Venue: Lake H, a small, remote, timbered reservoir
Water: 49 to 53 degrees, clear
Weather: 33 degrees, clear, cold front
Pro: Luke Clausen, 39, Spokane, Wash. Clausen won the Bassmaster Classic in the Elite Series’ fledgling year (2006), moved to the FLW tour, then rejoined the Elites in 2016.
Boat: Ranger Z520C with 250-horsepower Mercury outboard, MotorGuide trolling motor, Lowrance electronics with Bass Boat Technologies mounts, twin Power-Pole shallow-water anchors
Longtime B.A.S.S. members may remember the ruckus Clausen raised when he won the 2006 Classic, pocketed his $500,000 paycheck, then immediately exited the Elite tour to join the FLW circuit. “I caught hell from B.A.S.S. for that move, but it was strictly a career decision on my part because my sponsors at the time were all aligned with FLW,” he explains. It’s water under the bridge now, so let’s all just chill and dig the tricks Cool Hand Luke has up his sleeve for whacking finicky February bass!
6:38 a.m. It’s 33 degrees, calm and sunny when we arrive at Lake H’s boat ramp. A high near 50 is forecast for the day. We prep the boat for launching.
7 HOURS LEFT
6:45 a.m. We launch the Ranger. Clausen checks the lake temp: 49 degrees. “That’s ideal this time of year — they should hit everything but a topwater in that temperature water. I expect fish to be in or close to deep water; they may move tight to the bank once the sun gets higher. If I spot bass suspended around baitfish schools on my electronics, I’ll throw a jerkbait. It appears there’s a lot of wood cover in the lake; I’ll hit it with a jig. In winter, the bite often doesn’t crank up until midmorning, so I’m not going to panic if I don’t get on fish right away.” Clausen pulls several Megabass rods from storage. Lake H doesn’t permit gas outboards to be cranked, so he drops his trolling motor and heads for the reservoir’s earthen dam.
7 a.m. Clausen makes his first casts of the day to the dam with a Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait in the leviathan ayu pattern, which he calls “a great color choice in low-light conditions.” He’s fishing it with a jerk/jerk/pause cadence.
7:09 a.m. The dam transitions into a steep channel bank lined with a jumble of standing and fallen timber. With his boat in 20 feet of water, Clausen catches his first bass of the day, a 10-inch largemouth, on the jerkbait. “He hit it on the pause at the end of a submerged branch.”
7:12 a.m. “Submerged trees are crisscrossed everywhere down there,” Clausen says as he continues down the steep bank. A tiny bass bumps the jerkbait right at the boat and shakes off.
7:17 a.m. Clausen is seeing bass hanging around deep, standing timber on his electronics. “They’re suspending at 12 feet. I may have to put on a deeper jerkbait to get to ’em.”
7:21 a.m. He switches to a 5/16-ounce Dirty Jigs Luke Clausen Finesse Jig in the Clausen craw pattern with a green pumpkin/blue Z-Man BatwingZ trailer.
7:24 a.m. Clausen tries a deeper-diving Megabass Revenge jerkbait in the Kohoku reaction pattern. “This is a brighter color, which should be more visible in deeper water. These fish aren’t very ambitious right now.”
7:31 a.m. The bank gradually flattens out. Clausen tries his signature 1/4-ounce Dirty Jigs Compact Pitching Jig with a BatwingZ trailer, both black and blue.
7:38 a.m. Clausen moves farther off the bank to cast the jerkbait around standing timber.
6 HOURS LEFT
7:45 a.m. Clausen spots some baitfish dimpling the surface. He casts a bluegill pattern Z-Man Project Z weedless bladed jig with a Z-Man swimbait trailer at the fish. No luck.
7:51 a.m. Clausen bumps the bladed jig off a stickup and gets a hard strike, but the fish doesn’t hook up.
7:55 a.m. The sun pops over the surrounding hills as Clausen continues swimming the Project Z around stickups.
8:04 a.m. He bags a short fish on the Revenge jerkbait.
8:13 a.m. Clausen ties on a sexy shad Megabass 110+1 jerkbait and catches his first keeper of the day, a 1-pound largemouth. “He was holding around some stickups and hit it on the pause.”
8:17 a.m. He bags a short fish off a sunken log on the finesse jig. “I’ve had bites on just about everything I’ve thrown, but nothing big so far.”
8:22 a.m. Clausen tries a Tennessee shad Megabass Flap Shad, a slow-rising minnow bait with a tight wobble, on a main-lake flat. A small bass pops it as it careens off a stickup.
8:29 a.m. Clausen spots a small rockpile rising to within inches of the surface. His electronics reveal several bass holding on the bottom in deeper water adjacent to the structure. He rigs a chunky green pumpkin Z-Man FattyZ finesse worm on a 1/8-ounce shaky head, casts it to the cluster of fish and shakes it repeatedly.
8:31 a.m. He catches a short fish on the worm.