In our busy culture, spending quality time with children can be challenging.

This week alone,  two local families took on that challenge and found fishing to be just the right mechanism for attaining that goal.

On May 6, Will Phillips, an anesthesiologist in his residency at Baylor Scott & White Hospital, treated his son, Luke, and two of Luke’s friends, 8-year-old Brooks Hull and 7-year-old Colby Anthony, to a fishing trip in celebration of Luke’s eighth birthday.

The all-boy crew fished from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. and amassed a catch of 66 fish on Belton Lake including sunfish, white bass and hybrid striped bass. As I considered the boys’ ages, I knew it would be important to offer variety during our time on the water so as to keep them engaged. I therefore planned to do some downrigging, some panfishing up shallow using slipfloats, and to finish out the trip jigging vertically for white bass. All of these tactics produced fish, with the vertical jigging producing best and helping us close out the trip on a strong note.

When asked why he chose to take his son fishing for his birthday instead of pursuing the myriad other options out there, Will Phillips said, “I was looking for an option to be outside together. Fishing seemed to be a good way to spend quality time with my son and his friends.”

Last Thursday, the Campbell family of Gatesville also chose fishing in celebration of one of their family members’ birthdays. David Campbell, who will turn 12 by the end of May, was joined by his three siblings — 10-year-old Dalton, 14-year-old Shiloh and 16-year- old Nicole — for a fishing excursion on Belton Lake.

The kids, all home-schooled, all had prior fishing experience which definitely lowered their learning curve and allowed us to use tactics I would normally reserve for an older crew.

We hit deep water first and found aggressive, schooled hybrid striped bass feeding near bottom in 42 feet of water. We got our live threadfin shad down to 33-35 feet and the hybrid soared up off bottom to grab these large baits. Once the first few fish came in the boat, the school really got excited, allowing us to catch fish on specially prepared cut baits as well as live baits.

The Campbells put 38 legal-sized (18-inch or longer) hybrid striped bass and four white bass in the boat at this location in just over two hours.

After the winds came up and the hybrid bite died down, we retreated to the protection of one of Belton Lake’s tributaries to search for bottom-oriented white bass. At 10:15 a.m. we located a tightly bunched school of 3-year-old class white bass in 42 feet of water. I initially identified these using the down imaging feature of my Humminbird Solix 15 sonar. I then placed a cursor over these fish on the sonar screen and gave my Minn Kota trolling motor a command through the sonar unit to go to those fish and hover over top of them.

As this process played out through a system referred to as i-Pilot Link, I was able to be hands-free and get spinning gear in the kids’ hands and give instruction on what kind of presentation to make once the boat was holding steady.

The Campbell kids put another 30 white bass and 1 largemouth bass in the boat until the fish settled down once and for all around 11:10 a.m.

With both of our area lakes now at full pool, the water in clear condition and our ambient temperatures still mild for May, now is a great time to be out on Belton Lake or Stillhouse Hollow.

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