The February binge

We’re going to talk this week about the February binge that happens around the country when the first couple of warm rains happen. It was a secret told to me by my friend, Cobby Hayes, several years before he passed away. I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody at the time but now I think it’ll be OK.

The warm water rushes into the lakes and rivers and it really excites the smallmouth. It’s like springtime fishing. The fish move right up against the bank to take advantage of the warmth. It makes them feed like crazy. Sometimes it’ll look like the water’s boiling there’s so many of them.

It only lasts for a little while so you need to be ready. Watch for the smaller creeks to start rushing and pouring water into the main creeks, the more the better. How long that takes depends but it’s usually no more than a few hours. That’s when you need to be there. If you wait much longer than that the warm rainwater will mix with the cold main creek water. That’ll turn everything off and shut down the bite.

My favorite lure for this kind of fishing is a spinnerbait. Go with a small body, small skirt and small blades. You’ll catch more fish. Punisher has a new model out that we call the Flame Jr. We designed it for just this kind of fishing. Whatever you buy, though, make sure it’s stout. It’s going to get a lot of serious abuse.

In most places, you’ll want to throw bright colors — chartreuse — because the water will be muddy. But here in Tennessee, the water stays pretty clear even when it rains hard and the lake is rising so we mostly fish with natural looking stuff. You know your local lake better than I do.

What rod and reel you go with is your choice. It doesn’t make a heck of a lot of difference for this kind of fishing. If it’ll cast and wind, it’ll do. You line is important, however. The water usually has a lot of debris in it so you want something that’s abrasion-resistant and that’ll take a lot of abuse. You don’t want to lose the smallie of a lifetime.

This is a smallmouth column so I’ve been talking about catching smallies, but you should be prepared for anything. That’s part of what makes the February binge so great. Cobby and I had days where we caught smallmouth, largemouth, spots, bluegill, redear, crappie, trout and catfish, all within a few hours. 

(As I write this, I can’t help but think about him and all the good times we had fishing and just messing around. If you’ve ever lost a fishing friend, you know what I’m saying. The hurt never really goes away. It rips you apart.)

The February binge is the most unbelievable fishing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve had some pretty good days on the water. I suggest you get your boat and tackle ready.

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