Many bass anglers keep their boats parked until March, which is accepted as a transition month for fish, but Stacy Atkinson of Florence, S.C., said February is really the time to go, especially during short spells of warmer-than-normal weather in Sparkleberry Swamp, headwaters of the famed Santee Cooper lakes.
“A lot of guys look to March as the earliest time to get after bass, but Sparkleberry Swamp is a huge area of shallow water with lots of flooded cypress trees,” he said, “and February usually has some 55-, 65-, even 70-degree days. During those warming trends, that shallow water heats up quickly. That’s when bass love to hang tight to the base of those trees, where heat is transferred into the water.”
Many of the anglers who do venture out in February usually stick to slower-moving lures like Ned rigs, suspending jerkbaits or jigs worked slowly along the bottom, but Atkinson takes a different approach.
“There’s really only two lures I use this time of year. I’ll cast a spinnerbait and work it at different speeds and different depths,” he said. “You can cover a lot of water quickly with a spinnerbait. Once I catch a few fish, I’ll go back through those locations and work them more thoroughly with a floating worm. And I get laughed at a lot, but my favorite is a pink floating worm.”
Atkinson, who operates Low County Wildlife TV, said floating worms are versatile lures that allow anglers to adjust their approach to suit the fish on any given day.
“You can work them as fast or slow as you want. And you can change your speed until you find what they want that day — or that hour,” said Atkinson, who said you can rig these worms in a weedless fashion, or hook them “wacky style” — straight through the middle. This gives the worm a totally different look, with both ends flailing wildly with each jerk of the rod tip.
“You don’t want to be out casting in open water,” he said. “You want to get your worm passing close to the base of these flooded trees. That’s where you’re going to get most of your bites this time of year.”