February can be a sweet month

A big jig-n-pig lure, with a trailer that allows it to fall slowly in the water column can be a producer of big bass during February.

February is a black mark on the calendar for a lot of fishermen in North Carolina.
Let’s face it, it can be awfully cold, and the lakes can be uninviting. You have to get tough to fish this month.

But the reward for your effort can be pretty good fishing near the end of the month, with a better-than-average chance to catch a trophy fish.

I have fished a lot of N.C. tournaments during February, and there are always a lot of really big fish caught.

I think the bigger female fish will come up in that cool water, and they’ll bite. They haven’t been under any kind of fishing pressure for a couple of months, since most people deer hunt in December and January is too cold. Big bass haven’t seen a bait in a while, and you can fool them a little easier.

Big female fish are just waiting for a chance to move up out of deep water and feed. You just need to pay attention to weather conditions and know what kinds of places they’re most likely show up.

The key to fishing in February is either to fish the warm water at a power plant lake or try to fish during a warming trend. Really, the surface temperature has got to be around 48 or 49 degrees before you really have a good chance to catch some fish.

And all lakes are different. Lake Wylie and Lake Norman are extremely good cold-water lakes, and even Buggs Island is not bad, but the fishing is a lot better when the water gets to 50 degrees. Wylie and Norman are good at 48.

In February the best patterns usually include a good, long cast from deep water to places like rip-rap at bridges, bluff banks that are near channels or banks with pebbles that have a really fast dropoff.

Fish don’t want to move up to flats until the water has been warming up for a while. They want to move up on places where they can go back out to deep water real quick if it gets cold. So you’re looking at places where you can position your boat in 15 or 20 feet of water and be able to make a long cast to the bank.

Your key depths are going to be anywhere from about 3 to 8 or 10 feet. A lot of that will have to do with exactly where the ledge is that drops off into deep water. How shallow do bass have to move to get there?

Most fishermen understand the role rocks play in warming up the water in their immediate areas. That’s why you fish a lot of rocky banks and rip-rap, because the water may be a degree or two warmer, and that will be enough to make bass move in.

What baits will work? A lot of fishermen swear by crankbaits and jigs, but that may be a little too general. There are several kinds of baits I really like.

A No. 7 or 8 or 9 Shad Rap will really work, and even some of the old Fat Raps in crawfish colors will produce if the water warms up a little bit.

I really like to fish the old original Rapalas, some of the old minnow-type baits you fish by pulling them with your rod tip instead of winding. They can be awesome in February because fish will come up out of deep water to hit them.

You throw them out and retrieve them by pulling them down and winding in the slack, pulling them down and winding in the slack.

When I’m working down a bank, looking for fish, I’ll use a Shad Rap or minnow-type bait. Usually, when you catch a fish, there’ll be more than one around. Typically, there’s a reason that fish was in that area, and more of them are going to be there. Where one big fish moves up, there usually will be three or four.

That’s when I go to a jig and fish a little slower. February has always been a good jig month, and jigs are great baits for big bass. One thing I’ve learned is that sometimes a bucktail or hair jig will be better than a standard rubber jig in real cold water.

The first tournament I ever won at the old High Rock Bassmasters club was years ago at Tuckertown Lake in late February. I was fishing with Jim Leonard, and we went up in Newsome’s Creek because that was one of the only places on the lake with clear water.

We went back past the little rocky island, and in five casts with a black bucktail jig, I caught 20 pounds. Jim has never let me forget that.

When I throw a bucktail jig like that, I like to fish a big trailer like a water dog or a split tail because that makes the bait real bulky and makes it fall a lot slower. Every once in a while now, I’ll resort to a bait like that, and it pays off.

If you understand what bass are doing in February and how to approach them, things like that may pay off for you, too.

Editor’s note: David Fritts is a 49-year-old professional bass fisherman from Lexington. He was the 1993 BASS Masters Classic champion, the 1993-94 BASS Angler of the Year and the 1997 FLW Tour Champion. His sponsors include: Bass Pro Shops, Ranger Boats, Chevy Trucks, Minn-Kota trolling motors, American Rodsmith, Rapala crankbaits and fishing line, Zoom plastics, Solar Bat sun glasses, Mountain Dew, Gripper (ECS Anchor Supply), VMC hooks, Pro Pocket and Blue Fox.

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About David Fritts 115 Articles
David Fritts is a 61-year-old pro bass fisherman from Lexington, N.C. He won the 1993 Bassmasters Classic champion and the 1997 FLW Tour Championship, and he was the 1994 BASS Angler of the Year. He is sponsored by Ranger boats, Evinrude outboards, Lew’s, Minnkota,and Berkley.

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