Lake Berryessa Fishing Report

Lake Berryessa - Winters, CA (Napa County)

by RB Bass

If catching 30, 40, even 50 fish a day is your idea of fun, then Berryessa (aka Berry) is right for you … right now. Conveniently located, Berry is a little over an hour from either the Bay Area or Sacramento.


You can launch near the dam at Markley Cove, in the narrows at Pleasure Cove, in the main lake at Spanish Flats, up north near the incoming creek at Putah Creek, or down south at Cappell Cove near the lower west end of the lake. Ramp fees are about $16, unless you go to Cappell Cove which is free.


Currently the fish are in all three phases of spawning and can be caught with a plethora of techniques. Spawning bass can be found in the coves, on flats, and around shallow areas behind the islands – pretty much all over the lake. All three species are up right now. However, I prefer catching smallmouth simply because it’s fun and easy.

Often, if there’s not much wind, you can see dark circles in about five feet of water where the smallies make their beds. Cast a drop shot rig ahead of the circle and drag it back onto the bed – once there shake it a bit – hopefully catching the fish. If not, move on to the next one. It can be relatively simple to locate a lot of beds this time of year; you’re not looking for fish, only the beds. If you pull up on a bed and can see a fish, most likely that fish has already seen you, making it much more difficult to catch.

Additionally, search shallow flat areas or the extreme ends of coves and pockets for largemouth. You might just run across a giant 8- to 12-pound bass. Remember to let these fish go as soon as possible so they can go about their business of making babies. If immediately released in the vicinity, most bedding bass will return right away to their beds, seemingly unfazed by the entire ordeal.


Pre- and post-spawn bass can be found in the same areas, which are often just beyond the spawning areas. Visualize where the fish are going and picture a route from the main lake to the shallows and all the stopping points along the way.

You almost can’t go wrong fishing points, but all points are not equal. Points leading into a spawning area are better than just a point. Moreover, points in spawning areas such as a creek channel can be good. You will need to try different points to see what’s best for that day. Islands, submerged islands, points on islands, flats with a drop off, laydowns or off shore rock piles can all be good this time of year.


Berryessa is one of those lakes on which you can fish almost any way you like. If there’s a little wind or weather, reaction baits work well. Choose a 1/2-ounce Revenge Deep Runner spinnerbait in white and chartreuse or Silverside (gold and silver double willow), DUO M65 11A crankbait in Morning Dawn or Indigo Halo, or River2Sea S-Waver in Light Trout. There’s also a group of guys who toss big swimbaits and do well, but that’s not my gig.

On an average day when I’m guiding anglers who are not well-versed in bass fishing– or even those who are – we throw finesse baits.


Wacky-rigged Senko’s have been really good. The 5-inch versions in Baby Bass, Green Pumpkin, or Cinnamon, rigged with a #1 Gamakatsu drop shot hook, produce well. You also can’t go wrong fishing a drop shot. Use a 3/16-ounce barrel weight, the same #1 Gamakatsu drop-shot hook, and a Yamamoto Shad Shape worm in Baby Bass, Cinnamon or Green/Purple Flake. MM3, Aaron’s Magic, and Morning Dawn Robo Worms work well, too. If you want to target laydowns, I’d recommend a #1 Gamakatsu extra wide gap hook, making sure to rig the drop shot Texas-style, otherwise you’ll be retying all day.

When casting either medium-sized or small swimbaits, I’ll use a 1/8- or 1/16-ounce ball head jig with a 2.8” Keitech in Pro Blue Pearl, Rainbow Trout or a Shad colors. You’ll want to use Super Glue to hold the Keitech on to the head, otherwise you will go through a bunch of baits.

Somedays the fish only want a Wacky Senko, whereas other days it’s only the drop shot or swimbait they’ll eat. Either way, experiment with all three and see what’s working best that day.

Indeed, there are many other techniques that work: Darter Heads, Neko and Ned Rigs, and Spider Grubs all produce. But currently a wacky-rigged Senko, drop shot, and swimbait are producing consistently.


We smashed ‘em yesterday, so I called my friend and said let’s go. It’s on fire. We show up at the lake, start fishing with the same S-Waver and Revenge spinnerbait for three hours, and get zero bites. What the *@#! is going on?!

Well, yesterday there was a little weather. Six mph winds and cloud cover whereas today is clear, sunny, and calm. Yesterday the fish had moved up and were biting everywhere. Everyone on the lake was ready to go on tour. Today, not so much.

What now? The fish are still there, but they’re obviously not biting. This happens all the time. Instead of staying with what’s not working, I go to my finesse tactics and start hitting points leading into coves, points in coves, channel swings with deep water, and laydowns. Hit these high percentage places and it will save your day. You might not catch giants, but you’ll catch fish.

About Mark

Mark Lassagne, born and raised in California, is the creator of the popular quarterly publication BASS ANGLER Magazine. Mark is also a professional tournament angler and guide. To book a trip or find out more about Mark, go to

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