Stretching from Two Tree Channel south a half-mile past the Spindle, Bartlett Reef is a sprawling structure of varying depths. The inner reef, or area north of the Spindle, has a dominant feature consisting of an abrupt ledge that demonstrates a visible rip line in all moving tides. Striped bass and bluefish tend to concentrate on the down-tide side of this ledge, where tumbling baitfish make an easy meal in the turbulence. Surface action here is quite common, especially at dawn and dusk. The ledge itself and surrounding rockpiles also make for some excellent bottom fishing for blackfish and porgies (scup).
The narrowest portion of the ledge along the inner reef is an area referred to as “the Elbow.” This is a favorite spot to live-line baits of all types while drifting for stripers. When the bass are holding close to the bottom, using a three-way rig and a live scup can be deadly. Be forewarned that the bottom here is mighty sticky, so stay in contact with your drifting baits to avoid scoping and frequent hang-ups.
Many charter boat captains make the ledge at inner Bartlett a routine stop. Trolling umbrella rigs and snapping jigs on wire line on the east or west side of the ledge often fills their fish boxes for the day.
The outer reef, south of the Spindle, offers a progressively deeper range of features from 25 feet to 70 feet. The 50- to 70-foot depth range is a great place for diamond-jigging bass and blues, especially early in the season. Large soft-plastic baits or bucktails jigged near the bottom will get plenty of attention too.
Some very big bass, 50 pounds and up, frequent outer Bartlett, but there are a lot of places for them to hide out there. Consequently, it takes some dedication, persistence and experience to locate the big girls with any reliability. However, it is almost a sure bet if drifting live eels after dark.
Don’t be afraid to move around often to different portions of the outer reef and be sure to pay close attention to your electronics, using your chartplotter maps to locate structure and your sonar to pinpoint exact locations that hold fish.
-Thanks to Pat “T-Man” Renna for insider information.