Go slow for bass at High Rock Lake through February

Angler Chris Brown looks for stained to clear water for February bass at High Rock Lake.

February is an unpredictable month for bass fishing, but the fish that bite are usually big.

“It can be in the 70s one day and be bitter cold the next day,” said veteran angler Chris Brown of Lexington, N.C. “Given a warming trend, some of the biggest bass of the season move to shallow, staging areas.”

Brown mainly fishes High Rock Lake, and though that impoundment is not known as an early season hot spot for largemouth bass., last year’s unseasonably warm weather triggered some excellent fishing in February

Whether the water level is up or down, Brown fishes the same way.

“Most of the time, the lake will be down several feet, which makes the fishing somewhat easier for me because the fish aren’t as scattered and the cover is limited,” said Brown, who heads for creeks and targets the mouths of small pockets about midway back.

“The fish aren’t on the bottom this early in the year,” Brown said. “They’re suspended in about 4 to 7 feet of water and sluggish because of the cold water. I use a slow retrieve so I don’t take the bait away from the fish. Many times, I can’t feel the bite; the fish is suddenly just there.”

Brown uses Nos. 5 and 7 Shad Raps in gold and crawfish colors as well as jerkbaits. The No. 5 Shad Rap is his go-to bait.

Unlike many fishermen, he doesn’t use spinning tackle to fish Shad Raps, which are light and difficult to cast. Instead, he fishes them with a 6-foot-8, medium-action Level Performance Rod designed for small crankbaits and jerkbaits. He pairs the rod with an Ardent baitcasting reel filled with 8-pound fluorocarbon.

“The sensitivity of the fluorocarbon line increases my chances of detecting light strikes,” Brown said. “I can also feel my bait moving no matter how slow the retrieve.”

Brown targets corners and shallow rocks in the pockets; he favors slightly stained or clear water and hates muddy water.

“Muddy water is the worst condition a fisherman can face in February,” he said. “I’ll stay home unless I’m fishing a tournament.”

Flat Swamp Creek often features clear water, making Brown switch baits. “I’ll go to a jerkbait and fish it slowly along the rocky wall and pockets within the Swamp,” he said. “I’ve caught some huge bass fishing that way.”

Brown said as long as the water temperature is above 50 degrees, he can catch bass.