David Ross has been fishing since he was old enough to hold a fishing pole.
His great-grandmother first introduced him to the sport as the two fished from a dock on Inks Lake — she for catfish, and he for sunfish.
Ross, a pharmacist at the H-E-B in Belton, chose to fish Stillhouse Hollow simply due to convenience. After moving closer to his work this past year, Stillhouse is now but a few minutes’ drive from his home.
Ross recently made a series of trips to Lake Tawakoni targeting the giant blue catfish that lake has a reputation for producing. He picked up a few tips from, and witnessed the approach of, his fishing guide there and decided to apply what he had learned here on his home lake.
Said Ross, “Tawakoni had me looking for old creek bottoms and (on Stillhouse, I) happened to find one running through a hydrilla forest. The hydrilla can’t grow in water deeper than 20 feet, so I found my creek bed and set my jugs right down the middle from 25-35 feet deep with 6-8 (feet of) hydrilla on either side.”
Although Ross routinely fishes with rod and reel in both fresh water and salt, on this outing he chose to fish with anchored juglines.
Jugline setups vary greatly. Ross’ preferred setup includes a half of a brick as the anchoring device, a gallon jug as the float and a heavy length of braided twine strung between the two as the main line. In this main line, Ross ties three loops in the braided twine at approximately 3 feet, 6 feet and 9 feet above the brick.
One end of a 2-foot long leader made of 250-pound test, braided twine is attached to a swivel which is then attached to a trotline quick release clip, thus allowing one leader to be attached to each of the three loops in the main line. On the terminal end of each leader Ross ties an 8/0 Bass Pro Shops CatMaxx offset circle hook.
Ross has found that making the leaders independently detachable helps him stay organized and tangle-free versus having leaders permanently affixed to the mainline — a big advantage especially when fishing solo.
Ross is very choosy when it comes to bait selection for his juglines.
“(I) have tried many baits but have decided a 30-40 count table shrimp works best. (It) covers the whole hook, stays on well with the shell and (they) are better taken care of being (that they are intended) for human consumption,” said Ross.
By regulation, the maximum number of hooks an angler may have in the water is 50, so, Ross sets out 16 jugs with 3 hooks per jugline, and one jugline with two hooks for a grand total of 50 hooks in his spread.
Ross described what he found after setting out his jugs and returning to check them around midday last Wednesday: “Out of the 17 jugs, one was up-current opposite the wind and waves and around the front of the point at least 80 yards from the rest, which means should be a good fish. Once I got to it and grabbed it from the side of the boat, I could feel a fish, no doubt, but had no idea of the size. The line got tighter and tighter and I had to turn it loose, which meant it was snagged in a tree.
Tried two more goes at it — same result. I knew there was a fish, but (it was) snagged solid. Fourth try — tied it to the front boat cleat and was just going to see what happened. All the equipment held as it was meant to, and it was holding my 21-foot Mako ProSkiff in 25 mph winds. (I) had to gas it in reverse and finally got the snag to straighten out the 8/0 heavy shank circle hook that was snagged and then realized it was a huge cat and it was still on.”
Ross netted the huge fish and then went about collecting up the rest of his juglines, landing both additional blue cats as well as channel catfish.
Thinking he may have landed an all-tackle record, Ross phoned me in my capacity as a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department weigh station operator. I headed to Ross with scales in tow.
The blue catfish weighed 32 pounds and measured 38 inches from the closed mouth to the tip of its pinched tail. Although the fish fell short of the 2006 record fish landed by Karen Carter, which weighed 40 pounds and measured 43 inches, Ross’ catch was quite impressive nonetheless.
When asked what other angling adventures he might embark on, Ross stated, “(I’ve) got two bucket list trips planned over the next five weeks, (both) offshore — one trip out of Honolulu, and (one) out of Montego Bay, Jamaica.