Lots of bass fishermen shy away from fishing in February, and that’s a big mistake. The fishing can be tremendous if you can get a little warming trend. You’ll need to break out your crankbaits, your jerkbaits and your jigs — and an Alabama rig, you can’t leave that out.
This is a really good time to go fishing, because unless the water is really cold — and we usually get our coldest weather in mid-January — bass are going to be in 10 feet of water or less, but they’ll be close to deep water, immediately close, no matter where you go. This is one time you aren’t paying attention to shad, because they can be way out in the middle of the lake. This time of year, bass are concentrating on crawfish.
When it comes to crankbaits, I like crawfish patterns. Reds are good, dark brown or medium brown, golds. Jerkbaits are good in gold, blue/silver, and on real clear lakes like Badin, translucent is a good choice. The biggest thing you have to remember is to slow down the way you fish.
If you’re fishing a jerkbait, and you’re used to fishing with a jerk-jerk-pause cadence, you need to make that pause longer. I’ll pause up to 15 seconds; some of those boys from the Ozarks will pause them 30 to 45 seconds, and they really catch fish. It’s the same thing with a crankbait. Get it down, then slow up your retrieve. Stop-and-go is a good retrieve. You can pull the bait with your rod tip and wind in the slack. That’s another good technique.
I like to fish any crankbait that suspends. If you’ve got confidence in a bait like that, use it. A bait like an old Bagley’s Killer B-2, something with a wide, hard wobble, is good in cold water; it will call up fish. Or you can go to some place like Lake Norman and fish the hot hole and fish your baits faster. On a real warm day, you can’t leave out minnow-type baits like Shad Raps. Fish will come out of deep water to hit them. If you find fish and get on a good pattern, fishing baits slowly can get you a good stringer of fish.
Tackle wise, I go small; I will go to light line, 8- or 10-pound Trilene, or even Trilene 100-Percent Fluorocarbon. I like to fish jerkbaits on fluorocarbon, because it helps them get down a little deeper. It will make a little bit of a difference fishing a crankbait, but I don’t like to use it on big baits because it will stretch.
For fishing the little crankbaits I like to fish in February, I don’t go for a long crankbait rod. I like to fish Lew’s 6-foot-6 Perfect Crankbait rod in medium action. You can throw those little baits on it, and you can cast it more accurately to targets. When I tie on a jerkbait, I like to move up to a 7-foot rod. I want that longer rod because it gives you the opportunity to make a big sweep and pull your bait down deeper. For reels, I’ll fish a Lew’s BB-1 reel with a 6.4-to-1 retrieve ratio for crankbaits. You can go up to a 7-to-1 ratio for jerkbaits, but you can get by with the 6.4-to-1.
Where do you find February bass? They’ll be close to deep water. Think main-lake areas. Look for rocks and dark bottoms. The blacker the rock, the better. I’ve seen them get on red, red banks, but a lot of lakes don’t have them. If you can find red banks with chunk rock, they can be real good. Riprap around bridges — anything that will hold heat like that — they’ll be good spots. Fish rocky banks, rocky points, rocky corners.
If you get on a little concentration of fish on a place like that, you can take out a jig and really fish the area out slowly. You’ll usually wind up catching a little better-quality fish.
As you get toward the end of the month, things should get better, because February sort of bleeds right into March. Keep looking and try to fish every time we get a warming trend, because fish will move shallow to feed. Whatever you do, don’t stay home.