The first thing I would look at when thinking about catching bass in February is clear water, because bass hate cold, muddy water. I think that's why you seem some good weights in tournaments on Lake Norman and Badin and Lake Wylie and even Buggs Island in February. The lakes that have the clearer water are going to be have fish that are a little more active earlier. Some of these power-plant lakes with clearer water have a little better current in February, and the fish are a little more active.
Once I've picked a lake to fish and tried to wait for a couple of warm days, I want to fish on the lower end of the lake, because that's usually where the clearest water is. And down there, I want to look for banks on the main lake where the bass can move up and down without having to move too far. You want to fish steep banks where you can be sitting in 20 feet of water and casting to the bank. You can find some fish back in the creeks, because sometimes the water will warm up in the extreme backs of the creeks and the fish will get active back there, but I'll only go way to the backs if the water is clear.
I'm sure the Alabama rig will be something to deal with this month, but I think that anytime you've got fish that are looking up - like bass are in February – you want to be fishing a jerkbait. A jerkbait, a swimbait or a crankbait like a Shad Rap or Swimmin' Minnow, those type baits, can be very productive. Crawfish colors are great. Shad colors are good anytime in most of our lakes in North Carolina, but I think browns, crawfish and golds are a little better this month.
I'm going to look or rip-rap banks or rocky banks where you've got a little current. Fish come by places like this all the time, and I've done real well off rip-rapped banks and steep banks in the late winter. You want that big water-depth change. You also want to fish northeastern banks, because they get more sunlight at this time of year than banks on the southern side of the lake, and so the water is going to be warmer in those areas. You also want to fish around warm-water discharges, if your lake has one, because the fish will be more active.
One thing you have to remember about bass is that they're cold-blooded. When they're cold, they don't move as fast or feed as much, and they don't move around as much. When the water temperatures are in the 40s, fishing can be extremely tough. But there's something about when the water warms up to about 48 to 50 degrees; that's when you can have some good days in February.
You always have the option of going out in deep water and catching them with spoons, but here in North Carolina, the days are starting to get a little longer this month, and fish are going to be getting more active.
I'd definitely look at fishing your clearer lakes like Wylie, Norman and Badin; I'd stay away from my home lake, High Rock, because it's usually muddy and it's not as good as the others. Buggs Island can be a really good lake in late February, even though we don't have many tournaments up there that time of year. And Gaston can be good.
The thing is, you have to give them a chance to be good. Pick a nice day, look for clear water, look for warmer water, and fish those more vertical banks where the big bass can move just a little ways and get into more shallow water to feed.