February can dish out some brutal weather, but as winter slowly loosens its grip, bass fishing can be phenomenal. This is a transition month for bass fanatics across South Carolina, and it might be the one month when location means more than ever. Sparkleberry Swamp and the other nearby swamps of the Santee Cooper region should be on your list of February fishing destinations.

Stacy Atkinson of Low Country Wildlife said this area is one of the quickest to warm up, and February is one of his favorite months for bass fishing.

“A lot of people think that March is when the weather begins to warm up enough to get the bass really active, but it actually happens in February most years,” Atkinson said, “A few days with the air temperature warming slightly will make a big difference in the water temperature, especially in this part of Santee where the water is relatively shallow and full of cypress trees, which transfer heat into the water.” 

That transfer of heat is what gets the bass eating and turning more active than they have been in a while, and Atkinson uses two lures to catch them.

“I start off fishing with a spinnerbait, but that’s really just to locate them. Once I catch a few and make a note of where I caught them, I go back and work those areas more thoroughly with the best lure I’ve found for this time of year — a pink floating worm,” he said.

One thing about fishing this month, Atkinson said, is that you can forget about the early bird catching the worm. He said it’s best to let the sun get up, then fish the sunlit areas.

“I like to fish the sunny spots where there’s a line of cypress trees that meet open water. A lot of times, the bass will be hugging those trees, and they like the ability to venture into the open, too,” he said. “So where there’s a bunch of cypress trees, spend a lot of time fishing the ones that meet open water. They are the warmest, and they transfer that heat into the water. Sometimes you have to hit the tree with the worm and just let it slide into the water to reach them.”

Atkinson said anglers shouldn’t be afraid to head back to the landing and drive to another one nearby if the fish aren’t biting.

“I’ve seen the water temperatures warmer in the swamps out of Packs Landing than they are at Sparkleberry by as much as two or three degrees, and that makes a huge difference to the bass. This area of Santee warms up before the rest, but even here, one swampy area that’s nearby can be considerably warmer than another,” he said.