While out on Belton Lake fishing with a father-daughter pair two Mondays ago, my cellphone rang. Phil Moore, a Killeen resident for over 30 years, a Vietnam war veteran, and recently retired from his long-time position as the maintenance and facilities manager at Memorial Baptist Church, called to arrange a fishing trip for himself and his brother-in-law, Garvon Golden.
Golden would be driving in with his wife from South Dakota early the following week. I looked at the long-range weather forecast, saw some wind and cloud cover forecast for Tuesday, and suggested that day looked the best for catching fish. We put a trip on the books and planned to meet at 7:15 a.m. on Belton Lake.
The weather forecast held together and we did indeed enjoy gray cloud cover and a southeasterly breeze the entire morning.
I felt a mix of quantity and quality was possible given the early fall patterns that are beginning to kick in now that the thermocline has all but disappeared. White bass would provide us with quantities of fish, and hybrid striped bass would offer us the best shot at quality fish. Accordingly, I came prepared with both frisky, freshly netted live shad, as well as appropriately-sized artificial lures.
As we arrived at the first area I desired to sweep with sonar and check for the presence of fish, I noted more with my unaided eyes than with sonar. I saw egrets, herons and osprey all concentrated in a small area, and both baitfish and rough fish dimpling the surface. This looked really “fishy,”so I turned off the outboard and just drifted and observed for a few moments.
It soon became clear that there was an abundance of bait and fish of all sorts in this area, and sonar further verified my suspicions. As we prepared to fish vertically with slabs, a school of white bass chasing shad erupted briefly on the surface, then another school surfaced, then another. Soon, there was a full feed underway and we were right in the middle of it.
I quickly switched Moore and Golden over to topwater baits so they could enjoy the visual component of seeing the fish strike their lures as they continued to feed aggressively. We quickly put 20 fish in the boat, then 30, then 40, then 50, and the fish kept right on feeding.
Fairly suddenly, the winds stilled a bit and the feeding activity dropped off as well. As this wrinkle in the weather played out, the fish left the surface but continued feeding in the lower third of the water column.
We changed back over to slabs and worked these lures vertically, and continued catching fish consistently. While hovering over a 20-foot bottom using the Spot Lock function on my Ulterra trolling motor, I had Moore seated to my left up on the forward casting deck, and Golden standing to my right on the lower main deck. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Golden set the hook solidly in response to a strike on his slab.
As I looked over at him, I saw Golden’s rod bend much more deeply than the average-sized 10-12 inch white bass we had been catching would account for. As Golden continued playing the fish, I saw its large, silver side flash at boatside and thought he’d hooked a hybrid striper. I grabbed the fluorocarbon leader and boated the fish only to discover that this was an outsized white bass.
The fish’s single tooth patch, muted line pattern, rounded eye, deeper body and more slender dorsal fins all confirmed that this was a truly rare white bass.
I quickly placed the fish in the livewell to keep it lively while I checked the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s online waterbody records database.
Golden’s fish was 16.375 inches long. The existing catch and release record, caught by Denver Eichler in 2010, measured 15.75 inches. We had a lake record in the boat. After taking photos of Golden with his catch, and showing the catch clearly on my onboard measuring board, we released the fish in excellent condition.
For his accomplishment, Golden will receive by mail a TPWD waterbody record certificate complete with a raised, gold State of Texas seal affixed to it, and, of course, “bragging rights” to the lake record.
Moore and Golden went on to land a total of 104 fish on this half-day outing, including white bass, hybrid striped bass, blue catfish, channel catfish and largemouth bass.