Denis Peirce: Big bass biting |

Denis Peirce: Big bass biting

Denis Peirce
The three largest bass from the R.B. Bass "Christmas Party" on Bullard's Bar Reservoir before being released back into the lake. Left to right: Ron Howe 8.13 pounds, Austin Wilson 5.46 pounds and Mike Coleman 9.40 pounds
Photo by Ed Everhart |

Fishing success is a lot about timing as well as skill. There are seasons when the fish are on the bite and there are times when it is not worth the effort. We have entered the big bass season at Bullard’s Bar Reservoir. If you have some skills and a bit of luck you can land a big spotted bass.

This past weekend a group of anglers associated with the R.B. Bass website converged on Bullard’s Bar for their version of a Christmas Party.

It was a prime fishing day with overcast skies, a falling barometer and a threat of rain for the evening. On the negative side of the ledger it was the full moon which can make the day time fishing tough if the bass have been feeding all night.

The R.B. Bass group includes anglers from all over the state. Ed Everhart from Grass Valley is a member of the group. Due to the remote location of Bullard’s Bar they stayed at Collins Lake and commuted to Bullard’s Bar.

Fishing for bass

The best bite for big bass came at first light. The location was an east facing clay bank fishing at depths from 10 to 30 feet. The bass were typically at the 20 foot depth. The early action was on minnow colored soft plastics in the pearl — pink — blue — purple color spectrum. By late morning the bite turned toward crawdad colored baits.

The driver for the big spotted bass fishery in Bullard’s Bar is the kokanee population in the lake. Bullard’s is known for abundant but small kokanee. The size that will fit nicely into a bass’s mouth.

Kokanee are a land locked sockeye salmon that feed on plankton in open water. Like all salmon they have a high oil content that contributes to weight gain for those eating them.

Most bass species, smallmouth and largemouth, are structure dwellers and are seldom found suspended out over deep water. They can be found at depth but they are usually close to the bottom.

Spotted bass are not originally a lake fish. They are river fish. They are well adapted to suspending out over deep water if that is where the food source is. It is the convergence of the spots and kokanee in a mid elevation Sierra lake that has been producing the world record spotted bass.

Local bass angler Ed Everhart gave me his observations on the days fishing. He had good success for numbers after locating a school of kokanee 25 to 30 feet below the surface in 45 feet of water. The bass were tight to the bottom.

He speculated that they actually had their bellies touching the bottom. On his fish finder there were no individual fish showing, only a change of color at the bottom. But every 10 minutes or so he would see a bass shoot up off the bottom into the kokanee school and disappear back into the bottom clutter on his scope.

His approach in this situation was to fish soft plastics slowly along the bottom and just above it.

The water temp at Bullard’s was 55 degrees, which is warm for this time of year.

Everhart thought the lake should have been 50 degrees by early December. When the temperature drops into the 40s the smaller fish tend to go off the feed while the big ones will continue to eat.

Winter bass fishing at Bullard’s is about a few big fish not about numbers of modest sized bass. There was a good bite for small to medium sized bass on the day as well as a few big ones. Everhart attributed this the temperature.

Throughout the day Everhart saw surface activity. He could not identify exactly what was causing it but it may have included trout surface feeding and kokanee fleeing hungry bass.

Based on post fishing discussions amongst the R.B. Bass crowd, the most successful baits were drop shot rigs, shakie head worms, and “Ned Rigs.” For details on these, do a web search. The common denominator for these soft plastic baits is a slow presentation.

For most anglers Bullard’s Bar is a remote lake, far from anything. Luckily for us it is close enough to go for even a half day of fishing.

We don’t have to stop fishing in the winter, we just have to dress well and get out there.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at

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