February can be a mixed bag weather-wise, so anglers heading to the Atchafalaya Basin this month need to be prepared for a wide-range of options depending on what Mother Nature has in store.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Cliff Crochet, who lives in Pierre Part and grew up fishing the Basin, knows firsthand just how much conditions can change depending on what the thermometer reads.
“You never know with the weather,” Crochet said with a grin. “It just kind of depends on what happens with the fronts. You might have all three going on depending on where you're at - prespawn, spawn or post-spawn.
“It might not get cold until the end of January, and some fish might start spawning. Then winter hits, and the rest won’t go until March. That's the nature of the beast in South Louisiana.”
But like the old saying says, “You gotta go to know,” so Crochet shared his Top 5 lures to catch more Basin bass this month — despite the weather:
1. ½-ounce black-and-blue jig
“Bar none, no doubt, this is No. 1,” he said. “You can flip it, or you can swim it. That’s a big plus right there. If I come up to a cypress tree or a laydown or a slough, as I come up to it I can throw it and make a long cast and swim it back, popping my rod tip and reeling. That will get some bites on aggressive fish.
“Once I get to that piece of cover, if I don’t catch, I can flip it in there and fish it back with a traditional jig retrieve.”
And water-wise, Crochet said pretty much anything goes except muddy water.
“Stained water is fine, good green Basin water is perfect and even clear water in February is good. As long as it’s not black, you’re fine.”
2. Luck-E-Strike Floating RC STX
It’s a versatile jerkbait that Crochet uses to both target cover and cover lots of water.
“If they’re on trees and laydowns, it’s a slow retrieve trying to get that fish on that piece of cover to bite,” he said. “If they’re not on that cover because of clouds or water temperature or whatever, then it turns into covering water. Sometimes you can catch those rascals in the middle of the canal.”
He also uses it to along the bank.
“There can be a lot of fish caught way off the bank, where there is a drop in the canal or they’re suspended off the bank a little bit,” Crochet said. “One of the keys is to retrieve the bait all the way to the boat.
“That’s a big deal to catch a couple of extra fish — fish that jerkbait all the way back to the boat.”
3. Luck-E-Strike Pow Stick with a Humdinger Keith Poche Power Spinner
“Even though February can sometimes be freezing cold, we know that doesn’t happen all the time, so you could be dealing with some spawning fish depending on what’s what with the weather,” Crochet said. “So I’ll throw that rascal all the way up on the bank, either dead-sticking — or that spinner is a pretty good deal if you’re reeling slow.
“Once I get it off the bank a little bit, I just kind of slow roll it. I’ll just steady reel it back to the boat. It won’t be on the bottom a whole bunch — maybe a foot-and-a-half below the water surface.”
He favors black-and-gold or green pumpkin, and likes the addition of the spinner for a couple of reasons.
“One, it’s relatively new and they hadn’t seen a whole bunch of it,” he said. “Another thing I like about it is when you’re worm fishing with that blade — picking it up and letting it fall — that blade pulls the worm backwards away from you so it’s a different fall.”
4. Hollow-body swimbait
A swimbait like Luck-E-Strike's Bass Magic can be deadly this month — and Crochet loves to cover water with it.
“When it gets cool and those fish get active, they’re not scared to get a big bite and a big meal,” he said. “This one’s more about covering water. I’m not so much worried about pieces of cover — I’m quarter-casting in canals.
“I want to throw way out in front of the boat and hit 10 feet off the bank to the middle of the bayou for fish not really up, just hanging out.”
5. ¼-ounce Rat-L-Trap
Crochet said he favors black-and-chrome, or chrome-and-blue models, or maybe even reds and golds in the wintertime.
“Grass is always good,” he said. “If you have some old grass in a canal, it’s always good to rip a Trap. You could be dealing with prespawn fish hanging out off the bank, but my trolling motor is on 70 and I’m flinging it and covering a bunch of water.”