Yep, fishing this month can be just miserable. But it also can be the best time of the year to catch big bass. So here’s where you need to fish and how you can tie into some great fish.
There is a certain mentality I have that makes me want to roll over and pull the covers over my head on the exact morning I’ve been waiting on to get in the deer stand.
I mean, why would I want to get out of a warm bed to sit in a cold deer stand? I would much rather wait for a warm spell so the cold can’t inconvenience me.
In other words, I sleep in when the deer are moving and hunt when it’s too late.
No wonder I don’t kill very many deer: I just don’t have the resolve.
Some bass anglers feel the same way about fishing during February. They know it’s one of the best times to be on the water because the big girls are on the move, but they also know it’s cold outside, baby.
Therefore, many just roll over, pull the covers over their heads and wait for March.
Other anglers — those in the know — understand how big of a mistake it is to sleep through February bass fishing in the Bayou State.
Rather than banging the snooze button, they buck up, bundle up and break any ties that bind them to the bank.
And we asked five of these die-hard anglers to run down the best waterbodies and patterns for this time of year, just to help you build up the resolve to roll out of bed and hit the water.
Here are their thoughts one where to go in each region of the state, and how to put fish in the boat even when the weather tempts you to sleep in.
This year, Russ McVey of Southpaw Guide Service will leave the comfy confines of his home on the banks of Lake Bistineau in Northwest Louisiana to get a jump on some big, pre-spawn bass.
“February is definitely prespawn here,” McVey said. “And prespawn is when you catch your big bass. Bass fishing during February is not all that different from deer hunting during the rut: Deer get stupid because they’re so focused on reproducing, and bass get stupid because they’re so focused on eating.
“That’s why your odds of catching a big bass go way up during February.”
In fact, McVey believes February is as good as it gets for catching big bass in his corner of the state.
And, while most would point to Caddo Lake as the best of the best for trophy bass, McVey offered a few other possibilities, depending on what kind of fishing you’re looking for.
“For trophy bass, you can’t beat Caddo,” he said. “Hands down, it’s the best in Northwest Louisiana for big bass. Cross Lake is a good trophy lake, too, during February — although you might not catch as many, there are a lot of good, trophy bass in there.
“For numbers of bass, you can’t beat the Red River during February. But even with those numbers the Red still has the potential for trophy fish. The odds are better at Caddo, but the Red River still has the potential. And Bistineau — not knocking my home lake — is a good, solid lake with lots of 3- to 5-pounders in it.”
The key to fishing any of these bodies of water during February is to understand that bass can be in one location early in the morning and an entirely different location later in the day.
McVey understands this means they’ll likely be in 8 to 12 feet of water in the morning and as shallow as they can get in the afternoon.
“A key tip would be to watch your water temperature and sky conditions,” McVey said. “My key temperature range is 54 to 56 degrees. Let’s say you have 50-degree water in the morning. If it’s a sunny day, that water temperature may jump up to 54 by lunch.
“When that happens, you better be heading to shallow water.”
Once he figures out if the fish are deep or shallow, McVey fishes several presentations to determine how the fish want a bait.
His big four variables are fast, slow, vertical or horizontal.
“Maybe they want a horizontal bait like a lipless crankbait,” explained. “Well, do they want it burned under the surface or ticking the top of the grass?
“Maybe they want a vertical bait like a jig. Well, do they want a 1/2-ounce jig falling quickly, or do they want the slow fall of a 1/4-ounce jig?
James Bordelon, a Central Louisiana tournament angler, definitely doesn’t sleep through February because he knows that, even though February is a cold month, cold in Louisiana isn’t as cold as in northern states.
“We might get some cold weather, but it’s not extremely cold,” Bordelon said. “And there’s no doubt that February is one of the best bass-fishing months of the year in Central Louisiana.
“I mean, just look at what happened when the (Bassmaster) Classic came to the Red River in February: Those pros caught them as shallow as can be.”
In Central Louisiana, Bordelon believes there is a reason just about every local tournament trail begins its season at Black Lake in Campti.
“It’s always my first choice in February, whether I’m fishing a tournament or not,” Bordelon said. “It’s a shallow, cypress-tree lake with lots of cover and a bridge crossing it.
“In February, you can molly-hop on that bridge with an Alabama rig. Then you can go down the channel all day long catching them on a jig.”
After Black Lake, Bordelon pointed out the Saline-Larto complex as an excellent February fishery.
“Saline is so good because the deepest water is only 20 feet deep, which means the water warms up faster than other lakes around here,” he explained. “It doesn’t take nearly as long for fish in Saline to feel a warming trend and react accordingly.”
The lower Red River, while offering all the perfect transitions of deep and shallow water that February bass look for, is on his short list, too — although Bordelon feels the pools in Central Louisiana get even better during March than they are during February.
Bordelon pays particular attention to water color during February to help find water he’s confident will hold bass. He looks for something he called “just a little bit clearer than muddy” because it’s going to warm faster.
“I also like to fish spots that get the most sun,” he said. “That means sticking around those pockets on the northwest corner of a lake.”
No matter where he fishing during February, Bordelon relies on a jig or a vibrating jig tied to 20-pound Hi-Seas Quattro fluorocarbon because he feels he can get away with using heavier line due to the water clarity and the fact that bass aren’t nearly as finicky in February as they will be during April.
Although he lives between Monroe and Shreveport, Sid Havard spends a lot of time fishing Caney Lake and Lake D’Arbonne during February.
And, like the rest of the February fans, he is adamant that this month is the absolute best time of the year to be on the water.
“A lot of people are still holding off on hitting the lake for whatever reason,” Havard said, “but I’ve noticed that the colder, the windier, the nastier the weather you can train-wreck them during February.”
Havard has noticed that Northeast Louisiana bass have a tendency to hang out en masse on the first drop out from a spawning flat, where he can stay on them a few weeks in a row before they finally commit to moving up shallow to spawn.
“Say you’ve got a 3-foot pocket with a drop out in front of it that goes down to 8 feet,” he said. “They’ll get on the edge of that drop and hold there — maybe running up shallow every now and then to check it out — until the water temperature gets right.
“And from what I’ve seen, it’s the same spots every year.”
A 1-ounce spinnerbait has become Havard’s go-to lure for finding where bass stack up on these breaks on Lake D’Arbonne.
He positions his boat so he can cast parallel to the break, and crawls it with the break rather than against it. This keeps his bait in the strike zone a lot longer, making it easier for him to pinpoint the sweet spot on the drop-off.
“On Caney, it’s a little different,” Havard said. “I’ll fish the first drop-off with a Rat-L-Trap rather than the heavy spinnerbait. They like crawfish colors — browns, oranges, and reds — down there.”
Since the pockets are so long on Caney, Havard sometimes idles into a pocket until he reaches the first transition. Then he’ll back off and fish that break kind of like it’s a half moon by throwing a Trap shallow and reeling it back deep.
“A lot of people throw a jig,” he added, “but if you’re going to do that, try dragging on the bottom rather than hopping it. Pull it sideways maybe a foot or so, and let it sit.”
Havard’s main tip for fishing February is to slow down: Whether it’s because the fish are a little lethargic or they’re full from eating, a slow presentation seems to work better for him whenever he feels he has to force-feed bass.
Unlike the rest of Louisiana, South Louisiana has much more that can go wrong during February to derail the best bass fishing of the year.
As a matter of fact, all the variables that can conspire to derail bass fishing sometimes scheme to make you too late even if you feel like you’re getting an early February start.
“Weather is the wild card,” long-time angler Jason Pittman said. “If we have a cold January, everything will kick in during February. But if we have a mild January, then you’ll be catching the tail end of the best fishing if you wait until February.”
The good thing about February in Southeast Louisiana, though, is that no matter what the weather is doing you should be able to find bass in all three phases of the spawn this month.
“Then it’s just a matter of whether you want to fish a suspending bait for prespawn or post-spawn bass or move up shallow and flip trees and bushes to catch fish that are on the beds,” Pittman said.
Bayou Black gets the nod for being the best Southeast Louisiana has to offer this month. Like Black Lake in Campti, Bayou Black is where local tournaments are held during January and February before moving off to other waters later in the spring.
“You can actually start at Black Lake and then progressively move east toward the Bayou Segnette area — not necessarily Lake Cataouatche —and then bring it back around to the (Lake Pontchartrain) north shore from the Pearl River all the way to Manchac.”
Pittman’s No. 1 tip for February bass fishing in this region of the state is to not trying to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow based on what happened today.
“Pay attention to the variables around you,” he said. “If something has changed dramatically and you don’t feel comfortable fishing it, then don’t. Don’t waste time because it was working two days ago; it can change every day with the tide, wind and water levels.
“Like they say down here: If you don’t like the conditions today, wait a day and it’ll change.”
The biggest change could be the 3 feet of water you flipped today could be only 6 inches deep tomorrow if a cold front blows through because any north or northwest wind blows water out of Southeast Louisiana.
“Since we’re already running low tides this time of year based on the January and February cycles and the moon phases, with a north wind what water was here today can be gone tomorrow,” Pittman said.
Bassmaster Elite pro Dennis Tietje of Roanoke gave a great reason why February is the best time to be fishing rivers like the Calcasieu and Sabine, but it had nothing to do with fishing.
“It might be a touchy subject, but it’s a fact: We live in a farming region, and most of our farming in Southwest Louisiana is rice farming,” Tietje said. “Once those fields get plowed, which happens in March, the runoff from that operation muddies up the water in the rivers.”
So February, along with January, is the best time to be on the water because the water is still actually in good shape. The big fish are coming in to feed and get ready for the spawn at a time before the rivers become almost impossible to fish because of muddy water.
“And what’s the predominate food during February?” Tietje asked. “Crawfish. That’s why I like fishing red spinnerbaits and red Strike King 1.5 crankbaits — anything that you can fish slow and still move a lot of water.
“But the key is to realize that you’re trying to mimic the color of crawfish rather than a crawfish itself, so add orange blades to your spinnerbait.”
Whatever lure you choose to throw, Tietje said his No. 1 tip for February fishing in Southwest Louisiana is to throw a bulky bait that you can fish slowly while moving a lot of water. For example, try a big Colorado blade on a spinnerbait — something to give off a big thump while pulling it super slow.
“The great thing about fishing these rivers during February is that you can actually see all the transition spots that are under water on a big lake,” Tietje said. “Fish the mouths of sloughs and mouths of cuts — any entrance that leads to a spawning area. That’s where bass will gang up and feed until they move back to spawn.”