The barbel is one of the species that I have been most passionate about fishing. Since I was a child when I started fishing with the typical fly strings or with a rudimentary coup, barbel were always the fish I was most excited about. I remember when I was a teenager, when we “discovered” that barbel could be fished with lures…. At first we fished them with simple spoons. Later we started with small hard lures that we bought the few times we had the opportunity to go to the city. Nowadays bass occupy 90% of my fishing trips. However, since I am a predator angler, there hasn’t been a single one in which I haven’t spent several days barbel fishing in Extremadura.
Techniques, barbel fishing in Extremadura
Despite the fact that we can catch barbel with practically any of the existing modalities: fly, feeder, match, carpfishing, coup, lure fishing, etc… In this article I am going to focus on lure fishing and the different techniques we can use. Also within lure fishing we can fish in multiple ways: with hard lures, soft lures, on topwater, suspended fish, close to the bottom… It is a fish whose behavior, mainly in the summer months, becomes quite predatory.
Anyone who has caught a single barbel of a certain size knows that the first few runs are unmatched, making it one of the most powerful freshwater fish. For me, along with black bass and trout, it is one of the most sporting species I have ever fished. Below I will focus on the main techniques for barbel fishing in Extremadura, or at least the ones that have given me the best results, either from the shore or from a boat. If you don’t know where to go, the reservoirs of Cíjara or Alange have a very good population of quality barbel.
Barbel fishing with soft plastics
I’ve mainly fished for barbel sight-fishing. It is true that we can use a texas rig, drop shot, carolina…. Practically any rig we use for bass can work with barbel. However, for me, the most fun way to fish is to see the fish and present the lure in its face.
The most effective is usually to use small weightless vinyls of no more than 4″ in the shape of worms or small shad jerks. Sometimes they prefer to take the lure on the bottom, in this case using micro jigs of up to 7 grams can also be very interesting. As for the type of vinyl, match the hatch, it will always be a winner. If they are feeding on fish, then fish-shaped vinyls, if they are eating small invertebrates, using any form of vinyl with a similar color will help us to have more bites.
We can practice this fishing both in reservoirs and rivers, as long as the water is clear enough so that we can see the fish and present our lure discreetly. They are very suspicious fish and if we fail in the cast, many times our chances of catching them will vanish.
Hardlures, barbel fishing in Extremadura
If we decide to use hard lures, we must keep in mind that there is a high chance that the trebles will open up, so I recommend taking plenty of quality trebles. As in the previous case, it is important to observe the behavior of the fish before choosing the lure. If the wind hits hard on a bank, muddying it, we can use almost any lure, but when we face rough water conditions, things get complicated.
Linear retrieves are very often effective with this fish, so carrying crankbaits or lipless is almost mandatory. As in the previous case, small size lures tend to work better. We can also catch them with chatters and spinners, although they are not usually the most effective lures. If we see the fish wandering along the shore looking for food, using small jerks can also be very productive, but always picking them up quickly. I have caught barbel with 17 cm jerks, but this is not usual, so I recommend the use of jerks between 7 and 10 cm.
However, if we are lucky enough to face one of those days when the barbel eat on top layers, topwater fishing is undoubtedly the most entertaining. Small stickbaits, propellers, poppers… will give us unforgettable casts. As basic tips regarding the equipment to use, I recommend M or ML rods, preferably parabolic and with the reel brake quite loose to avoid as much as possible the triple openings. Normally with spinning rods we can better cast really small lures at long distance, but we can use casting perfectly well.
Searching for the deepest barbel
As spring progresses and the water warms up, if we talk about fishing in reservoirs most of the barbel look for deeper, cooler and more oxygenated water. We can catch them close to the shore in the early and late hours of the day, but most of the day they will be more comfortable deep.
It is not a fish that suffers too much with depth changes, as it can happen to pike, black bass or zander, but I don’t like to fish them below 12 meters. I don’t like to fish the fish too deep, it seems to me that it is producing unnecessary suffering, the risk of them dying increases with depth and there is always a way to catch fish in less critical layers.
If we are confronted with a reservoir in which there are shoals of small fish, we have several options: fishing for suspended barbel or “scraping” the bottom in knobby areas.
If we decide to catch suspended fish we can drop the lure at the right depth, move the boat very slowly and see if they react. Many times this technique is really effective but I personally don’t find it too “meritorious”. So I don’t usually use it, unless I’m really lost and I’m not able to get bites in any other way.
The few times I decide to fish vertically, I prefer to spin around with the lure in my hand and only cast it when I locate a fish with the fish finder. This way we will cheat less fish, but we will cheat them ourselves, moving the lure in the way we consider best until we get the desired bite.
When fish are suspended in the middle of great depths, scraping the bottom is not an option so we have to use suspended fish techniques. What I usually do in these cases is to make a couple of passes with the sonar in the area to see how deep the fish are. We can also see if they are hunting or not. I then make long casts (usually with a pikie), let it go down to the depth I think is key and bring it back to the boat on a continuous retrieve. It’s very important to hold the depth to be more time in the “hot area”.
Some days they prefer fast retrieves, others slower, others sawtooth…. Sometimes they come after the lure up to the vertical of the float tube or boat. This is when our expertise comes into play to see what kind of movements they want. We can also use other types of lures such as lipless, blades or small spoons. It’s all a matter of trying and seeing with which lures we get the most bites.
SCRAPING THE BOTTOM,BARBEL FISHING IN EXTREMADURA
When the fish are deep and we can’t catch them in the first 4 meters of water, this is the fishing I like to practice the most. It is also important to make several laps with the fish finder to see if there are small fish in the area. If we cast where there is no food, the density of barbel will be lower and therefore the chances of a bite.
Using a small pikie is usually the most effective and easiest way, scraping the bottom or fishing as close to the bottom as we can. After a while of fishing we will locate the most productive depths and cast our lures there in order to provoke more bites. It is not the same to fish between 4 and 10 meters than between 6 and 8…
As in the previous case we can also use lipless, blades, small spoons…. But in this case, if the bottom has many hooks, we will lose valuable time unhooking. If this is the case, we can also use rigs in which the hook is not uncovered. We will miss more bites but we will also spend more time fishing and less time unhooking, so we will surely catch more fish.
In general for this deep fish fishing we will use a bit more powerful equipment than in the previous case. The use of braid is more than recommended. If we fish close to the bottom it is also practically essential to use a fluorocarbon leader to avoid breakage. The moment it is hooked, the barbel pulls to the bottom like a shot. It is probably the species that looks for the bottom the most, so it is important to use the right leader.
I hope these small tips will be useful and you will be encouraged to try barbel fishing in Extremadura. In the summer months when fishing for other species becomes more difficult, it is an excellent and very entertaining option.