Don't fall into the trap of believing that all bass adhere to the same patterns all the time, says longtime pro angler Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas. Klein says some fish invariably "go against the book," and when they do, they present open-minded anglers with special opportunities to catch them.
For instance, consider casting buzzbaits for bass in February. Many anglers would dismiss this idea without a second thought — too cold! However, Klein says this can be one of the most productive patterns going. "Fishing a buzzbait this time of year is close to my heart," he affirms. "I've got a tremendous amount of confidence in it. I've tested this pattern all around the country, and if conditions are right, it works! Also, this is a great way to catch some really big fish. If you get a bite on a buzzbait in late winter, chances are it'll be a heavyweight."
A good example of this pattern's potential came a few seasons back when Klein was fishing in February on Lake Ray Roberts north of Dallas, Texas. Heavy rains had caused flood water to brim over into adjacent cow pastures. Klein remembers, "I was fishing a flat around 3 feet deep. I'd tried flipping in the morning, but I didn't get many bites. Then I changed to a buzzbait in late morning, and in the next 2 1/2 hours I caught 14 bass over 4 pounds, including one that I weighed on certified scales (then released) that went 12 pounds, 9 ounces. They were tearing that buzzbait up!
"So, it's all about recognizing the conditions when a buzzbait will work, then having the confidence to tie one on and stick with it long enough to make it produce," Klein continues. "Yes, it seems odd casting a buzzbait this time of year, but I've caught enough bass on it to know that this bait and pattern are the real deal."
Here are specifics for how Klein catches fish on buzzbaits in the dead of winter.
Conditions: "The time to fish a buzzbait in February is when the water temperature is in the mid- to high 40s and on the upswing," Klein explains. "This is usually a month or two before the spawning season. When you get a period of stable weather and sunshine, some fish will feed in shallow water, usually from midday on into the afternoon." Klein also says this pattern is best when the wind is calm or light. When it comes to water clarity, he prefers water "more on the cleaner side than the dirtier side."
Places to fish: "I look for wind-protected, undisturbed water," he continues. "I like pockets and little set-back areas that are shielded from the north wind and exposed to direct sunlight. Many times these will be on the north shorelines of coves. On a warm February afternoon, water in these areas can be several degrees warmer than south banks that are exposed to a northerly breeze."
Klein also likes areas that have a scattering of stumps, logs, treetops or other potential fish-attracting cover objects. His preferred water depth is 2 to 4 feet around the cover.
Klein adds, "One thing I'm always watching for is water movement — little swirls and dimples. Such movement might be from bass or bluegill or shad; it doesn't matter. This just tells me that the water is warm enough for fish to be active, and I'm in the right area."
Bait: "I fish just one lure with this pattern: a 1/2-ounce white/chartreuse Lunker Lure buzzer that has an extended shank and a wide gap Gamakatsu hook. I don't use a trailer hook on this bait."
And so, he fishes. "I've done this enough so I just get a feeling when this will work," he says. "When the water is slick and the sun's beating down and the temperature is right, I go to the buzzbait with full confidence that it'll get some strikes.
"If anglers can just get away from the notion that the buzzbait is a warm weather bait, they'll learn that it's really an all-season bait, and it can be absolutely awesome when big bass come up to feed during a warm spell in the first months of the year."
Gear To Grab
Here are the specific rods, reels and lines Gary Klein uses when stalking big bass in February.
For fishing buzzbaits:
One of the main keys to catching bass on buzzbaits in February is to run the lure as slowly as possible across the surface, and Gary Klein offers seasoned tips for doing this.
"First, bend the bait's blades downward very slightly," Klein advises. "This helps the blades get more 'bite' and holds the bait on the surface at a slower speed."
Another tip is to use a long rod, and retrieve the bait with the rod tip held high. This provides lift at the bait's eye that, again, helps keep the bait up.
Klein stresses, "The whole deal is to reel the bait just fast enough to pull it on the surface but no faster than you have to. Bass in cold water can be sluggish, and you need to run the bait slowly and on a steady track to give them plenty of time to home in on it and strike it."
Flipping Takes Tight-to-Cover Bass
Gary Klein says during a warming trend in February, some bass will be in shallow water. The question is, will they be around cover or in cover?
Klein catches "around cover" bass on the buzzbait. However, if this surface runner isn't producing action, he assumes the fish are "in cover," and he switches to a flipping presentation.
"I'll fish the same areas with both baits. I'll just fish a lot tighter and slower when I'm flipping," he explains. "I'll use a black/blue jig (1/2-ounce Spro K-Finesse Wide Bite) and a 4-inch Berkley Chigger Craw trailer, and I'll work it very tight to brush, logs and other likely cover.
"Actually, a lot of days I'll start out flipping in the morning when the water's colder, then I'll change to a buzzbait later on after the water warms up and the bass become more active," Klein adds.
Before You Go
Here is a list of chores Gary Klein accomplishes before going buzzbaiting for bass in February.