Sweetheart Bass Tactics for Valentine's Day Anglers

In case you haven't noticed, it's Valentine's Day.

And if you're married to great woman (like I am), you had better not forget today is the day for a little romance, a box of chocolates, a nice dinner, and a dozen red roses.

Especially if you have bass fishing plans this weekend, I might add.

And hopefully you do have bass fishing plans this month, because by mid-February, in many parts of bass country, it's high time to catch a sweetheart of a lunker, a true scale-buster of a bass.

That's especially true here in my home state of Texas, where four of the state's top 10 bass have been caught in February.

Ditto for 13 of the Lone Star State's top 50 largemouth bass that have been hauled in during this short month, where that Pennsylvania groundhog has to deal with his shadow fetish once again.

Likewise for 103 of the state's 442 all-time ShareLunker bass, trophy largemouths tipping the scales at 13 pounds or better.

Such February bruiser bass include Larry Barnes' Lake Fork lunker, a 17.29-pound bass landed on Valentine's Day 1988, that still ranks as the state's number five all-time largemouth.

And Bryan Turner's 16.89 pounder, pulled from Lake Fork on Feb. 8, 1993, ranking eighth on Texas' all-time list.

Don't forget about Don Allison's 15.38-pound hawg pulled from Possum Kingdom Reservoir back on Feb. 14, 1991 — a fish that ranking 41st of all time on the state's list.

By the way, to even make the Lone Star State's coveted top 50 largemouth bass list, a lunker has to tip the scales at 15.23 pounds — or better — to qualify.

Even in Texas, those are big bass numbers.

Now lest you think February's big bass action in Texas is nothing more than ancient history, think again.

As recently as 2006, the second month of the year produced a 15.5-pound Lake Fork largemouth for Billy Pfeil, a largemouth caught on Feb. 21st that year.

And last year, on Feb. 18, David Reinarz pulled a 13-pound lunker from Lake Austin, not far from where the Texas Longhorns play football, basketball, and baseball.

While March and early April produce plenty of great big bass-catching action (and usually warmer weather), the record books don't lie about February being a great time to brave the elements for a chance to snag the bass of a lifetime.

The year's shortest month even gets professional anglers excited in the Lone Star State. That includes 11-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Alton Jones, a Waco resident.

(You'll have to excuse Alton this week — he's a little busy practicing for this year's Classic on Lake Hartwell.)

Fortunately, the four-time BASS winner, who has pocketed some $1.08 million in career earnings, gave yours truly a chance to bend his ear previously about his feelings on February fishing.

While Jones' comments were geared toward Texas angling, these same tactics and lures will work wonders on many other waters across the South.

"February is maybe the best month for big fish in the entire year," Jones told me. "Even though the water is still cold, by February, most bass are beginning to move shallow in anticipation of the spawn."

Jones, who has finished as high as seventh in the Classic (in both the 2000 and 2003 events), has a couple of lure preferences this month to share.

He preferes to use either a red lipless crankbait slowly "ticked" over the top of a submerged hydrilla bed or a suspending jerkbait that is jerked down, allowed to sit motionless for "15 to 20 seconds," and then twitched again.

Sometimes, however, the owner of 44 top 20 finishes in BASS events has found a fast retrieve is necessary to produce a reactionary strike. Case in point was a day spent on one of the Lone Star State's biggest, best, and most historic bass waters.

"One of best days I ever had in February was a number of years ago on Sam Rayburn," said Jones, who finished 22nd at last year's Classic and has one career BASS victory in South Carolina, site of this year's event.

"I was throwing a red Hotspot because we were fishing a creek channel about 15 feet deep winding through a grass flat," he added.

"The fish had pulled up on that flat and that was one of the days that the key was to reel the bait in as fast as you could.

"If you slowed it down, you wouldn't get a bite. But if you reeled it in as fast as you could reel it, you'd get a bite."

By days end, the February largemouths were seeing red, as Jones' boat had landed 38 bass, including 15 weighing more than 5 pounds.

Perhaps even more amazing is that this Sam Rayburn bass adventure came on a day that was hardly spring like.

"It was a windy day — those are the days I find that they usually want it retrieved really fast — and it was almost snowing," said Jones, who had five top 25 finishes in last year's Elite Series and BASS Major events.

"The temperature was 34 degrees and it was drizzling with the wind out of the north," he added.

Despite the raw weather conditions, the water temperature on Big Sam was a relatively balmy 48 degrees. Balmy to the bass, that is.

"Sometimes, the days that are most miserable for us are the best for fishing," Jones said. "You might be the only [angler] on the water, if you're brave enough to withstand the conditions."

But for a chance at the bucketmouth of a lifetime, it's worth the effort to bundle up and get out on the water as long as safety permits.

While long-term weather forecasts for the Greensville, S.C. area show pretty typical late February weather conditions for the region, this week's Classic practice session has been downright winter-like for the 50 competitors dreaming of winning fishing's biggest title.

The guess here is that if Old Man Winter shows up again during next week's Classic — and provides the kind of chilly weather he's dealing anglers this week — then don't count Jones out to win the 2008 "Super Bowl of Bass Fishing."

After all, the Texas pro loves to fish in February for a sweetheart of a bass.