Green tomatoes and ‘pullbaits’ for winter bass

To say February is a pretty diverse month for bass fishing is like saying the Super Bowl is a pretty big football game. Depending on where you live, some of you are drilling holes in the ice this month, while others of you are looking at bass on spawning beds.

And to be honest with you, here in the mid-South, I’ve spent way more time working on college coursework at Bethel University, and as a duck hunting guide, than I have casting for bass.

However, when somebody asked me recently to pick two lures for February, or mid-winter fishing in general, I didn’t have to think too long about which tandem I’d choose. Both of them have treble hooks, and while the debate over the importance of fishing lure color continues, I’ll tell you that personally the color of each of my favorite lures for February is very important to me.

The first lure I choose is a jerkbait in a color called “Clear Ayu.” Heck, I’m not even sure how you pronounce “Ayu” but it’s pretty easy to find. I prefer the smaller, shallow-diving KVD jerkbait in that color, with two treble hooks on it, not three.

Notice I said “shallow” – that’s really critical to my winter approach. My theory is that big cold-blooded bass use flat shallow banks with gradually sloping shorelines to sun themselves and warm up, as compared to colder deeper water elsewhere.

So while most anglers are casting deep-diving jerkbaits, finessing a drop shot or heaving Alabama Rigs to deep main lake points at this time of year, I look for flat or really gradual sloping banks where my boat is sitting in only 6-feet of water, and I’m casting that shallow jerkbait into 1 to 4 feet of water.

Another thing I’ll say about jerkbait fishing is that maybe we should rename it “pullbait” fishing because I don’t jerk the lure with erratic pops of the rod tip like you might in warmer water. Instead, I retrieve the lure by just “pulling” it like you might drag a jig across the bottom, simply by moving the rod sideways a foot or two at a time, reeling up the slack and then repeating.  

The second lure I was quick to choose for this time of year is a Series 4 Strike King crankbait in a color I’ve got big time confidence in anytime the water is slightly dirty, called Green Tomato.

I tie it to 12-pound test on a relatively slow 5.4:1 Lew’s reel and just gradually wind it back. It stays in that magical 8-foot depth range where a lot of fish seem to stay in winter but are often overlooked while most anglers are out there targeting bass on much deeper main lake points.

This lure offers a really simple approach to cold water fishing by allowing me to cast parallel down the shoreline as long as the water near the bank is roughly 8-feet deep. Here again, much like the jerkbait, I’m staying pretty shallow in my approach.

The start of February also marks the end of duck hunting season here in Tennessee. It’s also time to put four new Dick Cepek tires on the Tundra and start thinking about the trip to Lake Conroe near Houston, where I’ll compete in “the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing” in late March.

In the meantime, you can bet I’ll have these two power fishing lures tied on. Not only do they both help me catch bass at a time of year that can be really tough fishing, but I’d like to think the energy required to cast and retrieve them helps keeps my skinny self warmer than if I had to stand still to fish a finesse rig like the drop shot all day on these cold days of February.