Morgan City outdoorsman Bill McCarty might spend more of his time these days fishing for bass to the west in the marshy Bayou Black area in February.

But he knows one of his proven hotspots over the past few decades has unlimited potential for a bass-fishing bonanzas this year.

McCarty is sure to make at least a few rounds this month in the Shell Oil Canals, locally known as the Shell Cuts, in the lower Spillway.

This oil-field complex is located across from Adam’s Landing along Big Fork Bayou.

“It’s a good place to catch big bass,” McCarty said. “They’re easy to catch if the river’s low.”

He said that vulnerability means anglers should be willing to let bass live after catching them.

“I hope people respect the resource,” McCarty said.

Weekends can be crowded in there, he said.

“It’s not a secret spot by any stretch,” McCarty said, quickly adding that there are so many dead-end canals that it’s possible to get away from the maddening crowd.

“There are hundreds of dead-end locations off it,” he said. “It’s a matter of finding one they’re stacked in.

“They’ve got some good fish in it — It’s a matter of finding the right one.”

Barring a hard rise in the Atchafalaya River, the Shell Cuts should be at a prime water level for February. As long as the river stage at Morgan City is below 4 feet, bassin’ prospects ought to be fair to great.

At the time of his report, the river stage was at about 3.59 feet.

“The way it’s shaping up, it looks like it will be” at a level conducive to successful bass fishing, he said.

McCarty, who owns WHM Services and serves as a St. Mary Parish School Board member, knows the area like the back of his hand — maybe better. He’s been pulling bass from it since his high school days nearly 30 years ago.

When the water and weather conditions are favorable, he said an angler can average 15 to 20 bass with a couple 3s and possibly a 5-pounder.

His go-to lures are watermelon/red or june bug Zoom Brush Hogs, similarly colored D-Bombs or Zoom Speed Craws and 3/8-ounce chartreuse/white or chartreuse/blue/white spinnerbaits with single gold Colorado blades.

Where to put those artificial lures?

“I look for the warmest water I can find,” McCarty said, “and I like to see the bait 10 or 12 inches under the water. Look for some kind of cover off the bank, whether it’s laydowns, hyacinths or hydrilla.

“Those fish are getting ready to spawn.”

Where fish are located depends on the water temperature. If it’s above 60 to 62 degrees, they can be in the shallows. Below that, they’ll be deeper, often along a drop-off.