To catch February bass, fish 4,144-acre Okatibbee Lake, near Meridian. You'll catch plenty of 12- to 14-inch fish at Okatibbee, and 5-pounders aren't uncommon.

This lake holds largemouth and striped bass, catfish, white perch and bream. The lake level has been low, but in February, it probably will rise and flood some of the shoreline grass and bushes. The bass will be pulling up into the feeder creeks and feeding heavily in these newly inundated areas.

In February, I like to pitch and flip a jig or a plastic lizard in shallow water. I prefer a green-pumpkin or a junebug Mann's HardNose lizard, rigged Texas style on 20-pound-test Berkley fluorocarbon line or Stren Super Braid 30-pound-test line with a 3/16-ounce sinker up the line. You just pitch that lizard around any type of bank cover you find in shallow water such as little bushes, laid-down logs and debris.

If warm fronts come through in February, don't be afraid to fish a 1/4-ounce chartreuse/white buzz bait slowly in those same shallow-water sections. You won't get as many bites on the buzz bait as you will on the lizard, but most of the time you'll get bigger bass bites.

When that water temperature reaches about 55 to 65 degrees is when I start fishing the buzz bait. A bass generally will follow the lure, come up behind and under it and suck it in. That buzz bait will go blub, blub, blub across the top of the water, and then it will vanish. That's when you have to set the hook, or you'll miss the fish.

Back off the bank, and fish a jig slowly along the old creek channels in the feeder creeks with their huge stumps when the weather turns cold. In Gin Creek, you can follow that creek channel and usually see big stumps from the edge of the channel. When a cold front hits, big pre-spawn female bass will pull out of the shallow water and hold at the bases of those stumps.

On bright days, I wear polarized Costa Del Mar sunglasses, so I can see the stumps in 3 to 5 feet of water. The tops of the stumps usually will only be about a foot underwater.

If this region gets some of those really bad February rains, I'll fish the stumps with a thumper-type spinnerbait and a gold-colored No. 5 Colorado blade. In shallow, muddy water, you really get more strikes on a single-bladed spinnerbait than on a double- or willow-bladed spinnerbait. I'll usually fish a bright chartreuse skirt with a chartreuse trailer on the spinnerbait.

Two other lures I suggest for this month and this lake are a lipless crankbait, like a Rat-L-Trap, or a Mann's Baby 1-Minus, a small, shallow-running crankbait that's versatile. At Okatibbee Lake, the Baby 1-Minus in a black back with chartreuse sides, a solid chartreuse or a solid red are my favorite colors of this go-to bait for February.

I'll retrieve it at medium speed, and run it over the tops of stumps. Then I'll speed up my retrieve when I get the bait just over the top of the stump, hesitate the lure half a second, and give it a fast retrieve again. I want the bass holding on the stump to think that little bass bait is trying to get away from a big fish. The strike usually will come just as the crankbait comes over the stump.

If that doesn't work, I'll fish a 1/4-ounce red Rat-L-Trap around the stump, but it's a little harder to control than the Baby 1-Minus.

If a cold front hits, and my jig doesn't produce, I'll try a Mann's Baby 4, a small, square-billed crankbait that runs 3- to 5-feet deep.

Two other places that can be dynamite for producing bass at this time of year are the riprap areas, like the riprap at the dam and the riprap at the park on the east side of the lake.

You can catch bass on a Baby 1-Minus, a Rat-L-Trap or a jig on the park's riprap peninsula often in those first 4 feet of water from the surface off the rocks. Because the rocks warm-up quicker than the other water in the lake, the crawfish there become more active than the other bait in the lake. I like a red crankbait to imitate the crawfish.

Although this lake receives plenty of fishing pressure from tournament anglers and recreational fishermen, the slot limit has improved the fishing on this lake. During this lake's first 10 years, it was a really great bass fishing lake and held numbers of flooded willow trees.

But as the lake has gotten older, the environment in it for fish has declined. Mississippi's fisheries biologists have worked hard to restore the lake's quality, and their efforts are paying off.

For more information visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site: www.sam.usace.army.mil/op/rec/okatib/ or call (601)626-8431. For the lake level and fishing report, call (601) 626-8959.