Some of the Biggest Successes with Cold Weather Bassing Happen During February
The late afternoon sun had done a lot to dispel the chilly start to this February day. Even though the morning start had been very chilly, let’s be honest here, it was cold this morning.
I had to scrape a little frost off my truck windshield before I could drive to the lake this morning. The afternoon with a very light breeze and the strengthening sun was quite pleasant. I had even caught a few bass during the day, so this was not at all a bad day for cold weather bassing.
However, this day was about to get a lot better. On a small cove just off the main body of the lake I was fishing, I found a downed treetop that projected into the clear water and disappeared into deeper water. The sun had been able to shine on the shoreline in this little cove for most of the day. I hoped that the water had warmed just a bit more than the surrounding waters of the main lake.
I cast my chartreuse spinnerbait right up against the shoreline and started my retrieve. When the spinnerbait reached the blowdown, I let the lure stop and then sink. The spinner blade helicoptered slowly as the lure sank. I didn’t want to let the lure sink too far so that it snagged into the limbs of the old tree.
When I started my retrieve again, I felt the solid resistance that I knew meant I had waited just a second too long and had now snagged my new spinnerbait. However, is a treetop going to slowly move off the shoreline and into deeper water like that? Is a treetop going to start bending my rod way over like this? Is a treetop going to come to the surface and roll and then make a full out of the water jump like this?
I managed to keep this big bass – certainly the biggest bass I’ve ever hooked – on the line. I got the big old girl back to me still solidly hooked. After a final strong rush at the boat, I was able to lift the bass into the boat where I could admire her and unhook her – after my hands stopped shaking. This bass was truly well over 10 pounds – and that’s with no angler lies involved!
I shot a few photos and then I eased the tired bass back into the water. She finned quietly for a moment and then she was gone.
I do love fishing for big bass in February. There’s a lot of great cold weather bassing just waiting for anglers who want to spend some chilly time on the waters of lakes and streams in Alabama.
Fishing Big Water in Early Spring
Our buddy Capt. Jake Davis of Mid-South Bass Guide Service tells us that although the weather may still be winter cold on the big Alabama lakes along the Tennessee River system in February, things are really starting to look up for cold weather bassing, especially for anglers who like to catch big bass.
He says, “When I go about cold weather bassing in early spring, I’ll start in the major creeks looking for shad and other baitfish located just outside the flats. The best places to find the big bass normally are around creek channel bends and any place that causes a narrowing of the channel or chokepoint in the creek.”
Although the massive grass mats that make Guntersville in particular so popular with bass anglers are long gone, many very big bass hang around close to the grass mat areas. Anglers who have kept good records of where they’ve caught fish under weeds can often locate big bass in the same areas even though the grass has disappeared.
A point that Captain Jake is quick to mention for anglers looking for big early spring bass action is that finding places on the massive Guntersville waters that are warmer than surrounding waters is a very good idea. Even if the water is just a few degrees warmer over a sunny shoreline or a rocky bluff that receives a lot of sunlight, bass will orient to the warmer water. Captain Jake says, “Normally on Guntersville, the big bass will start feeding up for the spawn, so I look for warmer water as most bass hang around the warmest areas of the lake.”
During early spring, big bass will be feeding on a wide range of natural food sources. Shad and crawfish are prime early-spring food items for bass. Crawfish especially can be irresistible for big bass. Of course, for anglers, this means that lures colored like real crawfish and fished in places where crawfish naturally occur are more likely to attract bass. It seems that “mudbugs” are a prime source of early spring nutrition for big bass. In the cool water, crawfish don’t move too fast, are easy to catch and they provide a lot of good nutrition for the big bass getting ready to spawn. So any lure that closely imitates a crawfish is a good bet for bass anglers and cold weather bassing.
“Anglers need to look for line twitches and the line moving slowly off to one side at this time of year.”
Captain Jake says, “Most of my bigger fish have come on a Mussel Crawler jig from Tightline Jigs or a Texas-rigged D-Bomb from Missile Baits. When my clients ask me for advice on how to work these crawfish lookalike lures, I tell them it’s simple. Think SLOW!”
When the water is as chilly as it is in February, bass, especially big bass, will take a lure presented to them that acts like an easy meal and doesn’t require a lot of energy to catch. Also, anglers don’t need to expect a massive rip-the-rod-out-of-your-hands strike. Most strikes from really big bass in February are surprisingly gentle and hard to detect. Frequently when fishing soft plastics very slowly on the bottom, the take of a big bass will feel like a gradual heavy weight that pulls back on the line. Anglers need to look for line twitches and the line moving slowly off to one side of the retrieve to be sure a bass has taken it at this time year.
Even though big cold weather bassing in February might require patience and very slow presentations, this is prime time to find and catch some trophy bass. Captain Jake smiles when he tells us, “From February to mid-April, I’ve had clients catch fish in the 10- to 11-pound range. One of my best Guntersville fish, a 12.65-pound bass, came on a Mussel Crawler jig at this time.”
In February Think Small
Although most anglers thinking about finding some big bass automatically think about places like Guntersville, Weiss, Wheeler and Millers Ferry, the truth is that some of the biggest of big bass are caught in very small places each spring. Small private ponds and lakes all over Alabama grow some monstrous bass. Since many of these small private lakes and ponds receive little or no fishing pressure, big bass are not nearly as cautious and hard to fool as bass from the bigger, harder fished waters.
In southern Alabama where I spend a lot of time cold weather bassing, I’ve caught the biggest bass of my life, several over 10 pounds, all from tiny lakes. The reason these small waters are so good for early spring fishing? They warm up quickly in the spring sun. A few days of bright February sun can raise the water temperature of a small pond to the range where big bass start to think about spawning. This triggers a strong urge to feed and gain strength for the spawn. Anglers can quietly walk around a small pond or lake, cast from the shoreline and find some very large bass after the water starts to warm up just a bit.
I’ve had great early spring fishing for big bass in small ponds using big flashy spinnerbaits worked along the shoreline. If I can see a log or even just a limb that has fallen into the pond, that spot gets special attention. Don’t give up on a big bass if it strikes at a lure and misses. Come back the next day and that big old girl will most likely be right back in the same spot where she struck and missed the day before.
Another way to fish smaller waters for big bass is to look for little bays and pockets connect to major lakes. These small offshoots often warm quicker than the rest of the main lake. Big bass will pull up into these little pockets and bays to get an early start on the feed for spawning.
Also, these little bays often hold schools of crappie getting ready to spawn and big bass love to eat nice, fat crappie as much as we do. Look for early spring crappie spawning around willow trees and other wooden cover way back in small coves and bays off the main lakes. After locating crappie, pull a big crankbait just off the deeper side of the crappie bed. You’ll want to hold on to the rod tightly. When hungry spring bass eat up a fake crappie, they aren’t shy about it.
So, whether an angler prefer to fish big waters or small waters for big bass in February, the waters of Alabama provide some of the best fishing anywhere. Spending some early spring days on the water watching the world coming back from winter into spring is one of the best ways known to have really great days outdoors.
Important Contact Information
Capt. Jake Davis
Mid-South Bass Guide Service