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Denis Peirce: Boasting a Bullard’s Bar bounty

The bass fishing at Bullard’s Bar has been good for well over a year. I have been hearing about how big the spotted bass have gotten from local anglers as well as tackle shops in Oroville and Yuba City. 

Last summer I took my boat there at the peak of the water ski season and did not do well catching fish.

A few weeks ago, Jack McCrory invited me to fish with him and Gary Musick when the rains let up. That opportunity arrived last Thursday. The skies were overcast but no rain was in the forecast. Jack and Gary had been on the lake twice already that week and the fishing had been quite good. 



We met in Grass Valley at 7 a.m. and were soon on Highway 49 headed north. About an hour later, we were launching at the Dark Day ramp.

The morning was cool with no wind. I thought that I would be comfortable in denim pants, long sleeve shirt, down vest and light jacket. This was true until Gary had us heading up the Willow Creek arm at 55 mph. The wind chill at that speed cuts right through your jeans. Any exposed skin feels like frostbite is only minutes away. Thankfully, the ride was brief and we were coasting into the first fishing spot in less than 10 minutes.




Jack and Gary have spent quite a few days on Bullard’s this winter. They have gone through a number of varying tactics and figured out the pattern that consistently produces fish. The surface temperature was a cool 46 degrees which requires a slow presentation. Bass will not chase down a fast retrieve lure at these temps. They want to have it dropped in front of their nose. 

The most productive bait of the day was a 4-inch Senko (soft plastic worm) in a dark green color fished on a drop-shot rig about a foot off the bottom. Gary fished from the bow of the bass boat and kept the boat over water from 30 to 60 feet deep. Gary would drop the weight to the bottom and gently shake his rod tip up and down. 

The point was not to move the weight, rather to animate the worm in one location long enough for a bass to come over to investigate. The take from the fish was not a sharp tap, the line would simply get heavy. At that point Gary would give the fish slack and when the line began to move he would set the hook. If you strike at the first indication of a fish you would pull it away from them. This is cold-water finesse fishing. Other lures that took fish were tube baits in crawdad colors and curly tail worms rigged on shaky head jig hooks. I have had other reports of crawdad imitating jigs being effective.

The bass were in water from 30 to 65 feet. Gary commented that other boats fishing close to shore were not fishing deep enough. We made numerous drifts near points zigzagging between these two depths. Another feature we looked for was a transition from red clay to rock.

In an attempt to get invited again I will not reveal Jack and Gary’s secret spots on Bullard’s Bar. But I will describe them so that you might find similar locations of your own. Three of the four spots were within 100 yards of inflowing water. Gary believes that the fish or their food, are attracted to incoming creeks. The incoming flows are colder than the lake and the bass move away from the direct flows at these winter temperatures. The other common denominators were that we concentrated on points extending into the main body of the lake and most of these were south facing.

Over the course of the day, Gary outfished Jack and me combined. Gary was not shy about reminding us of this fact. He landed six bass with the largest making the 5-pound mark, three others at 4 pounds with the final two in the 2 pound range. This class of fishing is more common at Clear Lake or the Delta.  His top five fish would have won many a bass tournament in the north state.

A lot of things can go into a good day on the water, beautiful outdoor scenery, birds and other wildlife, hopefully some fishing action along with the camaraderie of the anglers you fish with. Thank you Jack and Gary, I had a great day.

These winter patterns and depths will change as the water picks up heat. On a side note, a bass landed earlier in the week gave up a half digested 5-inch fish.  The skin was gone and the meat had a red/orange hue. This was probably a kokanee. 

Another side note: the trout fishing is good at the large impoundments around the valley. Last Thursday New Melones Reservoir gave up a new lake record brown trout. It was 13 pounds, 1 ounce. It was caught on Rapala in fire tiger color, fished 30 feet deep off the face of the dam.

Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union 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 e-mail at dpeirce@theunion.com.


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