Like most Fort Hood families, Sean Webber and his wife, Ashley, are far removed from extended family.
The middle school sweethearts from San Diego, Calif., were therefore really looking forward to a visit from Sean’s parents and his brother as they came to Texas for a Christmas visit just a few weeks early so as to also celebrate Sean’s 30th birthday with him in person.
Sean is now serving in his second enlistment as a wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, and just recently returned to the U.S. from a nine-month rotation to South Korea.
It was during this rotation that Mrs. Webber and I got acquainted through the free SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) program that I offer to soldiers’ children when their parents are called away from home on duty. I was privileged to offer a four-hour fishing trip to the Webber’s son, Ryan, over the summer on Belton Lake. When Mrs. Webber saw what her elementary aged son was able to amass a catch of 62 quality fish, she knew her husband would also enjoy such a trip upon his return.
About a month ago my phone rang. After flight arrangements were made, tickets purchased, and a rental car reserved, Mrs. Webber capped the whole thing off by arranging a fishing trip for her husband.
Joining him would be his dad, Chris, and his brother, Chad, both firefighters with the San Diego Fire Department.
On Monday, after carefully watching the winds for the preceding four days, we met lakeside at Belton Lake in hopeful anticipation of a productive fishing trip. After a strong, pre-frontal southerly breeze the day before in which the ambient temperature rose to right at 70F, a mild, dry cold front began to move into the area.
Winds have a tremendous impact on winter fishing here in Ccentral Texas (see last week’s column: Winter wind patterns dictate best times for fishing at www.kdhnews.com). When we launched at around 7:15 a.m., the winds were right at 15 mph out of the west-northwest and were in the process of shifting slowly to the northwest until they came from due north and subsided.
Incoming cold fronts offer excellent windows of opportunity to catch a lot of fish quickly, and we were about to step right through that window.
At exactly 7:28, our first fish came aboard. By 7:45, Sean exclaimed, “We’ve caught more fish in 30 minutes than I have in the past 10 years!”
We located our first fishing area thanks to a flock of gulls feeding on the small baitfish that the larger fish we desired to catch were forcing to the surface. After the skies brightened and the fish pushed deeper, this bird activity tapered off quickly. Thus, the last three areas we fished were confirmed to have fish on them by way of the use of sonar.
Regardless of how we found the fish, the technique we used to catch them was the same. All rods were rigged with a light, 3/8-oz. slab closely resembling the color and profile of the shad the gamefish we were catching were eating. To this slab I added a Hazy Eye Stinger Hook in size #4. A stinger hook is affixed to the line tie on a slab, opposite the treble hook which is located on the tail end of the lure. The cooler the water gets, the more fish are hooked on the stinger versus the treble.
The Webbers consistently worked their lures with the rhythm and speed I demonstrated for them at the beginning of the trip, and caught fish after fish, including fish of four different species: white bass, freshwater drum, hybrid striped bass and largemouth bass.
By the fourth hour of the trip, the winds had gone due north and diminished greatly. As the clear skies and calm conditions developed, the bite finally came to a close. By this time, all three men were in disbelief over their results.
This trio managed to land 269 fish in just over 4 hours’ time. In my 24 years fishing Belton, with the last 11 spent fishing professionally as a guide on that lake, this was one of the top 10 most productive days I have ever lead clients to. Webber was all smiles as he reflected on his birthday present and on how he got to enjoy it with his dad and brother.
As I write this, water surface temperatures stand at 58-60F. I anticipate the fishing will continue to be excellent on days with favorable wind conditions right into the first week of 2017 despite the cold weather we are experiencing this weekend.