WE FISHED: Saturday (AM), 16 January 2021

HOW WE FISHED:

Our target species this morning was white bass.  We enjoyed helpful, albeit brief, bird activity which pointed the way to the fish we caught at our first two stops of the morning.  After about 9:30, we were on our own to find fish strictly via sonar.

As is often the case on Stillhouse in the winter, the fish were actively patrolling deep flats in small wolfpacks beginning at sunrise, and, once that strong feed was over, they consolidated within yards of the river channel.

We took all of our fish on Hazy Eye Slabs with stinger hooks attached, alternating between the light 3/8 oz. slab and the heavier 3/4 oz. slab as fish behavior dictated.  When the fish were really fired up and Garmin LiveScope revealed they were suspended off bottom, we went with the larger slabs.  When the fish were more sedate, with little or no target separation observable between them and the bottom, we opted for the finesse of the 3/8 oz. slabs.

We used either an easing tactic (for slow fish) or a slow-smoke tactic (for more aggressive, suspended fish).

By 11:20, right at the 4-hour mark, the fish were still present but nearly totally shut down.  To continue on would have certainly been anti-climactic, so, we called it a great morning and headed back for some lunch.

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 77 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  This was the first trip this winter with sub-50F surface temps (49.6F)

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  7:20A

End Time: 11:20P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 38F

Elevation:  0.96′ high with a 0.07’ 24-hour drop and 201 CFS flow thru the dam.

Water Surface Temp: 49.6F  (first trip this winter with sub-50F water)

Wind Speed & Direction: WNW4-8 the entire morning

Sky Condition: Clear, post-frontal bluebird skies

Moon Phase: Waxing crescent moon at 12% illumination 

GT = 60

Wx SNAPSHOT:

 

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas 1500, 1537, SH0035G, SH0036G

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

#WhiteBassFishing #LakeBelton #StillhouseHollow #BeltonFishingGuide #LakeBeltonFishingGuide

#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday

#Fitec

Wind-limited Options — 101 Fish @ Belton

WHO I FISHED WITH:  This past Thursday afternoon, Jan. 14th, I fished with returning guest Stiles Parker with ABC Building Supply, and welcomed aboard for the first time two clients of his from Heritage Home Services, Mike Hall, and Keith Bailey.

A mild, dry front hit around 10AM, winds ramped up and peaked from noon to 2pm, then began to taper down.

We had no choice, based on wind speed and direction, but to fish Lake Belton.

 

PHOTO CAPTION:   From left: Keith Bailey, Stiles Parker, and Mike Hall teamed up for a 101 fish outing on a wind-blown Lake Belton as a mild, dry cold front impacted our weather and fishing.

 

 

PHOTO CAPTION:  Mike boated our largest fish of the trip — an 18+” hybrid striper, likely from the 2018 stocking.

WHERE WE FISHED: Belton Lake

WHEN WE FISHED: Thursday (PM), 14 January 2021

HOW WE FISHED:

Due to high winds in the wake of the passage of a cold front which barreled through in the 10 o’clock hour, we fished where conditions were conducive to boat control, which was not in an awful lot of areas.

White bass and the shad they dine on tend to like wind-blown areas and the wind-blown sides of underwater topography, so we did not “hide” from the wind, we simply went to areas where the lakeside topography reduced the wind velocity enough for us to hold position so we could present our light-weight slabs effectively.  It was still blowing plenty on the water we fished.

Belton tends to produce smaller white bass in the wintertime, as many bodies of water do, so I rigged us up in advance with the smallest tool in my arsenal, the 3/8 oz. Hazy Eye Slab with stinger hook.

We hit right at eight distinct areas, starting in deep, 40+ foot water as the sun shone brightly, and moved up shallower into 20-25 foot water as sunset approached.

As you might expect with the front having passed and wind velocity coming down, the bite intensity slowly decreased throughout the afternoon.  Most of the places we hit gave up a majority of the fish in the first few minutes spent there, then the novelty-factor fell off, the fish grew indifferent to our efforts, and we had to move to find another group to excite.

With about an hour of fishing light left, our tally stood at 79 fish.  I told everyone if they would focus on keeping their technique solid, we could hit a 100-fish afternoon by sunset.  Everyone redoubled their efforts to keep their depth adjusted well, their retrieve speed spot-on, and to employ the hook-setting efforts I’d been coaching on.

By 5:40, the fish were done and we had swung exactly 101 fish over the gunwales in a great team effort.

This was the first time Keith and Mike had seen or used Garmin LiveScope and the tactics made possible by positioning precisely with the combination of Minn Kota Spot-Lock and Humminbird side-imaging.  That made the trip for them regardless of the fishing, and they said so numerous times.

A great crew I hope to fish with again!

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 101 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  Post-frontal wind taper led to slowly toughening fishing this afternoon in areas limited by wind velocity.

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  1:30P

End Time: 5:40P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 64F

Elevation:  0.54′ low with a 0.03’ 24-hour rise and 34 CFS flow thru the dam.

Water Surface Temp: 52.5F

Wind Speed & Direction: WNW22 straight-line, gusting higher right as we got going, and steadily tapering back to WNW14 by trip’s end

Sky Condition: Clear, bluebird skies

Moon Phase: Waxing crescent moon at 2% illumination 

GT = 60

Wx SNAPSHOT:

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas B0064G, 1362, B0018C, B0122C, B1901 (+ 1 short hop), 1940, B0170C, 380

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

#WhiteBassFishing #LakeBelton #StillhouseHollow #BeltonFishingGuide #LakeBeltonFishingGuide

#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday

#Fitec

BONUS BASS — 38+ POUND/5 FISH SACK ON STILLHOUSE

WHO I FISHED WITH:  This morning, Thursday, Jan. 14th, I fished with returning guest and retired Georgetown restaurateur, Dwight Stone, under ideal pre-frontal conditions on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir.

A mild, dry front was forecast to hit around 10AM, and NOAA hit this one right on the head.  We enjoyed all of the benefits of pre-frontal fishing with no rain and no strong winds.

It would be an understatement to say the fish were fired up!

 

PHOTO CAPTION:  My first 10.00-pound largemouth bass for a client in my 15 years of guiding for white bass and hybrid stripers was landed this morning by Dwight Stone of Georgetown.  He caught this on one of my white Hazy Eye slabs with stinger hooks attached.

PHOTO CAPTION: About a half-hour later, Dwight put this one on the deck, as well.  6.25 pounds.

 

 

PHOTO CAPTION:  I chipped in with a 7.75 early in the morning …

 

PHOTO CAPTION: …and a 9.50 after the wind started to blow.  What a morning!!

WHERE WE FISHED: Stillhouse Hollow

WHEN WE FISHED: Thursday (AM), 14 January 2021

HOW WE FISHED:

The big story this morning was the wonderful bycatch of quality largemouth bass we landed on light slabs and spinning gear intended for our target species — white bass.

The top 5 fish Dwight and I landed this morning weighed 10.00 pounds, 9.50 pounds, 7.75 pounds, 6.25 pound, and 5.125 pounds (38.625 pounds total, all measured on a certified scale).  Dwight’s 10-pound fish was the first ten-pound largemouth I’ve ever had a client land in 15 years of guiding for white bass and hybrid stripers.  It measured 24 1/8 inches and was in excellent shape.  The tail lobes were not even scarred or nicked.

Every last one of these fish was taken on my Hazy Eye Slab with stinger hook attached.   We used the lighter 3/8 oz. version when the winds were calmed, and I upped to to 3/4 oz. when things got nautical.

Those stinger hooks really earned their keep this morning, as every one of the bass we landed (9 total) did at least one head-shake, and that stinger, in combination with the treble, held the slab fast and kept it from being whipped around like a ball-and-chain, and thus coming loose.

We handled all of these fish very quickly and gently, and that, combined with a slow rise from bottom due to taking our time using light spinning gear, made for a barotrauma-free release for each one of them.

Amidst all of this excitement we landed a steady stream of quality white bass, as well — 98 of them to be exact.  The fish we found in the first three hours came from scattered, small groups wandering on deep flats, and the fish we found in the final hour were smaller, more bunched up, and were closer to the channel break.

We landed more fish in our final hour than in the first three hours, combined, thanks to the pressure change accompanying the arrival of the dry cold front.

Since we’d done quite well, and had increasing winds and decreasing action by 11:20A, we wrapped it up right at the 4-hour mark this morning and I prepared to turn around and head over to fish an afternoon trip on Belton.

An easing tactic was the primary fish-catching technique this morning.

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 107 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  Classic, strong, pre-frontal fishing activity experienced this morning; with helpful bird action through 10:15AM in multiple locations.

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  7:20A

End Time: 11:20P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 40F

Elevation:  1.1′ highwith a 0.06’ 24-hour drop and 210 CFS flow thru the dam.

Water Surface Temp: 50.0F

Wind Speed & Direction: SW5-6 at sunrise, slowly and steadily increasing while swinging through W to WNW.  By trip’s end we had WNW16 gusting 20 as the front arrived.

Sky Condition: Clear, bluebird skies

Moon Phase: Waxing crescent moon at 2% illumination 

GT = 5

Wx SNAPSHOT:

 

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas 0082 (2 fish), 1138 (14 fish), 1950 (20 fish), and SH0001C (71 fish as the front arrived)

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

#WhiteBassFishing #LakeBelton #StillhouseHollow #BeltonFishingGuide #LakeBeltonFishingGuide

#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday

#Fitec

GORE-TEX GATHERINGS — 202 FISH @ BELTON

WHO I FISHED WITH:  This past Wednesday morning, January 6th, I welcomed returning guests PJ Condit and Scott Smith, joined by first-time guest Brandon Schaefer.

PJ and Scott became friends a few years ago when they attended an event at the same retreat center near Lexington, TX.

PJ is the lead minister at Community Christian Church in Round Rock, and Scott is the senior pastor at Crestview Christian Church in Copperas Cove.

Brandon, a friend of PJ’s, has spent his entire career in law enforcement.

The three fellows came out today as a result of a Facebook post I made on Monday wherein I saw pre-frontal conditions developing, and did not have anyone on the books to enjoy that opportunity.  I indicated that anyone who signed up should enjoy above average fishing thanks to the weather scenario.

That weather scenario included a 67% chance of rain with a total accumulation of 0.14 inches from 6A to 1P, so, I advised everyone to bring raingear.

Because fishing in the rain is not for everyone, I have, on occasion had parties request to postpone under conditions I knew full-well would produce some great fishing.  On such occasions, I’ve scrambled to post the opening on Facebook so the day would not be a loss.  On several occasions PJ has stepped up and claimed those openings, so, when everyone arrived this morning I observed we were “…fixing to have another Gore-Tex gathering,” knowing nature might beat us up a bit before we cashed in on the pre-frontal fishing.

 

PHOTO CAPTION: From left, Brandon Schaefer, Pastor PJ Condit, and Pastor Scott Smith during our Gore-Tex gathering on Lake Belton under pre-frontal conditions.  These fellows boated 202 fish.

WHERE WE FISHED: Belton Lake

WHEN WE FISHED: Wednesday (AM), 06 January 2021

HOW WE FISHED:

Pre-frontal fishing is the closest thing in the fishing world there is to gambling.  When all goes well, the payoff can be big, but, all doesn’t go well sometimes.

The weather scenario, according to the NOAA forecast, was for SSE winds to begin shifting through the SW, then W, then just north of W by mid-morning.  A brief chance of light rain existed during the passage of the lead edge of the front, followed by increasingly strong WNW winds.

That was the “theory”.  The reality was that we had a thick blanket of fog which no forecaster made any mention of, accompanied by light winds from the SE for about the first 3 hours of the morning.  This was because the approach of the front had slowed down.

After a nearly fishless first hour, we began to score some fish using an easing tactic in conjunction with my small, 3/8 oz. Hazy Eye Slabs with stinger hooks, up in shallow (under 25′) water.

Into our second hour, and just as everyone got in to the groove of lifting their baits, setting the hook at the right time, etc., we were beginning to put fish in the boat steadily when an incredible boom of thunder rattled the still, foggy air around us like artillery and, even though it was miles to our south and west, we all ducked, grabbed rods to lay them down, turned off sonar, and made a beeline for the nearest shoreline so we wouldn’t be the highest-profile targets out there to get lightning’s attention.

We enjoyed manly conversation in a 25-minute thunderstorming downpour while occasionally glancing at weather radar to watch the storm cell’s direction of travel.

Things were not looking good, but, bottom line: there was no way I was going to advertise above-average fishing and then take these three guys back to the dock with anything less.

We had now paid our dues.  Once that thunderstorm passed, the skies began to brighten, the fog began to clear, and the fish fishing began to ratchet up notches at a time.

Once those fish started biting, they just absolutely cranked up.  With every additional mile-per-hour of wind speed, the bite got more and more aggressive.

We fished three areas after that storm’s passage and landed exactly 202 fish, including 1 freshwater drum, 5 largemouth bass, and 195 white bass.

To catch these fish, we alternated between an easing tactic and a slow-smoking retrieve when fish were in a chasing mood and/or too far off the bottom to use an easing tactic, all with that light 3/8 oz. Hazy Eye Slab.

As the fellows quickly gained experience in scrutinizing the Garmin LiveScope screen for fish position and attitude, they slowly became adept at choosing a smoking or easing tactic, as appropriate, and that is where we really started to capitalize on the aggressive fish.

After such a slow start and having them endure the dousing they did, I kept them on on the water through 2:30P, at which time we agreed to quit only so they still had a chance of making a late lunch over at Miller’s Smokehouse!!!

We gambled, and it paid off.

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 202 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  Classic, strong, pre-frontal fishing activity experienced this morning; no helpful bird action.

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  8:00A

End Time: 2:30P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 58F

Elevation:  0.72′ low with a 0.0’ 24-hour change and 34 CFS flow thru the dam (note that Belton rose about 0.50 feet with the rain which fell last Wednesday and Thursday).

Water Surface Temp: 53.5F

Wind Speed & Direction: Calm to SSE4 as fog persisted through about 10:30A; then winds shifted SW, then W, then NW and began to intensify in the hours thereafter.  When we departed the winds were NW16 gusting 22 and blew even harder later in the afternoon.

Sky Condition: Fog through 10:30, followed by a thunderstorm, after which the cold front moved in and began clearing the skies to blue and cloudless.

Moon Phase: Last quarter moon at 49% illumination 

GT = 10

Wx SNAPSHOT:

 

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas 099 (slow, shallow), 1177 (pre-storm), 1294 (following wind shift), 1551/1293 (following wind shift), 1614 (following wind shift)

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

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SORTASTITIOUS, NOT SUPERSTITIOUS — 68 FISH @ BELTON

WHO I FISHED WITH:  This past Tuesday afternoon I fished with Dave and Andy Covington of Belton, TX, with Dave’s mom, Terri, coming along as a spectator, videographer, photographer, and snack-passer-outer.

Terri got this trip as a Christmas present for Andy (who, at age 7, originally asked for a boat for Christmas!).  In early December when Terri and I spoke by phone about this arrangement, we somewhat randomly chose Wednesday, Dec. 30th, as the date to make the trip happen, however, Mother Nature had other things in mind as we had a cold, wet downpour all day that day.

We relooked at the weather forecast and the Belton Independent School District calendar, and agreed that this date worked in both regards.  Things turned out as well as can be expected fishing with a 7-year-old in 50-degree water…

 

PHOTO CAPTION #1:

PHOTO CAPTION: From left, Dave, Andy, and Terri Covington on Lake Belton, cashing in Andy’s Christmas fishing gift certificate.

 

WHERE WE FISHED: Belton Lake

WHEN WE FISHED: Tuesday (PM), 05 January 2021

HOW WE FISHED:

With a pretty solid weather forecast (SE winds on the end of a 3-day warmup, and with building cloud cover) I was not concerned so much about finding biting fish as I was in coaching Andy to stay consistent with the pretty demanding tactics we would have to employ to enjoy sustained action.

Fortunately, like many kids engaged in sports, he was coachable, and he also connected his own level of attention to detail with his success rate  — he understood his chances to catch fish were best when he carefully tried doing everything right, every time.

Because we were between weather fronts, the fish were feeding, but sort of lackadaisically, so we went with small, 3/8 oz. white Hazy Eye Slabs with stinger hooks, and worked them with an easing tactic on, and just off, the bottom.

As is often the case in such scenarios, most of our results at each area we visited were front-loaded, meaning we’d catch most of the fish we were going to catch at a given area right after starting our presentations, only to have the interest level drop off sharply after only a short period of time.

This simply meant we had to move routinely, if only a few boat-lengths away, to keep fish interested.

As we fished our first area, the subject of superstitions about fishing came up.  I told my crew how some people get really caught up in connecting things with no bearing on fishing whatsoever to their fishing success, such as wearing a “lucky” fishing hat or shirt.  It was then that Dave shared with us that he, personally, was sortastitious, but definitely not superstitious.

Thanks to cloud cover building in the western sky late in the afternoon, the light level began to dim well before sunrise, thus shifting the bite up shallower than during the first two-thirds of the trip.

We closed out the trip in between 22-26 feet of water taking fish at the fastest pace of the entire trip in our last 40 minutes on the water as the fish put on a low-light feed which I haven’t observed in quite sometime.

We ended up with 68 fish by the time they shut down right at sunset.

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 68 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  We experienced a strong low-light feed this evening in the last 40 minutes preceding sunset; the action then died suddenly once the sun set.

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  1:15P

End Time: 5:40P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 68F

Elevation:  0.74′ low with a 0.02’ 24-hour fall and 34 CFS flow thru the dam (note that Belton rose about 0.50 feet with the rain which fell last Wednesday and Thursday).

Water Surface Temp: 54.2F

Wind Speed & Direction: SSE8-10 all afternoon.

Sky Condition: Light blue skies with quickly building cloud cover throughout the afternoon to ~75% cover by sunset.

Moon Phase: Waning gibbous moon at 60% illumination 

GT = 100

Wx SNAPSHOT:

 

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas B0067G, 295/409/1943, vic 150 (best average size), vic 1943, vic 171 (shallow), vic B0172C (shallow)

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

#WhiteBassFishing #LakeBelton #StillhouseHollow #BeltonFishingGuide #LakeBeltonFishingGuide

#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday

#Fitec

FIRST TRIP OF 2021 — 88 FISH @ BELTON

WHO I FISHED WITH: This morning, Monday, Jan. 4th, I fished a half-day trip with Mr. Ty Burcham and the Salcedo brothers: Owen (17), Ian (15), and Levi (10), all from around the Austin area.

I was concerned about the weather because as far back as Friday afternoon, the NOAA forecast was calling for near zero cloud cover and light winds.  I would normally postpone under such conditions if they followed a cold front, but, the cold front’s impact was most drastically felt on Saturday.  Sunday saw a return of southerly winds, so I knew we could catch fish this morning, albeit with some effort.  Besides, the kids’ schedule had no flexibility, so we took lemons and made some lemonade.

 

PHOTO CAPTION #1:  This was my crew this morning, from left: Levi, Owen, Ty, and Ian.

PHOTO CAPTION #2:  Ty wound up boating the biggest fish of the day, a 19-inch hybrid, thereby earning the right to buy lunch for everyone!

WHERE WE FISHED: Belton Lake

WHEN WE FISHED: Monday (AM), 04 January 2021

HOW WE FISHED:

Before we left the launch area this morning, I provided a “live demo” on how we would need to slowly and methodically move our slabs in order to have success this morning.  Once it seemed everyone understood what we were doing and why we were doing it, we moved out to hunt for fish.

Fish were not all that hard to find today, but the ratio of biting fish to fish found was, as anticipated, pretty low.

By the second area we stopped at, everyone’s technique was effective enough to catch fish consistently, and, as the skies brightened and the fish roused a bit more, our catch rate began to climb.

Fishing was slow but consistent, and the diminutive, white 3/8 oz. slab got the nod for use this morning.  As we had fish regurgitate the shad they had eaten, that 3/8 oz. Hazy Eye Slab was a dead ringer for the real deal.

Around 10AM, the bite began to weaken, as the fish would only fire as soon as we dropped our slabs down, but would shut down soon after.  In hopes that more open water would at least be rippled by the wind, I chose to change locations.  When we did, I found a handful of helpful birds (mainly terns) working a small patch of open water.  We checked it out with sonar, saw fish both on bottom and suspended, Spot-Locked on them, and broke out the MAL Lures for about a 45-minute go at some fish which were generally large than those we’d been catching up to that point.  It was during this time that Ty landed our one and only hybrid of the trip.

To tempt the fish with the MAL, we had to get the blade going with as little handle-turning as necessary, then downshift to as slow a speed as possible while still keeping the blade spinning.  Even when it wasn’t fish quite perfectly, it still out-produced slabs while the fish were aggressive.

By around 11:00, the fish had settled back down, so we took a “middle of the road” approach and used our slabs with a slow-smoking retrieve (as they can be worked a bit more slowly than MAL Lures which require a bit of speed at the beginning of the retrieve to get the blade going).  This worked well for another 30 minutes and then these open water fish gave up altogether.

By now it was noon and I told everyone I’d try to get us on fish one last time so everyone could go home with a rod bent right up to the last minute.  We did find one final school of fish, and, although they were small, the boys enjoyed catching them.

We wrapped up this morning with 85 white bass, 2 freshwater drum, and 1 hybrid striped bass.

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 88 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  About 30 minutes of helpful bird activity from ~10:15 to 10:45 under calm, bright conditions.

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  7:45A

End Time: 12:30P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 39F

Elevation:  .72 low with a 0.02’ 24-hour fall and 34 CFS flow thru the dam (Belton rose about 0.50 feet with the rain which fell last Wednesday and Thursday.  Although 2.0 to 2.5 inches fell area wide, it came in doses which soaked in, resulting in minimal runoff.

Water Surface Temp: 52.6F

Wind Speed & Direction: Never more than a slight ripple on brief occasions.  Nearly flat calm all AM.

Sky Condition: 0% cloud cover on a bright blue sky.

Moon Phase: Waning gibbous moon at 71% illumination 

GT = 110

Wx SNAPSHOT:

 

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas  B0009C thru 376, vic 1275 (open water birds), vic B0186C

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

#WhiteBassFishing #LakeBelton #StillhouseHollow #BeltonFishingGuide #LakeBeltonFishingGuide

#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday

#Fitec

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: WILLOW P. — 101 FISH @ BELTON

WHO I FISHED WITH: This past Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 29th, I fished with one of my most regular clients, Steve Niemeier, accompanied by his granddaughter, Macy Fowler, and Macy’s friend, Willow Pratt.

Although Macy moved to a different school district during her third grade year, she and Willow have remained friends since first meeting in pre-school.

Willow had been fishing before, but never on a boat.  And, the weather she fished in was much more fair than the blustery damp conditions we took on as the afternoon progressed toward sunset.

 

PHOTO CAPTION #1:  From left:  Willow Pratt, Macy Fowler, and Steve Niemeier, each with one of the 101 fish they landed after laboring for 4+ hours on what will likely be the last balmy winter afternoon for some time to come.

WHERE WE FISHED: Belton Lake

WHEN WE FISHED: Tuesday (PM), 29 December 2020

HOW WE FISHED:

As I greeted Steve and crew, talk immediately focused on catching 100 fish.  If the fishing was as good in the afternoon as it was earlier in the morning, that would be doable, but, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that a great AM bite and great PM bite in the same day is a rarity.  In addition, the wind was a wildcard today — it was calmer than forecast in the morning, but this afternoon it would hinder a bit.

Fortunately, both girls had a “reach the goal” mindset and were persistent.  I actually complimented Willow on being very coachable.  She made a few rookie mistakes with her technique, as everyone does the first time they work slabs the way we did today, but, once I pointed those things out and demonstrated what I was trying to get her to do, she got right on it and focused on doing it better.  She definitely won the “most improved” title for the morning.

As we got lines in the water, it became immediately clear that we would have to work for our fish this afternoon.  We found plenty of fish, but, they were flattened out on bottom and took a lot of coaxing.

For every 20 or 30 fish we teased up far enough off bottom to get full target separation on Garmin LiveScope, only 1 or 2 would continue to move toward the lure to strike.

But, move 4 lures enough times correctly over enough fish, and you can still piece together a decent trip even when the fish don’t cooperate real well; and that’s what we did today.

Due to the wind and having young anglers on board, I stuck with the 5/8 oz. white Hazy Eye Slab with stinger hook (I would otherwise have chosen the lighter 3/8 oz. version).  With the water now in the low to mid-50’s, that stinger hook is now accounting for well over half of my caught fish and nearly every single largemouth bass we catch as bycatch is hooked primarily on the stinger.  I see this occur at this time of year, every year.

We used an easing tactic in most areas, and, on a few occasions when the fish would lift off bottom in numbers, we used a slow smoking tactic.

When all was said and done, we’d met our goal of 100, plus one more for good measure.  The action quickly tapered as sunset drew near.  Our count stood at 88 fish when we moved to what I thought might me our final location; that area gave up 6 fish.  Now at 94 fish, we had to move again.  The next area gave up 3 fish.  Now at 97 fish, we had to move three more times to get our final handful of fish needed for the girls’ 100 fish goal. They stuck with it right to the last and accomplished what they’d set out to do.

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 101 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  No helpful bird activity today.

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  1:15P

End Time: 5:35P

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 68F

Elevation:  1.20 low with a 0.01’ 24-hour fall and 34 CFS flow thru the dam

Water Surface Temp: 55.1F

Wind Speed & Direction: Hard S. wind all day, varying from 14 to 17 straight line, with higher gusts

Sky Condition: Grey cloud cover with mist and some brief, light rain in the last 90 minutes before sunset.

Moon Phase: Waxing gibbous moon at 100% illumination (full moon is tomorrow)

GT = 30

Wx SNAPSHOT:

 

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas  B0185C to 0147, 171 to 788, 709, B0011C, 1679, and 409 (2 short hops)

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

#WhiteBassFishing #LakeBelton #StillhouseHollow #BeltonFishingGuide #LakeBeltonFishingGuide

#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday

#Fitec

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES — 115 FISH @ BELTON

WHO I FISHED WITH: This morning, Tuesday, Dec. 29th, I fished with returning guests Max Lopez, and Joe and Dawson Adcock.

Joe and Max are both U.S. Army veterans, and both are members at Memorial Baptist Church in Killeen, where Max serves as the maintenance man.  In his retirement, Joe began volunteering to help Max fix the church’s aging HVAC equipment, and that grew into a post-retirement occupational pursuit for Joe, with him starting to pursue licensure in that field via coursework this coming semester.

Dawson is a student in the Killeen Independent School District in which his mom, Danna, is an teacher.  He plays soccer when he’s not at school, sleeping, or eating.

 

PHOTO CAPTION #1:  From left: Dawson and Joe Adcock, and Max Lopez with a few of the very cooperative white bass we landed under ideal winter weather conditions.

 

PHOTO CAPTION #2:   If you closed your eyes and listened as Dawson reeled this drum in, you’d have thought he was straining to outdo his personal best bench press record!!

WHERE WE FISHED: Belton Lake

WHEN WE FISHED: Tuesday (PM), 29 December 2020

HOW WE FISHED:

Yes, what a difference a day makes.  Yesterday, I had four anglers labor for 5.75 hours to wrangle 102 fish under foggy skies and an uncomfortably cool NE breeze.  Today, it took three much less experienced anglers only 3.75 hours to boat 115 fish, the difference being the weather.

There really is no more influential factor on fish behavior in freshwater than local weather.

This morning was the perfect mix of diffuse light, grey cloud cover, wind, and balmy temperatures (continuing from the overnight hours), all in advance of a major change in weather approaching tomorrow.

For the middle two hours of this trip we had aggressive, suspended fish continuously moving on and off our Garmin LiveScope sonar screens, eager to chase an artificial lure moving at a steady clip.  And, the lead up to that and the taper off from it afterwards were both still pretty decent.

We used 5/8 oz. white Hazy Eye Slabs with stinger hooks affixed to catch 100% of our fish this morning.  When the fish were less aggressive, we used an easing tactic, and when they were more aggressive, we used a slow smoking tactic.

We wound up with 3 largemouth bass, 5 drum, and 107 white bass.

Hazy Eye Slabs and Stinger Hooks are found here: https://whitebasstools.com/

TALLY: 115 fish caught and released

OBSERVATIONS:  No helpful bird activity today.

TODAY’S CONDITIONS/NOTES:

Start Time:  8:00A

End Time: Noon

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 57F

Elevation:  1.20 low with a 0.01’ 24-hour fall and 34 CFS flow thru the dam

Water Surface Temp: 55.1F

Wind Speed & Direction: Hard S. wind all day, varying from 14 to 17 straight line, with higher gusts

Sky Condition: Grey cloud cover all morning, but without precipitation

Moon Phase: Waxing gibbous moon at 100% illumination (full moon is tomorrow)

GT = 0

Wx SNAPSHOT:

 

AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:

**Areas  1362, B0011C, vic B0005G, 2052, and B0066G

 

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) Website: www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

E-mail: Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bobmaindelle

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bobmaindelle

#WhiteBassFishing #LakeBelton #StillhouseHollow #BeltonFishingGuide #LakeBeltonFishingGuide

#BeltonLakeFishingGuide #stripers #stripedbassfishing #rockfish #sandbass #freshwaterfishing #fishing

#bass #bassfishing #whitebass #panfish #crappie #fishingonaboat #fishingtackle #fishinglife #fishingsport

#fishingaddict #fishingpicoftheday #fishingtime #fishinggear #fishingday

#Fitec