• January 18, 2017

Guide Lines

Thursday 09/04/2014
A grandfather and granddaughter go fishing
I fished with grandfather-granddaughter team Ken Botsch (known as Pa to his grandkids) and Lucy Scott of Round Rock, Sept. 1. Ken has followed my blog for quite some time now and decided to take the plunge, give me a call, and book a trip.

Ken is the owner of his own small business, Earthmovers Supply, Inc., with a brick-and-mortar location in Hutto from which he supplies off-road vehicle specialty parts into the roadmaking and quarrying industries. Ken is also an avid kayak angler. Lucy just started her fourth grade.

We got going at 7:15 a.m. under cloudy gray skies and with a south by south east wind blowing at 8 to 9 MPH. We ran sonar over two areas looking for bait and the white bass pursuing that bait, and found nothing. As we approached the third area I had hoped to fish, and just as the heavy grey cloud cover was thinning, suspended schools of white bass began to appear on sonar at 28 to 32 feet deep over a deeper bottom. This was a classic case calling for downrigging, so we put the downriggers in and I gave some quick, simple instructions to Ken and Lucy on how to use these devices.

Using line counter reels, we set our baits back very precisely the same distance every time, and using the depth counter on the downriggers, we set the depth at which our baits would be presented very precisely every time. From the downrigging arsenal I selected a pair of three armed umbrella rigs equipped with Pet Spoons intended to match the size of the small forage these fish were attracted to. We first set out Lucy's rod, then Ken's, then studied sonar. We had gone no more than 30 yards with both lines set when we encountered a nice school of white bass. The baits, which were 5 to 8 seconds behind us, reached the school and a white bass grabbed onto one of Lucy's three Pet Spoons -- the fight was on! She did a great job of fighting that fish to boatside and landing it. I'm not sure who really got hooked right then -- that fish, or Lucy!!

Over the next 90 minutes we caught fish consistently through this area including singles and doubles of fish in the one, two, and three year classes. Around 8:45 a.m. this bite began to weaken, so we began to search elsewhere with 28 fish now landed. We spent about an hour probing several areas and finding little in the way of bait or fish that I was confident would produce for us, so we pressed on.

Around 10 a.m. we encountered another concentration of fish with most individuals holding off bottom at 29 to 30 feet down over 32 to 34 foot bottom. These were spaced closely enough that I suspected a smoking approach would attract a bite, so we began smoking with 3/4 oz slabs and put seven fish in the boat via that method. At no time did the fish really school heavily under the boat or really turn onto that technique, so as soon as that action slowed we went right back to downrigging and finished up our trip consistently boating fish in the two and three year class on 3 arm umbrella rigs with Pet Spoons. We finished up the day today with exactly 41 white bass and 1 freshwater drum boated, and really made a fisherman out of little Miss Lucy. Her Pa was very, very proud of her persistence and her success. All three of us agreed that we needed to make it a point to get her sleepy brother Christian out of bed for our next trip!.



Start Time: 7:15am

End Time: 11:15 noon

Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 76F

Water Surface Temp: 84.7F

Wind Speed & Direction: SSE8 shifting to S14

Sky Conditions: Fair skies with 50% cloud cover.


**Area 1260 to 864 to 863 to 1134 from start through 8:45a

**Area 1102 through 912 through 1417 in last 75 minutes

Posted in Guide lines on Thursday, September 4, 2014 9:40 pm. Comments (0)

Wednesday 09/03/2014
52 Fish caught; some 'Labor' required
On Labor Day I fished with fishing buddies and Army buddies Blake Boutwell and Randy Durrence. Both are noncommissioned officers stationed at Fort Hood, each with eight years of service to the nation.

Blake has two children, ages 2 and 5, and is originally from near Fort Rucker, Ala. Randy has two older children and is from Jacksonville, FL. This was a great day for them, as they not only got to fish, but college football season for their Alabama and Florida teams kicked in later in the day. They were like kids in a candy store!!

I specifically chose to avoid Belton Lake anticipating heavy recreational traffic, and given that the only solid action I found during a scouting run earlier this week was early-morning top water action, which is easily put down by careless (clueless or inconsiderate) boaters. As I arrived at the boat ramp around 6:20 a.m., there were only three other boats in the launching process, and this on a four-day holiday weekend with nice weather; by comparison, this is less traffic than would be associated with even a small bass tournament. Things were looking good already!

As we got going, the winds were calm and we had some substantial cloud cover, thus the bite got off to a slow and late start. We picked up a few fish downrigging in the vicinity of area 1419, then moved on, picking up a few more fish along a deepwater breakline both by downrigging and vertical jigging, but this action was pretty light.

We moved once again, and at this third area, as we arrived we found largemouth bass popping shad on the surface, which got our hopes up, as that is typically a sign of increasing or peaked fish feeding activity. Although we did catch a few more white bass here by way of downrigging, the fish we saw were few and far between, and not schooled together heavily. They were also near bottom and not suspended up off bottom indicating a less aggressive feeding posture. It did not help that what light breeze had begun to blow now completely stopped, leaving the surface glassy. We moved on. During this ~30 minute pause in the fishing action, most other fishing boats we saw packed it in.

At our final stop of the day we returned to that same deep breakline we had contacted fish on earlier. As we arrived, more schooling largemouth were popping shad on the surface, so we began working the area over with blade baits cast horizontally to no effect. We went back to downrigging and put the vast majority of our fish in the boat in the last 90 minutes of this trip, which I extended by 60 minutes. There was next to no fishing pressure now present on the lake as the hot, humid, windless conditions just about cleared the lake, and the recreational crowd (skiers, tubers, etc.) had yet to arrive.

During this time, we continuously passed over well-consolidated, suspended schools of white bass and nearly every time we passed over a school we would pick up at least one fish, and often wound up with doubles, as well as two triples. Fortunately, these fish were all in the three year class, so not only were they abundant, but they were good size for Stillhouse white bass.

Long story short, persistence paid off for us in the last 90 minutes during which time we more than doubled our catch and put the largest fish of the trip in the boat. We finished up the trip today with exactly 52 fish boated, including 51 white bass and one largemouth bass. All but one fish came on the downriggers outfitted with Pet Spoons on three-arm umbrella rigs.



Start Time: 7:00am

End Time: 12:00 noon

Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 75F

Water Surface Temp: 85.8F

Wind Speed & Direction: Calm to SSE3

Sky Conditions: Fair skies with no cloud cover.

Other: GT=20


**Area 1437-1438 no results

**Area 1435-1436 minimal results on downrigger

**Area 863/864 single fish on multiple downrigger passes and 1 fish via jigging, slow action

**Area 1222 through 1231 light action with largemouth just beginning to feed on top with white bass moderately schooled and suspended

**Area 041 to 864 to 863 to 1134 -- best action of the day from 10:30a to noon on aggressive, well-coalesced white bass suspended at 31-33 feet over a breakline.

Posted in Guide lines on Wednesday, September 3, 2014 10:04 am. Comments (0)

Thursday 08/28/2014
Labor Day fishing forecast

Labor Day marks the end of summer for many, with kids back to school, vacation time completely spent, and football and hunting seasons just getting going. If you are headed out on our area lakes this weekend I suggest going early to beat the heat and to take advantage of the low-light topwater action that typically erupts this time of year.

Beware: Labor Day falls on the new license year for hunting and fishing licenses, and, in an effort to combat "Boating While Intoxicated," Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Wardens and Corps of Engineer Park Rangers are typically on patrol on holiday weekends like this one.

I fished Belton Lake this morning on a scouting trip and encountered some very enjoyable, albeit short-lived, topwater action. I found fish feeding on small baitfish in two distinct locations between 6:30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. It was very important to scale down the size of my artificial lure. At one point I had several other boats around me, and while I caught a fish on one in every two to three casts, the other boats using large topwater plugs, large slabs, and crankbaits rarely caught fish at all.

I've included two photos to illustrate this. Pictured is a 19 inch hybrid striped bass, and placed on the deck of my boat just in front of its mouth are six baitfish located beneath a nickle for perspective. The two fish in the column I arranged on the left are silversides, and the four fish in the column I arranged on the right are threadfin shad.  The second photo is simply a close-up of these six baitfish with a nickle shown for perspective.  This is the size of the forage these fish are eating right now and anglers will do well to imitate this or results will lag. These baitfish were all regurgitated by the white bass and hybrid stripers I caught this morning. 

As always when fishing for topwater fish, try to keep your distance so as not to spook the fish off the surface. Maneuver in with your trolling motor, NOT your outboard, and keep your retrieve speed high so the fish don't get a good look at your presentation.

Be courteous, watch your wake, and keep your distance. Have a safe Labor Day!



Start Time: 6:30am

End Time: 8:15 a.m.

Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 76F

Water Surface Temp: 84.7F

Wind Speed & Direction: Calm to E3

Sky Conditions: Fair skies with no cloud cover.

Other: GT=0


**Area 1304 to 793 topwater from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m.

**Area 082 to 178 topwater from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m.

Posted in Guide lines on Thursday, August 28, 2014 3:25 pm. Comments (0)

Tuesday 08/26/2014
A boatload of folks, fish and fun

On Aug. 23, I conducted the 18th SKIFF trip of the 2014 season with members of the Pappas family and the Cancel family aboard. SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.

Both moms joined me today on the water, which is really nice especially where younger elementary-aged kids are concerned. Representing the Pappas family was Shaydee Pappas and her 5-year-old son, Josiah. Josiah's dad, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Pappas is currently deployed to Qatar where he supports the U.S. Army as a weapons director. He has served almost 13 years in the USAF. Shaydee Pappas is a USAF veteran, having served in the USAF's Air & Space Operations. Representing the Cancel family was Yuneisy Cancel and her three children, Chantelle, 12, Jose,11, and Chanelle, 7. Yuneisy's husband, Jose, has six years in the U.S. Army under his belt and is currently supporting U.S. Army troops in Afghanistan as a digital systems engineer focused on communication systems.

None of the four kids aboard today had ever caught a fish before, and all earned a Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. "First Fish Award" as a result of their accomplishments today.

Although during several attempts at working slabs vertically for fish we found congregated on the bottom the kids did very well at this technique, the fish were reluctant to cooperate. We made 3 stops and tried vertical jigging after making successful downrigging passes over heavy schools of fish and tossing a buoy on the fish to mark the location of the schools. On only one of these three attempts did the fish perk up once we got our slabs down to them. On that attempt we picked up 3 fish in short order and missed a fourth that was hooked but pulled off before being landed.

Otherwise, we spent the rest of the trip using the downriggers and working through a four-way rotation from youngest to oldest among the four kids. This worked out pretty well as there are other tasks than just catching the fish that downrigging entails, including letting the lines out the correct distance behind the boat, letting the downrigger weights down below the boat to the correct distance, and then bringing the balls back up to clear the hardware from the water after a fish is hooked and is being fought to boatside. Even Josiah, our youngest fisherman today, stayed engaged right to the end of the outing today. I guaranteed the moms that everyone would be "nap-ready" following lunch today. I know I was!

In all, we boated 27 fish today including 26 white bass and 1 freshwater drum. After seeing how much their kids enjoyed the sport, both moms mentioned that they thought going fishing would be something their husbands would enjoy doing with the kids upon their return from overseas.

Demand for SKIFF trips (and all fishing trips, for that matter) tends to drop off sharply once the school year commences once again and schedules fill with sports and other activities, so, I was glad we could accommodate these families just days before the start of school on Aug. 25th.

Thank you, Austin Fly Fishers, for the work you do behind the scenes to allow it all to come together for trips like this one!



Start Time: 7:00am

End Time: 11:00am

Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 79F

Water Surface Temp: 84.1F

Wind Speed & Direction: S10-13

Sky Conditions: Fair skies with 15% white cloud cover.

Other: GT=0


**Area 1437-1438 downrigging for the first 90 minutes for 16 fish

**Area 1265 for the final 2 hours downrigging for 8 fish and slabbing for 3 fish

Posted in Guide lines on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 6:02 pm. Comments (0)

Wednesday 08/20/2014
White bass on bottom, black bass on top
Today I fished a half-day morning trip on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir targeting white bass with Mr. Steve Stewart, his son-in-law, Brian Massey, and Brian's oldest son, Owen, who is not quite 7 years old.

Steve owns his own small business focused on mapping software, Brian works for Scott & White in Round Rock, and Owen is getting geared up for first grade.
This time of year I typically choose Stillhouse anytime a child is involved with the trip as it fishes more consistently for me than does Lake Belton.

Due to the storms that passed over us and west of us last night, the evening feed was interrupted by thunder, lightning, rain, and otherwise turbulent weather, so, I anticipated this morning's fishing would be solid, and it was.

We experienced a low-light bite from sunrise and until 8:05 a.m. as scattered, small schools of white bass began to coalesce and feed on the abundant schools of young of the shad. As the sun brightened, no fish pushed bait up shallow for us to enjoy a vertical jigging bite on, so we moved on.

At our second stop of the morning we found the most active largemouth bass topwater feed going on that I've witnessed in over two weeks. This action lasted for right at one hour. The largemouth on top betrayed many more largemouth and white bass beneath, and these are what we focused on. We used slabs fished vertically when sonar lit up indicating fish beneath the boat; we used blade baits fished horizontally when the fish slacked off under the boat, and, when the action got intense enough and close enough on the surface, we threw Heddon Spook Jr.'s and caught them that way. Little Owen actually landed the largest fish of the trip, an unusually large (for topwater fishing) 3 pound largemouth. As the winds went from 10-12mph up to 13-15mph, the surface got really rough and the topwater action stopped.

We went on to our third and final stop of the day and were fortunate enough to find more topwater feeding fish pointing the way to active fish below, this time in a semi-protected area not roughed up by the wind too badly. We fished vertically with slabs for heavily schooled, bottom-oriented white bass for about a 35 minutes span, then, as this action began to wane for good, we "mopped up" with the downriggers for the few still-active fish amongst a growingly inactive population of fish.
For our efforts today we put 58 fish in the boat including 1 freshwater drum, 5 largemouth bass, and 52 white bass up to 13.75" long.



Start Time: 7:00am

End Time: 11:00am

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 77F

Water Surface Temp: 83.3F

Wind Speed & Direction: SSW10-15

Sky Conditions: Fair with 40% white-grey moderate density clouds

Other: GT=35


**Area 1438 thru 465 downrigging

**Between Areas 859 and 1134 smoking, blades, and topwater

**Area 1226 gave up last fish of the trip, first on a smoking presentation, then downrigging from there to Area 668.

Posted in Guide lines on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 9:28 pm. Comments (0)

Sunday 08/17/2014
Fishing, flirting and Fonzie
On the morning of Aug. 15 I conducted the 16th SKIFF trip of the 2014 season by welcoming aboard Jayden Barrios, 5, and Austin Bayless, 11. SKIFF, or Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun, trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.

Jayden is the son of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Adam Barrios and Stacy Barrios of Killeen. Barrios recently deployed to Afghanistan leaving Stacy in the role of single parent for what could be many months to come. Austin is the son of U.S. Army Captain Wyatt Bayless and Jennifer Bayless of Harker Heights. Bayless is in the process of taking command of a scout company in the 1st Cavalry Division. Time-intensive equipment inventories are a dreaded part of every commander's transition into command as they sign for millions of dollars of equipment soon to be under their control. Jennifer Bayless and her children have seen very little of Wyatt Bayless of late, and this will continue until the inventories are complete. She knew Austin could use a little "guy time" before school began and so we made that happen.

Today we used a combination of downrigging and vertical jigging to target white bass in deep, clear water on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir. As we began our day, the winds had finally turned back out of the south and east following four days under the influence of very high pressure in the wake of an early week cold front. We struggled after the sunrise in the face of that southeast wind, but, in the final hour of the trip we made up for lost time as the winds turned southwesterly and the fishing improved greatly.

Austin, who has been fishing with me before during his father's multiple deployments, served as my first mate to try to help me make Jayden successful. Austin did a great job in this role being both helpful and watchful.

By the end of our trip we had landed 34 white bass and 2 large mouth bass.

Funny moments are just about a guaranteed part of these SKIFF trips. As we fished, Austin asked me about generalities of the various decades in recent U.S. history. When he asked specifically about the 1950s, I asked if he had ever watched the TV show "Happy Days." He said he was not sure. I then asked if he had ever heard of The Fonz. He replied, "Isn't that a band, or an extraterrestrial life form?"

Then, after I had dropped Jayden off at his house and was on the way to Austin's house to drop him off, Austin turned to me and asked, "How old are you?". I replied, "I am 45 years old.". Austin said, "That's pretty good." I'm still not sure what scale he had in mind to make that judgment with..

Finally, continuing on the subject of age, Austin told me of a very good complement to pay to the ladies. He said I should tell ladies that they don't look a day over 20. I told him I thought that was indeed a favorable thing to mention, and suggested he tell his mom that. He then replied that it was his mom who had instructed him to say this!! I had a difficult time keeping the truck and trailer on the road at that point.



Start Time: 7:00am

End Time: 11:00am

Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 76F

Water Surface Temp: 84.6

Wind Speed & Direction: SSE10-11 until 10am, then shifting SSW11-12

Sky Conditions: 30% clouds on a fair sky.

Other: GT=0


**Area 1419 slow white bass action on downriggers in the first 30+ minutes of the trip (low light) and strong action on bottom-oriented white bass after the wind shift at 10am on slabs.

Posted in Guide lines on Sunday, August 17, 2014 9:06 pm. Comments (0)

Wednesday 08/13/2014
My first fish
This morning I finished with Ed Tydings, of Pflugerville, and his 5-year-old son, Liam. As they did for Eddie, Liam's older brother, the Tydings treated Liam to his first fishing trip to celebrate his fifth birthday.

We met at 7 a.m. and by 7:20 a.m. already had two fish in the boat. I was a bit concerned about the fishing today due to the arrival of a weak cold front yesterday afternoon, which left northerly winds, clear skies, and high pressure in its wake. Although we saw next to no top water action today, the action on suspended white bass held up very well. We caught an even dozen white bass using three-armed umbrella rigs equipped with Pet Spoons in our first hour and 15 minutes of fishing, along with one channel catfish.

I've learned a lot in my years spent fishing with literally hundreds of kids. A few of those thing are 1) kids' attention spans are short, 2) novelty wears off quickly, and 3) making intentional transitions to new techniques, species, and/or locations extends kids' interest.

That said, by around 8:15 AM or so the novelty of the downrigging technique was wearing off for Liam, despite the excellent results. Dad and I agreed that a change of scenery and a change of tactics were appropriate. Thanks to the cold front conditions and falling water, plus a strong crop of hydrilla growing in the shallows, my ability to catch sunfish easily enough for small children to stay interested very long has slowly diminished over the summer, but, we gave it a try anyway using long poles with fixed lines and slip bobbers. We fished in the "salad" of hydrilla in the back of a cove and picked up one bluegill sunfish and one green sunfish in fairly short order.

Liam then began asking questions about the "big net" (my landing net) on the boat. Ed and I told him that the big net was used to land big fish. So naturally, Liam asked if we could catch big fish so we could use the net. This allowed us to return to the white bass we had left behind still biting earlier in the morning and continue to catch them on the downriggers for the sake of introducing Liam to the finer points of netting big fish. We wound up catching an additional 13 white bass, with six of them coming on the downriggers and the remainder coming on slabs worked vertically after finding a heavy concentration of bottom oriented white bass at a break line in about 28 feet of water.

As the novelty of this third transition begin to wear off, as the sun began to beat down on us, and as the winds went slack, Liam's interest level dropped sharply, and Ed and I knew that it was to a good time to end the trip so as to keep the memory of this trip a good one for Liam. A lot of well-intentioned parents and grandparents make a big mistake at this point, insisting that kids stay out longer for the full duration of the trip, perhaps thinking that builds patience or character. Actually, what it does is leaves a bad taste in kids' mouths and is the last (negative) memory of what, up to that point, was a positive experience. So, Ed made a good call here putting his boy first. I have no doubt that Liam's interest in the pursuit of fish has been kindled and that he'll continue to look forward to outings with his dad and big brother.

Our catch of 28 fish today consisted of 25 white bass, 1 channel catfish, and 2 sunfish. For landing the first fish of his life, Liam will receive a Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. "First Fish Award".



Start Time: 7:00am

End Time: 10:38am

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 74F

Water Surface Temp: 85.7F

Wind Speed & Direction: NW0-4

Sky Conditions: Fair with 20% high, thin, white cloud cover.

Other: GT=15


**Area 912 to 1133 to 1417 gave up suspended white bass at 27-31 feet early and late this morning

**Area 1416 held a few sunfish

Posted in Guide lines, Vanessa lynch on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 6:01 am. Comments (0)

Thursday 08/07/2014
Daddy doll goes fishing
This morning I conducted the 15th SKIFF trip of the 2014 season by welcoming aboard Mrs. Marilyn Salazar and her 3 children, Alina (age 11), Jesse (age 8), and Alanis (age 5). SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.

Marilyn and her children are no strangers to the strain of extended overseas deployments. Their husband/daddy/soldier, Staff Sergeant Jesse Salazar, is now serving on his 4th deployment, this time to Afghanistan. He has been deployed so frequently that his youngest child, Alanis, has spent more time without her father present than with him. SSG Salazar is a U.S. Army infantryman originally from the San Diego, CA, area.

As the Salazar family arrived, they were eager to learn and were all good listeners and learners, which made them more successful in the long run. Fortunately the murky, grey weather of yesterday passed with the arrival of a mild, dry cold front, and, under increasing atmospheric pressure, the fishing began to bounce back from the slowdown yesterday.

We put a majority of our fish in the boat in the first 2.5 hour of the trip, boating 43 of our 55 fish by that time, primarily on a pair of 3-arm umbrella rigs presented very precisely and effectively at 24-26 feet where these schooled white bass were suspended over deeper water. We also had an opportunity to stop and jig for some very heavily schooled fish and essentially caught as many of these as we could before Jesse's wrist wore out and Alanis' 5-year-old attentions span waned. When the white bass feed began to play out, we went shallow and had some fun using poles without reels to fish for sunfish. We capped off the trip with a bit more downrigging over the last 30 minutes or so.

I was very glad Marilyn attended, as there were times when Alanis got emotional about missing her father, and mom was there to comfort her as only a mom can do. Marilyn was also a great asset to me in aiding me in making the kids successful by being an extra pair of eyes, ears, and hands to keep all of our moving parts headed in the right direction.

Little Alanis brought a "guest" along with her for this trip -- it was her "Daddy Doll". This is a doll dressed in camouflage with a clear plastic pouch positioned where the face would normally be. This pouch allows the doll's caretaker to place a photo in the pouch. In this case, Alanis had her daddy's photo in the pouch, hence the name "Daddy Doll". She brings this most everywhere she goes, and this fishing trip was no exception!

For our efforts today we boated 55 fish including 5 sunfish, 2 freshwater drum, and 48 white bass.



Start Time: 6:45am

End Time: 10:45am

Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 72F

Water Surface Temp: 83.5

Wind Speed & Direction: NW9-13

Sky Conditions: 30% clouds on an otherwise blue sky

Other: GT=0


**Area 1134 smoking and downrigging for a majority of our catch in the first 2.5 hours

**Area 1098 sunfish on floats

**Area 1419 slow white bass action on downriggers at last 30+ minutes of the trip

Posted in Guide lines on Thursday, August 7, 2014 8:35 pm. Comments (0)

Tuesday 08/05/2014
105 years of Blue Bell Ice Cream
Today a bit of corporate entertainment was in order. Some of the Texas-based sales force of the very popular (and delicious!) Blue Bell ice cream company came to central Texas for a sales meeting. While golf has been the traditional recreational outlet on "Day 2" of the gathering, those who do not golf were able to choose between fishing and jet skiing. Of the group of ~thirty-two, 7 chose fishing. I teamed up with another local guide to accommodate these folks in two boats. My boat fished white bass on Stillhouse, and the other fished for hybrid striper on Belton.

Joining me on Stillhouse were Charles Weiss (38 years with the company), Don Scoggins (32 years with the company), Ron Dickson (30 years with the company), and Bryan Sansone (5 years with the company). Seeing such longevity with one company says a lot about both the people and the company. Indeed, all of these fellows were very courteous, personable men that you at once felt at ease with. They enjoyed each others' company, and were a pleasure to have on board -- no crude language or behavior as is the case with some "corporate groups" -- it was just like fishing with family.

The fishing was just okay today. We had a good start right at (obscured) sunrise, and then about a 30 minute run of activity as the sun finally shone enough to make you squint without sunglasses on (between 9:00 and 9:30 or so), but, the remainder of the trip was tough under very grey, murky conditions. The high pressure and very consistent fishing we'd enjoyed through the day before fell off immediately as the pressure began to fall, skies clouded, humidity increased, and the winds began to shift in advance of a cold front due in hours after the close of the trip.

We primarily downrigged for sparse, suspended fish down around 24-26 feet in deeper waters using 3-armed umbrella rigs equipped with Pet Spoons. On three occasions we stopped and used slabs fished vertically for more heavily schooled fish, but even then we did not see the kind of results I'd seen over the past several days under more stable weather conditions.

When I checked in with the crew fishing Belton, they also found the fishing very tough right up until their last stop of about 4-5 stops, and caught the majority of their 15 fish in the last hour.

It was quite distinctive how the light conditions directly impacted fish behavior. During the brief 30 minutes of thinner cloud cover when it got bright enough to require sunglasses and you could feel the sun's heat through the clouds, things immediately improved. We saw largemouth bass actively pursuing bait on the surface, bait fleeing from predator fish, terns flying and dipping after small fish, and we saw our catch rate go up both on the downriggers and while using slabs. No sooner did things cloud back over than all of this died just as suddenly and stayed slow right through the end of our trip.

Personally being a fan of Blue Bell ice cream (the Cantaloupe and Cream flavor is my favorite), it was neat to get some insiders' perspectives on the company and learn of their growth outside of Texas, with production facilities in both Oklahoma and Alabama, in addition to a third facility (apart from where the tours are given) in Brenham, TX.

We landed a total of 24 fish today, including 1 largemouth bass, 1 channel catfish, and 22 white bass. Big fish honors went to Bryan Sansone with a nice 2.75 pound channel cat taken near bottom as he fished a bladebait during one of our two stops to fish for more tightly schooled fish holding near bottom.

A special thanks to Landon Hengst, the Blue Bell manager who coordinated this effort, both for putting the trip together and for realizing not everyone likes golf!!



Start Time: 6:35am

End Time: 11:00am

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 78F

Water Surface Temp: 84.5F

Wind Speed & Direction: SSE10, shifting to SSW9 by trip's end

Sky Conditions: Heavy grey clouds the entire time, save a 30 minute break from 9:00 to 9:30

Other: GT=57


**Area 1260 - typical first-light bite here on downrigged white bass, with a few taken on jigging stop #1

**Area 866 - best action of the trip here, albeit short-lived, in conjunction with brightening skies with white bass taken on downriggers and slabs on jigging stop #2

**Area 1419 - light action on scattered suspended fish on the downriggers, and 1 white taken on jigging stop #3

Posted in Guide lines on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 8:51 pm. Comments (0)

Wednesday 07/30/2014
Three generations all aboard

This morning I fished Stillhouse with Steve Niemeier, his daughter Sarah, and Sarah's two children, Caleb and Macy. This was Steve's 14th trip with me since he first began fishing with me in 2011

I was a little concerned because the winds had shifted to the north and east overnight. This little bit of weather also brought in some heavy grey cloud cover to the east. That obscured the sunrise and got our morning bite off to a slower, later start than normal. But, once the fish turned on, they stayed turned on for the entire remainder of our for our trip, with the best action taking place in the last hour as the sun brightened.

We alternated between two techniques morning. We downrigged to find fish, and then we smoked with slabs to try to exploit what we had found. In the long run, the downrigging was more consistent and more productive. For whatever reason, whenever we found large concentrations of fish schooled heavily near bottom, they either were not really interested, or they moved quickly away from where we had located them.

As we downrigged, we used a three arm umbrella rig on one rod and a tandem rig on the other rod. With five baits in the water, we regularly landed doubles. On several occasions we landed double doubles, meaning we caught two fish at a time on both rods. Saving the best for last, within a few minutes of the end of our trip, Caleb boated a triple, landing a white bass on each of the three lures of the three arm umbrella rig.

Four hours is a long time for elementary aged kids to stay focused on any one thing, but Macy and Caleb did pretty darn good. They stayed up late last night going swimming, and got a little frazzled towards the end of the trip, but hung in there like real troopers for a majority of our time on the water.

I always enjoy when firsts happen aboard my boat, and today Sarah experienced a first. She actually held a fish that she caught for the first time in her life.

We landed a total of 69 fish today, 100 percent of which were white bass. We caught fish in the 1, 2, 3, and 4 year class. The catch was anchored by Caleb's 14 3/8 inch lunker.



Start Time: 6:30am

End Time: 10:30am

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 78F

Water Surface Temp: 85.5F

Wind Speed & Direction: NE7-9

Sky Conditions: Heavy grey cloud bank in the east obscured the sun for all but the last hour when skies were fair.

Other: GT=35


**Area 1260-866 Downrigging & Smoking for white bass

**Area 1420 and vicinity Downrigging & Smoking for white bass

Posted in Guide lines on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 2:00 pm. Comments (0)

Friday 07/25/2014
Hot weather, hot fishing
I received a call from Rod Seaver this morning. He was looking for a Six Flags alternative and decided to give me a try. I described to him what I anticipated the fishery would do this evening and he was interested. Long story short, he booked a trip on short notice, brought his 12 year old son, Owen, out, accompanied by Owen's buddy, 12 year old Landon Mulcahy. The whole gang is from Lampasas.

Before we set out in search of fish, I made sure all of the spinning rods I have dedicated to the "smoking" technique used with slabs had the handle on the correct side for everyone, and we then rehearsed what to do if we encountered a big school of white bass, as I had a feeling we'd run into some big schools of white bass as we downrigged this evening, based on what I saw on sonar during last night's trip with some other youngsters.

Well, that worked out perfectly because, as I was barreling our way to where I thought the fish would be located tonight, something caught my eye. I saw a tern dive over open water. I watched the area where it dove and saw splashes coming up off the fairly calm surface. Those splashes were being made by largemouth bass pursuing shad at the surface. I pulled a hard turn and headed toward the action, just idling into the area as I got closer to where I'd mentally marked the activity. As I did, the screen absolutely light up with hundreds of white bass schooled together tightly, suspended over open water and feeding on shad.

We put the "smoking" lesson we'd just practiced to immediate use and landed fish non-stop for 2 hours, putting 84 fish in the boat before things began to ease off. The boys were working the slabs non-stop, and Rod was splitting his time between catching white bass down low and largemouth on the surface.

After the strong bite ended at around 6:30pm, we then spent the remainder of our time downrigging in pursuit of a 100 fish day. It took us about another 1.25 hours to meet this goal, but we did it and then some, putting exactly 102 fish in the boat for our efforts tonight including 6 largemouth bass, 2 freshwater drum, and 94 white bass, mostly in the 2-year old class, going right at 12.5 inches.

The following 3 phrases came out of the mouths of these 12 year olds: "Dad, this is way better than Six Flags!", "I'd rather watch this downrigger rod than watch TV.", and "I'd rather do this than play X-Box." Those are truly compliments in this day and age!!

Rod, who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery, was about done as we hit the 100 fish mark, so, at that point he called an early end to our adventure and got the boys' mouths watering by promising to hit a chicken joint on the way home.



Start Time: 4:30pm

End Time: 7:45pm

Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 93F

Water Surface Temp: 86F

Wind Speed & Direction: ENE4-6

Sky Conditions: Hazy skies with 40% cloud cover.

Other: GT=45


**Area 1031/1415 Smoking & Downrigging for white bass, topwater largemouth

**Area 1417 Downrigging for white bass

Posted in Guide lines on Friday, July 25, 2014 4:07 pm. Comments (0)

Saturday 07/19/2014
Herds of fish
This morning I conducted the 14th SKIFF trip of the 2014 season by welcoming aboard 10-year-old Kyla Harding and her mom, Liz. SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.

Kyla is the daughter of U.S. Army Sergeant David Harding, and his wife, Liz Harding. Kyla is now nearly 11 years old and, as a result of his military service which has included combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan and unaccompanied tours to South Korea, SGT Harding has only been living under the same roof for 4 of those 11 years. Over the past 2 years he's only been able to see his family for a total of 3 weeks, thanks to an unaccompanied tour to Korea, followed by an assignment to a post in Maryland.

Kyla is a pleasant, inquisitive, energetic young lady and very willing to give new things a try. She handled and released the fish we caught with no fear whatsoever (after naming most of them, of course).

We were actually expecting a second girl to join us today and for that reason hung around in the boat ramp area for a few minutes beyond our 6:30am start time. While we were waiting, I moved us to some nearby hydrilla beds and Kyla effortlessly put 19 sunfish (greens and bluegills) in the boat with a slip-float rig using a Gulp! bait on a small hook to attract these fish.

When it was apparent our other angler was not going to show, we headed on out to open water in pursuit of the mighty white bass. After looking over a few patches of bottom, sonar revealed what we were hoping to find -- schools of white bass suspended down around 29-31 feet over deeper water -- just right for a downrigging approach. Kyla took care of letting our lines the right distance behind the boat using the Abu Garcia 5500LC line counter reels recently provided to SKIFF by the folks at Pure Fishing in support of the SKIFF program. The line counter gives a numeric display of the number of feet of line going off the reel, so, I'd just call out a number and Kyla would get the job done. Once the lines were the right distance behind the boat, I clipped the lines into the downrigger and Kyla would then press the "DOWN" button on the downriggers to get the baits to the right depth. We'd then watch sonar for schools of fish, and, when they showed up, would turn our eyes on the rods to see if we'd get a strike. Kyla quickly got the hang of what our quarry looked like on sonar, and called them "herds" instead of "schools", but, we all knew what she meant.

We picked up 8 white bass in this way, including 2 sets of doubles before the novelty wore off, after which Kyla requested we do some more sunfishing, which we did.

In our last 30 minutes I suggested we cap the trip off with a bit more white bass fishing, and Kyla was once again game for that. We boated 4 more white bass at what was going to be our final stop.

On our way in, a gentleman fishing with what appeared to be his two grandkids flagged us down. I idled over and he was kind enough to let us know he'd located a nice school of white bass and, seeing I had a child on board, invited us to join in the fun. This allowed me to introduce Kyla to the technique of vertical jigging with a slab spoon. We caught a final 3 white bass in short order here before the fish dispersed. We thanked the man for his courtesy and headed on in.

Our catch today consisted of 15 white bass and 31 sunfish (greens and bluegills).



Start Time: 6:30am

End Time: 10:45am

Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 70.6F

Water Surface Temp: 83.2F

Wind Speed & Direction: N3-5

Sky Conditions: Fair skies with thin grey clouds in the east, clearing by 10:15am

Other: GT=0


**Area Sunfish at 200, 1416, and 239

**Area White bass via downrigging at 883 and 961

**Area White bass via vertical jigging at 1415

Posted in Guide lines on Saturday, July 19, 2014 10:16 pm. Comments (0)

Thursday 07/10/2014
Big time topwater

This morning I fished with returning guest and retired naval flight surgeon Ray Johnson of Harker Heights, TX.

Although the weather has been stable and the fishing very consistent, especially on Belton's topwater bite, I'm always a bit concerned when I see us going towards a full moon as that seems to dampen the topwater bite. Today the moon rose during the day, so overnight illumination was not a big factor, and the fish fed well. Actually, they fed better on top in the middle of the morning than they did at first light.

Long story short we spent 3.5 hours of our 4.25 hours on the water looking for and/or cashing in on topwater action. When we found active fish I tried to stay as far away as I could while still being able to reach the fish with a long cast. We used Cork Rigs with shad imitators designed to "match the hatch" of the baitfish the white bass and hybrid striper were feeding on.

I had intended to do more live bait fishing than we did today (only about 20 minutes' worth at the very end of the trip), but the topwater was so abundant, easy, and fun, Ray and I were loathe to leave it behind for the uncertainty of a few larger fish.

We boated 71 fish throwing Cork Rigs, all of which were a mixture of white bass and "short" (less than 18" long) hybrid stripers. We also landed one just-legal largemouth during the short time we fished live baits.

Just a few tips on topwater:

1. Beware of your boat's wake. A folding wake will cause topwater fish to leave the surface. One careless boater can kill a lot of fishing for everyone in the area.

2. Keep your distance. Don't go any closer to the fish than you need to.

3. Have plenty of line on your reel. Full spools cast farther.

4. Match the hatch. Look at what the fish are eating and match the color and size.

5. Approach from upwind. It's always better to cast downwind and drift into the fish than to chase them into the wind.

6. Use single hooks. Treble hooks take a long time to get out, and increase the time between landing a fish and taking another cast.

7. Keep your retrieve speed high. On Belton and Stillhouse, with their clear water, you're just trying to create an illusion of fleeing baitfish, denying the gamefish a real good look at your fake offering.



Start Time: 6:00 am

End Time: 10:15 am

Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 75F

Water Surface Temp: 82.2F

Wind Speed & Direction: SSW7-8

Sky Conditions: Thin grey haze on a fair sky

Other: GT=0


**Area 1271 Low light topwater

**Area 718 to 497 to 1069 widespread topwater feed from 7:45a to 9:15a

**Area 1409 largemouth on live bait

Posted in Guide lines on Thursday, July 10, 2014 8:58 am. Comments (0)

Tuesday 07/08/2014
Happy birthday, junior

This morning I fished with Mr. Doug Stephen and his son, Doug Jr. Doug contacted me some time ago and requested a trip to celebrate his son’s 15th birthday, and today was the day we made that happen.

The Stephen family (mom, dad, and four kids aged 4, 10, 15, and 17) is from Temple, TX. Doug works as a correctional officer at the state prison in Gatesville. He and Doug Jr. work together in the children’s ministry of Canyon Creek Baptist Church.

Today turned out just right as the weather was good and both fellows had solid casting skills which allowed us to capitalize on all of the topwater action we encountered today. As they have for the past two weeks, white bass and smaller hybrid striped bass fed hard on topwater for the first 30 minutes of light up shallow. Shortly after that bite died, a deep, open water surface bite materialized, allowing us another 40+ minutes of solid catching as we pursued these fish with the trolling motor on high, using long, accurate casts so as to keep our distance from these schools and not spook them.

Around 7:30a when the topwater bite was over for good, we shifted to live baits fished at 24-29 feet deep over deeper water and drew a limit of 5 fish, each 18+ inches long into our baits and into our net. This bite lasted about an hour and then dropped off.

We probed the depths with downriggers set at 24-27 feet deep after seeing scattered fish on sonar, landing a white bass and a largemouth. The better news was that as I watched sonar as we downrigged, I spotted additional large hybrid loosely grouped at 23-29 feet deep over deeper water. This led me to put away the downriggers and get our livebaits back down in front of these fish. In the closing 35 minutes of our trip we landed a second legal limit of five 18+” hybrids. By 10:25 all had come to a crawl and we headed to the dock.



Start Time: 6:00 am

End Time: 10:25 am

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 72F

Water Surface Temp: 82.2F

Wind Speed & Direction: SSW7-10

Sky Conditions: Fair & cloudless

Other: GT=0


**Area 1271-302 Low light topwater

**Area 300 – began a 1,500 foot chase of loosely connected schools of white bass and hybrid headed generally SSW

**Area 1400 5 hybrid on live bait

**Vicinity of Area 508-1408 downrigging to probe for fish

**Area 1408 5 hybrid on live bait

Posted in Guide lines on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 11:10 pm. Comments (0)

Friday 07/04/2014
Pretzels in the livewell

This morning I fished the 12th SKIFF trip of the 2014 season, welcoming aboard five young ladies from three different families and ranging in age from 5 to 11. SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.

Brandy Klutse (who is 9 months pregnant and still got up at 0-dark thirty to make this happen) coordinated this trip for the three families in her capacity as the Family Readiness Group leader for the company her husband, Capt. Raymond Klutse, commands — C Company of the 2-5 Cavalry. Brandy’s two children participating today were 8-year-old Rayna Klutse and 5-year-old Victoria Klutse. Also attending were Erinn Sewell, 6, and Rayanna Walters, 11, daughters of an Army private first class, as well as Valerie Ousley, the daughter of Staff Sgt. and Mrs. Robert Ousley. All three soldiers are in the same unit and have been serving in Germany for more than two months. They are due to return in July.

I have never fished a SKIFF trip (or any children’s trip) with five children aboard before but wanted to honor Mrs. Klutse’s efforts at providing opportunities for the families she ministers to. So I recruited my mother, Charlotte Maindelle, to be my first mate and run crowd control with all the moving parts aboard my boat today.

The fish were a bit more sluggish today, as we had more direct sunlight and less wind. They got going around 8 a.m. and fed moderately well until 10:30, with a noticeable spike from 8:15 to 9. With so many kids aboard, casting just was not a safe option, although there were plenty of surface feeding white bass to cast to were we able to cast. Instead, I stuck with a combination of flatline trolling and downrigging. I used tandem rigs on the flatlines and three-arm umbrella rigs on the downriggers, all equipped with Pet Spoons.

We “sorted” the girls by height and place them in a rotation from tallest to shortest, giving each girl a chance to catch fish in that order so that by the end of the trip, each girl was able to catch roughly the same number of fish. As it turned out, everyone got several turns on the reel, with an average of seven fish caught per girl. We had several large, 3 pound class hybrid stripers crash our baits and landed every one that struck. We also had a number of “doubles” and even one “triple”, where the girls boated two and three fish at a time on the same rod at the same time.

When younger (under 7 years old) kids come aboard, I always fill the livewell with water and keep the first few legal fish in the livewell. These younger kids find this entertaining, often returning to the livewell to “check” on the fish, name the fish, and even feed the fish. All three of those things happened today. How do I know this? Well, there was about a half a pound of pretzels in my livewell discovered during post-trip cleanup!

This was a very enjoyable trip for these girls and the mothers were all very, very thankful for the opportunity this SKIFF trip afforded their daughters.



Start Time: 7:00am

End Time: 11:15am

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 75F

Water Surface Temp: 80.9F

Wind Speed & Direction: S10-13

Sky Conditions: 50% cloudy

Other: N/A


**Area 1403 downrigging 12-18 feet down

**Vicinity of Area 1401 to 1402 downrigging 22-24 feet just above trees along breakline

Posted in Guide lines on Friday, July 4, 2014 7:00 am. | Tags: Family Readiness Group , Recreation , Outdoors , Fishing , Skiff , Fort Hood , Families Comments (0)

Wednesday 07/02/2014
My mom wears combat boots

This morning I fished the eleventh SKIFF trip of the 2014 season with Tommie Clark and his two children, Tommy, 8, and Alyssa, 10. SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.

Tommie’s wife, Takako, is deployed on a nine-month assignment. She is a U.S. Army specialist and currently serves as a combat medic in Kosovo. Tommie is a U.S. Air Force veteran, having served as an enlisted man in the USAF’s signal branch (radios, telephones, satellites, computers, etc.)

Near the end of the school year, Skipcha Elementary School in Harker Heights, hosted an end-of-year event by inviting all manner of kid-oriented businesses, programs and activities to the school to set up booths allowing the kids who attend there and their parents to peruse summer activities. My wife, Rebecca, and I set up such a booth to promote the SKIFF program. I met the Clark family at that event when the kids came by to try casting to the “Backyard Bass” casting targets  to try to win a prize. I explained how SKIFF worked and Tommie chose a date for his kids on the spot.

As we got going this morning, the winds were already high, above 14 mph, before sunrise. This made spotting the top water feeding fish I was hoping to start the day with very difficult to find. We did spot one school and made a successful downrigging pass through them, picking up one hybrid striper. With the winds only increasing and whitecaps becoming more prevalent, making top water action even more difficult to spot, I decided to change plans.

We headed to a semi-protected area and fished specifically for hybrid striped bass using live baits. This produced eight large hybrid. When the hybrid bass bite slowed down we then went searching for some late-morning topwater action, again in a semi-protected area. As we arrived, several blue herons were feeding over open water on the surface feeding fish, thus giving us a clue as to where the fish were located. For about 30 minutes we were able to hover in one spot casting to white bass and small hybrid striper that were popping shad on the surface. After this bite settled down, we finished up the trip by downrigging for white bass and small hybrid striper using umbrella rigs. This produced numerous doubles and triples, allowing us to take our fish count up to a grand total of 51 for the day.



Start Time: 6:30am

End Time: 10:20am

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 75F

Water Surface Temp: 80.5F

Wind Speed & Direction: S15-17

Sky Conditions: 80% cloudy

Other: N/A


**Area 967 topwater at first light

**Vicinity of Area 1400 – large hybrid stripers on live bait

**Vicinity of 847/1097 fish on top in schools, then in lower 1/3 of water column (downrigged)

Posted in Guide lines on Wednesday, July 2, 2014 12:00 pm. | Tags: Tommie Clark , Striped Bass , Kosovo , U.s. Air Force , White Bass , Skipcha Elementary School , United States Army , Hybrid Striped Bass , Recreation , Outdoors , Fishing , Skiff Comments (0)

Monday 06/30/2014
Soldier's sons fish while dad's away

June 28, 2014

This morning I had a crew of four aboard for the 10th SKIFF trip of the 2014 season — Mrs. Elizabeth Turner, her oldest son, Jason, 10, her middle son, Javier, 9, and her youngest son, Jabari, 6. SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.

Mrs. Turner heard about SKIFF through a posting on the Fort Hood Area Events Facebook page run by Denise Igo whose children I took out this past Thursday. Mrs. Turner is a U.S. Army veteran and served a three-year enlistment, including a tour to South Korea where she met her future husband, Jason Turner. Sgt. Jason Turner is in the Army’s Chemical Corps and has been away for the last month training in California. He’ll return shortly, only to depart again to go to an Army school which is necessary for him to advance to the next rank of staff sergeant.

The boys were excited to go fishing, to say the least. Although they’d fished before with their grandpa down in Corpus Christi, they’d never been on a boat, so that was a fun experience for them in and of itself.

Today’s fishing was a bit less productive than it has been for the past few days, and I attribute that mainly to very turbulent weather. We got an area-wide rain at 4:15 a.m., winds varied from near calm to near 20mph and had turned more easterly, skies were bright one minute and nearly dark the next, and it sprinkled on and off today for the entire four hour trip. The fish I found were in the same places they have been for most of the week, but they just didn’t feed as long or as hard today. The high winds no doubt dampened the excellent topwater bite we’ve had, as it made bait fish harder for gamefish to see and gamefish harder for me to see in the whitecapping chop.

Regardless, we caught fish fairly consistently from start to finish today. We caught exactly 40 fish, including six legal (18+ inch long) hybrid striped bass and a mixture of 34 white bass and “short” hybrid. Approximately 70% of our catch came on downriggers set between 12 and 25 feet, and the balance of our catch came on flatline trolled umbrella rigs fished in and around the few pods of topwater feeding fish we could find.

When all was said and done, each boy had caught at least one “keeper-sized” hybrid, and each boy had landed either a double or a triple (multiple fish landed on a single rod at the same time).

As I walked up the boatramp with the Turner’s headed back toward their family vehicle, Elizabeth was very thankful for the opportunity this SKIFF trip afforded her boys. She assured me that SGT Turner’s phone would be “lit up” with messages from his sons about today’s trip.

TALLY = 40 Fish


Start Time: 6:25am

End Time: 10:25am

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 75F

Water Surface Temp: 81.8F

Wind Speed & Direction: ESE13-17

Sky Conditions: 100% heavily greyed over nearly the entire trip, with occasional sprinkles

Other: N/A


**Area 147 topwater at first light

**Area 845/1273 suspended white bass and mixed sizes of hybrid suspended at 21-25 feet

**Vicinity of Area 154 topwater and suspended fish high in water column (flatlined and downrigged)

Posted in Guide lines on Monday, June 30, 2014 9:27 pm. Comments (0)

Sunday 06/29/2014
Record Breaker: 153 fish caught at Belton Lake

26 June, 2014

This morning I ran the eighth SKIFF trip of the 2014 season. Joining me were 12-year-old Cody McNeal and 10-year-old Cady McNeal. SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.

Cody and Cady's stepdad, Staff Sergeant Lee Igo, has been away for over a month at an Army school in Fort Bliss in El Paso fulfilling requirements that will allow him to advance to sergeant first class. The kids' mom, Denise Igo, has been a huge help to the SKIFF program through her very well regarded Facebook page called "Fort Hood Area Events" which has over 24,000 likes. She regularly reminds the community of the existence and purpose of SKIFF.

Fortunately, Cody and Cady were no fishing rookies. Both could handle a spinning rod very comfortably and were able to cast with both good distance and good accuracy. So when opportunity knocked, they answered.

Based on the success I enjoyed yesterday on Belton Lake with another party, and seeing that today's conditions were to be nearly identical, I felt we had a good shot at catching fish on topwater early and then downrigging later in the morning in the same areas where topwater action had occurred.

As we got going, no more than 10 minutes into the trip we spotted our first of many large schools of topwater feeding fish despite a fairly heavy chop on the water. These schools consisted of a mix of white bass and small hybrid striped bass chasing mainly young of the year shad. These shad are growing out well now that the water temperature is in the 80's and food is abundant.

Long story short, we stayed on topwater fish and sight-cast to these fish for a solid three hours. By 9:15 a.m. we'd boated over 120 fish on a Cork Rig with a shad imitator attached which closely matched forage size. With about an hour left to go, I offered the kids some options, as I had come prepared to downrig as well as to fish with live baits. I told them we could continue fishing with topwater and likely have a shot at breaking the long-standing SKIFF record catch of 147 fish set by Chase, Sean, and Trent Salyer on Jan. 29, 2011, or, we could do some downrigging and/or live bait fishing for variety's sake. I made it clear that these methods would likely not be as productive as the topwater action had been.

The siblings agreed to try to catch one more fish each on topwater, and then to give downrigging a try. We were pleasantly surprised as we began downrigging with balls set to 12 and 25 feet, that each time a rod went off, we brought in doubles (two fish at at time)! So now downrigging was outproducing the topwater bite, and the 147 fish mark looked very attainable. As our fish count crept into the 130s, I again offered variety in the form of fishing with live bait for some larger-sized hybrid. The kids were good with giving that a try, too.

As our baits went down (four rods), three of them got hit and up came with some very nice 3 pound category hybrid stripers. We were now at around 140 fish. As we scrambled to rebait our lines, and now sensing the record really could fall, we got our baits set down to the 23-foot mark where sonar showed the hybrid to be. Just as we got the lines all set, a school of white bass and small hybrid began to feed on the surface, enveloping our boat in the frenzy. I told the kids to grab the topwater rods and go for the record. They brought in fish after fish from this cooperative school until my "clicker" read 153 fish at our pre-determined end time of 10:15 a.m. The record of 147 fish had been broken and replaced by a new record of 153 fish on a four-hour SKIFF trip!! Very exciting!

TALLY = 153 FISH, all caught and released


Start Time: 6:15am

End Time: 10:15am

Air Temp.: 75F @ trip's start

Water Surface Temp.: 79.8F

Wind: SSE11-13

Skies: 100% bright grey cloud cover

Other Notes: N/A


**Area 147/1001 topwater action at first light

**Area 509/1356 topwater action for first hour after sunrise

** Areas 1137/687 and 210/689 very aggressive topwater action and suspended fish beneath for last 3 hours of trip

Bob Maindelle

Holding the Line Guide Service


Salado, Texas

Posted in Guide lines on Sunday, June 29, 2014 9:20 pm. | Tags: Fishing , Skiff , Fort Bliss , Austin Fly Fishers , Denise Igo , Belton Lake Comments (0)

Friday 06/27/2014
First fish of her lifetime
This morning I ran the 7th SKIFF trip of the 2014 season, welcoming aboard three young people – Noah Golaboff, Erin Golaboff, and Carson Darling. In case you are not familiar with this program, SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.

Noah and Erin are the oldest and youngest of the four children of Colonel Stan Golaboff and his wife, Michele. COL Golaboff is an ordnance officer serving full-time with the Texas National Guard. In his current duty position he travels often with much of his time spent at Camp Mabry in Austin. This particular week, his wife was also away from home at an educator’s conference, so, it was an ideal time to loan some structure to the week and give their kids an opportunity to experience the outdoors.

Carson, age 6, is the son of Staff Sergeant Anthony Lyons and his wife, Ashley Lyons. SSG Lyons is currently assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division and is participating in a multi-national training exercise in Germany for several weeks. Carson was chaperoned by his grandfather, Jim French, of Copperas Cove.

We met at Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir at 6:45 a.m., got lifejackets on and shoved off. We spent our first half-hour searching three separate areas for topwater action, but none was to be found. This tropical air mass we’ve had over us for quite some time now has prevented the unobscured sunrises that typically generate the sudden brightening that typically spurs topwater action on Stillhouse. We found no topwater action this morning.

We then headed shallow to target sunfish living in shallow hydrilla beds. With a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old (who had never caught a fish before,) I was sure this was going to be a hit … and it was! Once the kids all got the hang of setting the hook just right when the slipfloat slid underwater, they were unstoppable. We caught bluegill sunfish and green sunfish – 40 in all, to be exact. Erin landed the first fish of her lifetime, a 4-inch green sunfish.

When the sunfish wised up to our trickery, we agreed to head deep and target some larger fish by downrigging for white bass. Our tools of the trade this day were a pair of three-arm umbrella rigs allowing us to present six baits on two rods. The fish we found were down between 29 and 31 feet over a 33-36 foot bottom. The fish were not overly aggressive, but, over the next 90 minutes we managed 14 fish, including 4 sets of doubles. We brought in 12 white bass, 1 largemouth bass, and 1 channel catfish using this technique. This year I changed out my old manually operated Cannon Easi-Troll downriggers for a pair of electronic Digi-Troll 10′s. I’ve taken note how the kids love pushing the up, down, and auto-up buttons when it’s someone else’s turn to reel in a fish, so, that is yet another task I’ve turned over to my guests to engage them to the greatest extent I can.

We closed out the trip by fishing live baits for the last 25 minutes or so over some deeper hydrilla beds, targeting largemouth bass. This time of year this approach usually works best when fish are seen at least occasionally feeding on topwater. I knew our chances were slim since we saw no topwater action at all today, and, indeed, we caught no largemouth.

So we ended our trip with 54 fish boated.

TALLY = 54 FISH, all caught and released

Start Time: 6:45am
End Time: 11:00am
Air Temp.: 75F @ trip’s start
Water Surface Temp.: 82F
Wind: SSW8-9
Skies: 100% bright grey cloud cover
Other Notes: N/A

**Area 1098 – Sunfish
**Area 1260/864 – White bass on the breakline
** Areas 853/1395 – White bass

Posted in Guide lines on Friday, June 27, 2014 2:35 pm. | Tags: Fort Hood , Fishing , Skiff , Golaboff , Lyons , Stillhouse Hollow Comments (0)

Wednesday 06/25/2014
Persistence paid off

I was joined once again this morning by Tony Bagliore and Greg Graham for a morning of fishing on Belton Lake.  Tony and Greg work together operating Bagliore Concrete, a Central Texas small business.

The conditions were near-calm and overcast, which usually bodes well for topwater action this time of year, so, we spent some time at first light looking for just that.  We found pods of smallish white bass scattered all over feeding strictly on young of the year shad.  Were we equipped with fly gear in order to imitate these 3/4″ long fry we’d have done well.  As it was, even the smallest lures we could use and still span the distance from boat to fish was too large and got largely ignored.  We managed 3 white bass on Cicadas, but it was anything but consistent.

We searched with sonar near and far and found precious little as the winds remained near calm — always a tough hand to be dealt on Belton.  Knowing that we were looking at a tough bite, I stopped and dropped baits in a few areas with scant fish showing, knowing that when fish are in a negative mood, you often don’t see much on sonar as the fish just sulk with belly-to-bottom.

Occasionally we’d see a school of white bass pop up and we’d chase them to see if they were locked on to bait large enough to imitate, but, today was always the same with the fish keyed in only on tiny shad.

Tony recently equipped his own boat with downriggers, so, I took him through the paces on rigging these correctly to give him confidence and reduce his learning curve; we did not, however, draw any strikes on our tandem or triple rigs equipped with Pet Spoons.

Between the 5th and 6th hour of this 4 hour trip persistence finally paid off.  I told Greg and Tony that I stuck with it this long only because I believed the fish had never entered into a feeding “window” at all this morning and that, despite the late hour, I felt the fish could still turn on.  Had the fish fed even briefly in the first 4 hours of the morning, I would have bet they were done by now.  So, we persisted … and were rewarded.

At 11:15, in 40-45 feet of water as I idled over a break line, I saw several sonar signatures indicating hybrid were in the vicinity.  We quickly got setup over these fish and got large gizzard shad baits down to them.  The response was fast — 3 of four rods went down right away, and, for the next 10 minutes rods kept getting pulled down and fish kept coming up.  When this short “burst” was over, we enjoyed much slower acton for another 50 minutes until finally, sonar was clean and the bite was done.

In this end-of-trip frenzy, we boated another 15 fish, including one white bass, one ~13 inch blue cat, one 24″ channel cat, and 12 legal hybrid striped bass.

Such is summertime hybrid fishing.

TALLY = 18 FISH, all caught and released


Start Time: 6:15am

End Time: 12:15pm

Air Temp.: 77F @ trip’s start

Water Surface Temp.: 83.0F

Wind: SSE4-6

Skies: 100% bright grey cloud cover

Other Notes: GT35


**Area 1399 — all hybrid came off E. slope

Posted in Guide lines on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 10:28 pm. Comments (0)