Largemouth and spotted bass are abundant in Barnett Reservoir. Largemouth bass can be found in all areas, but look for the majority of spotted bass (Kentucky bass) action north of Highway 43 to Low Head Dam.
During the late winter and early spring pre-spawn period, February and March, bass are moving toward shallow areas in preparation for the spawn. It is typically when the biggest fish of the year are caught. Cold conditions require a slow pattern like a jig and plastic trailer. On warmer days, spinnerbaits and swimming plastic lizards are popular, and later in the spring, a buzzbait can be added to the list. Areas with rip rap, such as the main dam, Highway 43 and the Pelahatchie Bay causeway are popular choices during the spring. Also fishing around vegetation especially along old lake ledges and channel lanes can produce good action with jerk baits. Good areas include Plummer Slough in Pelahatchie Bay, the Mill Creek area on the east side of the Reservoir, Horseshoe Lake and Cane Creek.
With the summer heat, bass will begin to move into cover or in deeper cooler waters. A variety of lures can produce excellent catches around vegetation, including plastic frogs, soft plastics and jigs, the latter of which are punched through the matted vegetation. Fishing the 'pads' in areas above Highway 43 and also near Gilligan's Island can be great for top water action as bass tend to find cover underneath the large American Lotus plants. Frogs are deadly then. Fish crank baits in the stump fields or try the slower action of a Carolina-rigged worm on drop off points and channel ledges with structure. Watch for surface “schooling” activity in those areas.
As the water temperatures cool off in the fall, bass will move toward shallower water and feed more actively. The bass follow schooling shad as these prey species move upriver and into shallow areas in the main lake. Locating fallen trees along the rivers edges between Low Head dam and the Rocks can be excellent areas to catch spotted bass with crank baits and other shad imitating baits. In the main lake and Pelahatchie Bay, the bass follow shad through the old sloughs and creek channels. Dock pilings can also hold bass in Pelahatchie Bay and Main Harbor Marina.
During the winter, bass tend to move into deeper waters and are not as active. Slow fishing Carolina-rigged worms, jigging spoons, or the jig and trailer type baits work well. Try working these baits along edges and drop offs near the deeper water. On warmer, sunny days bass may move up along riprap covered banks such as the main dam, Pelahatchie Bay causeway, or near Madison Landing. Jerk baits work there.
Barnett Reservoir offers some of the state's best crappie fishing. Both white and black crappie can be caught anytime of the year. The majority of black crappie can be found in the upper reservoir area between Highway 43 and the Low Head dam.
Experience some of the best crappie action during the spring months as crappie move into shallow areas to spawn. Using jigs and/or minnows anglers can catch these fish in locations such as Cane Creek, Oil Well Woods, the cove behind the Old No. 7 channel marker and Plummer Slough located in Pelahatchie Bay. During the early spring months fishing the edges of the river channel can produce quality catches as crappie stage just before moving into shallow waters.
During the summer months crappie will move into deeper water, and prefer to hold near deep structure. Start fishing 8-10 feet deep then deeper as the sun rises in midday. Look for crappie in the old oxbow lakes such as Three-Prong Lake, Saddle Bags, and also Big Lake near Brown's Landing. In the south end, fish the old lakes near Rose's Bluff. The creek channel in Pelahatchie Bay is also a popular spot.
Fall and winter fishing is popular in the Welfare Hole just south of the Hwy 43 bridge and the Pelahatchie Bay Causeway bridge. The Welfare Hole is a real hotspot if water is moving through the bridge. As the water temperatures fall fish will move deeper and presentations should become slow as the fish become inactive. Deeper waters along Rose's Bluff and the main dam can also be great areas for deep water crappie during the winter months. The key to finding crappie is to find deep structure.
Popular baits for catching bream in Barnett Reservoir are red worms and crickets. These feisty fish can be exciting to catch especially for children during the early summer months as the fish begin to spawn. Good sized bluegill and redear can be caught in many locations, including the vegetation mats along Cane Creek and the back water sloughs near the Rocks. The fishing piers located off Hwy 43 and Hwy 471 in Pelahatchie Bay are also popular sites. Fly fishing can also be productive along the Natchez Trace in the summer when the mayflies hatch.
Bream can be found congregated around tree tops all along the river above Hwy 43, rip rap covered areas of the main lake, and around dock pilings.
Flathead, blue, and channel catfish are abundant in Barnett Reservoir. Cut bait and stink bait are popular choices for blues and channels and live bait is best for flatheads. Jugs and trot-lines are good methods for catching catfish in most areas of the reservoir (especially during the night-time hours), with the exception of the main lake area south of Twin Harbors and Fannin Landing to the main dam. Only rod and reel fishing is allowed in this section of the reservoir.
Some of the best catfish action happens on the coldest days of winter when shad that are caught in shallow water succumb to the conditions and catfish are attracted to feed on the abundance. The lower end of the main lake along the Natchez Trace and Pelahatchie Bay are prime areas.
Those same areas are popular choices during late spring and early summer months as fish move into shallow waters to spawn. The sport of noodling, a.k.a. grabbling or hand-grabbing, is legal from May 1—July 15 and a popular method of catching spawning catfish. Shallow areas on the upper end of the main lake are good places for grabbing.
Locating deep water structure in oxbow lakes such as Rice Lake or McMillan Lake can produce good flathead catches. Above Hwy 43, sand bars and submerged trees or stumps are good spots in late spring and summer. Other popular locations include small creeks and ditches flowing into the south side of Pelahatchie Bay especially after a good rain.
Striped and Hybrid-Striped Bass
Locating striped bass and the hybrid striped bass, both of which have been stocked into the lake, can often be difficult, but well worth the trouble once they are found. Fishing with shad imitating baits, such as chrome lipless crankbaits, Bandit crankbaits or soft plastic jerk baits, can produce excellent catches of these hard fighting fish. Look for stripers up in the river above Highway 43 during spring, but during the summer months they tend to use the river channel to migrate toward the main lake area. Trolling along the river channel near Twin Harbors and the drop off the Fannin Flats is a popular method during this time.
On the main lake, look for schooling shad during the late summer and fall months. Feeding stripers create a disturbance at the water surface. Stripers are easily caught during a feeding frenzy on a variety of baits by casting directly into the fray. Catches of 10-pound stripers and larger are not uncommon.