Kevin and Andre were greeted by an already low, and dropping water level at Barrett on Tuesday. The water level on Monday was officially listed at 115.45 feet, or 45.45 feet below spill level. To put that in perspective, the lake opened last year 25 feet below spill, and closed about 40 feet below spill. It is dropping about 1 vertical foot per week, so expect the level at the opener to be even lower than it is now.
With that out of the way, the bass fishing is as good as you’d expect it to be in April, absolutely spectacular for 1-3 pound bass. Mattson, known for his prowess as both a freshwater and saltwater swimbait angler, set out to do something a little different; try to produce a giant bite with big swimbaits like the Deps Slide Swimmer 250 and 22nd Century Triple Trout.
While he targeted only the biggest bass in the lake, Smith started with a more typical Barrett approach, throwing crankbaits, jigs, trip jigs (California legal Alabama rig), spinnerbaits and smaller swimbaits.
‘Dre quickly went to work hanging fiesty Barrett bass fishing parallel to shoreline rock. “Shad were everywhere, but there were no active fish on them yet,” he said. “Most fish were caught parallel to the bank, with rock being the primary structure holding bass, with brush (stick ups) holding a few also.”
His top producing bait was a Savage Gear crankbait, which by day’s end had literally had the paint chewed off it. “Small, shallow and medium diving crankbaits in shad pattern got destroyed, and bluegill imitations seemed to get the bigger bites.”
“They will chew anything that can slide over rock, if you could find rock, you found fish,” reiterating the importance of fishing the right spot rather than fishing a certain bait. When asked about general areas of the lake, Andre had this to say, “Pine’s islands are all the way out of the water but were still very productive areas. Hauser was good also. Any stretch of good rock held plenty of fish. Pine is full of tree stumps that are not yet exposed, so navigating slowly is necessary.”
Mattson dedicated a good portion of his day to fishing the big baits looking for a big bite, but had no success with that. Eventually, he downsized his baits, while still fishing mostly swimbaits to start adding to the fish count.
Mattson echoed the same sentiment about rock being key to success, but also noted that stickups that were on or very close to the rocky areas also produced, “everything was rock related and tight to the brush, fishing was real slow on banks with no rocks and just brush.”
It was all chunky 1-3 pounders, I never broke down and put on a smaller crankbait. We could have caught over 300 fish on small cranks and blades – Kevin Mattson
“I was pitching the Mattlures bluegill, Vagabond bluegill, and MC weedless bluegill pattern at sticks in 10 foot of water or less, trying for a bigger bite. They were really tight to the brush, right in it. Pitching to every cut in the rock and brush was key, they were biting but the dropping water level had them hanging very tight to cover.”
His dedication to producing a giant bass hindered his overall fish count, but he still had plenty of bass committing to those mid sized soft swimbaits. “It was all chunky 1-3 pounders, I never broke down and put on a smaller crankbait. We could have caught over 300 fish on small cranks and blades, but I really tried for a bigger one, but no love.”
Editor’s Note – Trolling motors are not included on the rental boats at Barrett, but are an essential addition. Trolling motors and batteries are available for rent at Lakeside Bait & Tackle. Barrett access is limited with a reservation system through Ticketmaster. Reservations are sold online or by phone through Ticketmaster on a month-by-month basis, available on the second Tuesday of the month prior at 7 PM local time. Tickets can be bought, sold or traded via our Barrett Ticket Trader forum.
Barrett themed shirts available now – We’ve designed a special “Barrett Brigade” shirt design to commemorate this special fishery, and the dedicated sdfish.com anglers that battle the Barrett bass all summer long. Click here to order yours today.
Also see last year’s 2013 pre-opener report for more intel on the fishing conditions you find at Barrett early in the season.