It’s officially big bass season in Texas.
With that idea in mind, how do you go about catching a big February bass?
For that, I turn to my friend Steve Hollensed, a former bass tournament angler turned full-time fly fishing guide on Lake Texoma (Flywater Angling Adventures, www.flywaterangling.com, 903-546-6237).
Back in his conventional tackle days, Hollensed burned up plenty of gasoline chasing big bass, particularly in February and March.
Before making any of those cross-state journeys, however, he would watch the Weather Channel intently to find a tranquil, sunny period of several days that was destined to warm up the bass water he was targeting.
Upon arriving, Hollensed would then put on his thinking cap.
“I’d suggest putting your brain in fast forward a bit and thinking about where the fish will be spawning (in March),” he said. “From there, I’d back up a bit and figure out where the migration corridors are that lead those fish into those shallow water spots.
“Short of them actually moving up shallow to try and spawn during unusually warm February weather, they are going to tend to be in those migrational corridors.”
Hollensed — once a high school science teacher and a West Texas oil geologist — likes to compare the yearly travels of bass to a pipeline.
On one end, is deeper water where bass will spend much of their year. On the other end, fish will spawn on shallow water flats in the spring. And in between, there will be a pipeline, or migratory route, that bass will use to move back and forth through the water during their annual journeys.
“In February, they are just waiting somewhere along that pipeline to move up from deep water to shallow water when the warmer spring weather arrives to help spur on the spawn,” said Hollensed, who notes that he and many other anglers believe that bass are generally homebodies that stay in a particular portion of a lake year round.
When trying to find active fish on a February trip, Hollensed looks to the upper end of a reservoir where water depths are generally shallower thanks to a delta-like settling of sediment as a lake receives inflow.
“As a general rule, the spawn progresses from the upper end to the lower end in most lakes,” he said.
He also keys in on quicker-to-warm up north banks, stained water that holds heat longer, areas of rock or rip-rap that will soak up the sun’s solar radiation, and south facing banks that are the recipient of plenty of oxygenated water generated by southerly winds.
Why? Because where there is February warmth in the water, there will likely be February bass nearby.
What kind of baits should a February angler throw at the month’s biggest sweetheart bass? That depends on the mood of the fish to a great degree.
“Let the fish tell you what they want,” said Hollensed. “I don’t think the location for bass will change a lot during the transitional period in February, at least not very fast. But the mood of the fish can change pretty quick, so you can be fishing two or three different techniques over the same fish, at the same spot, in two or three days time.”
If weather and water temps lean toward spring, Hollensed favors a faster moving bait like a spinnerbait or a crankbait, although he admits that a Carolina-rigged soft plastic or a Texas-rigged lizard can work too.
If conditions are more winter like, however, Hollensed suggests slowing down and using something like a jig-and-pig, a crankbait or a suspending jerkbait.
Figure all of this out just right and you may soon remember the month of February for something more than heart shaped boxes of chocolate and groundhogs struggling with the idea of seeing their shadow.
Because a memorable February lunker largemouth bass just might make the season of Cupid your favorite month of the year to go fishing in the big bass rich state of Texas.