The 48-year-old Scot, who spent more than a month in an alcohol rehabilitation centre earlier this year, shot a seven-under-par score of 65. His companions at the top are his fellow Scot, Ross Drummond, and Ruben Alvarez from Argentina.
Having lost his European tour card last year, Barnes is relying on sponsor's invitations this season. He only knew he was playing in Jersey on Monday. He did not have one bogey in his round, starting with a 20-foot putt for a two and adding six more birdies.
The 36-year-old Drummond's score equalled his lowest round in 15 years on the tour. He was eight under when he made a 15ft putt on the long 16th, but bogeyed the next.
Alvarez, a former football professional, was eight under with two to play, but he dropped a shot at the 17th. In joint fourth place are another Scot, Brian Marchbank, and the New Zealander Greg Turner, the winner of the Italian Open last month.
Europe's leading money winner, Sam Torrance, hoping for his fourth victory of the season, stumbled to three over after five holes, but recovered for a 70. Mark James, who preferred this tournament to the US Open, was not regretting his decision after beginning with a 68.
JERSEY EUROPEAN AIRWAYS OPEN (La Moye, Jersey): Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 65 B Barnes, R Drummond, R Alvarez (Arg). 66 B Marchbank, G Turner (NZ). 67 K Waters, T Giedeon (Ger), G Brand Jnr, J Spence, S Bennett. 68 J M Canizares (Sp), H Clark, J McHenry, M Clayton (Aus), M James, M Mouland, C Cassells, I Palmer (SA), M Roe, W Westner (SA), T Levet (Fr), S Richardson. 69 G Ralph, R Claydon, M Poxon, G Furey, M McLean, A Hunter. 70 M Mackenzie, R Mann, D Cooper, R McFarlane, P Way, P Baker, R Rafferty, R Lee, J Robson, D Smyth, J Payne, R Boxall, J Sewell, S Torrance, T Charnley, P Talbot, B Malley (US), A Bossert (Swit). 71 M Krantz (Swe), T Horton, P Lawrie, J Robinson, D Curry, S Bowman (US), S Smith, C Mason, W Stephens, P Curry, D Ray, G Hjerstedt (Swe). 72 A Sherborne, P Walton, P Fulke (Swe), A Coltart, B Gallacher, R Chapman, A Oldcorn, I Garbutt, D J Russell, E O'Connell, M Miller, M Gates, A Lebouc (Fr), T Pernice (US), D A Russell.Reuse content