This month, I'll be fishing Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson. As the weather warms, and the bass are in their pre-spawn mode, the bass usually will be holding on riprap rock and lily-pad stems there. During February, if you get 10 bass to the boat, you've had a good day. On the best day I've ever had on Ross Barnett in February, I caught five bass that weighed a total of 20 pounds. Right now, most tournaments on the lake will be won with a 20-pound stringer or bigger.

Ross Barnett has made a really big comeback from several years ago. The lake has a slot limit, which has improved the quality of bass in the lake and prevented overcrowding. However, a slot limit doesn't work unless you keep and eat the small bass. Then the larger bass in the system can continue to grow and reproduce without having an overcrowded fishery.


I prefer to fish a Mann's C-4 crankbait and a 1/2-ounce Mann's The Classic spinnerbait on the rocks. On sunny days, the riprap rocks will warm up and transfer some heat into the water around them. The warmer water will attract the baitfish.

Because the baitfish are there, the bass also will be there. Also, the riprap gives bass vertical structure they easily and quickly can move up and down, depending on water temperature. Often there's some fairly deep water off the side of riprap.

You have all the ingredients at riprap to attract the bass - shallow water close to deep water, plenty of structure with ambush points and a concentration of baitfish. The main stretches of riprap I prefer to fish at this time of year are the railroad steel riprap at Pelahatchie Bay and the riprap near the dam.

To find and catch the bass holding on the riprap, I'll be fishing the crankbait and the spinnerbait slowly. The water temperature still isn't warm enough in February for the bass to become aggressive. So, the bass need to see the bait longer and not have to swim fast to catch and eat it.

During February, I prefer to slow-roll the Mann's The Classic spinnerbait because it has two Indiana blades that create a really strong vibration underwater. I'll cast the spinnerbait at a 45-degree angle to the rocks slowly, right up against the rocks, occasionally letting it bump into a rock. I'll fish from 0 to about 8 feet deep.

I prefer to fish the chartreuse/white 1/2-ounce Mann's The Classic spinnerbait on 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene fluorocarbon line with a Quantum Tour Edition PT Kevin VanDam Signature Series 6-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod and a Quantum Tour Edition PT 6:1 gear-ratio reel.

If I'm catching more bass in the 1- to 4-foot-water depth, I'll change from the spinnerbait to a Mann's C-4 crankbait with a brown back and chartreuse-colored sides. I'll bump it off the rocks in shallow water because it will elicit more strikes in shallow water than the spinnerbait will, and this colored bait resembles bluegills and crawfish.

Not as many people will be fishing riprap in February as there will be in early March and later in the spring and the summer. There's a lot of riprap at Ross Barnett, so you should have very little competition for the bass this month.

The Pelahatchie riprap should hold some really big bass. Several 10-pound-plus bass have been caught there because that's where the state of Mississippi originally stocked the Florida strain of black bass several years ago. At Pelahatchie and on the dam riprap, you'll catch 2- to 5-pounders using this technique.

Lily pad stems

Another really productive pattern for catching bass this month on Ross Barnett is to fish the lily pad stems you'll find in Pelahatchie Bay, above the Highway 43 bridge and behind old river marker No. 7. I fish the lily pad stems when we get one or two days of warm February weather with a Mann's Baby 1-Minus and a Mann's Waker - both in black and chartreuse with orange bellies.

As the water starts to warm in February or when the area gets one of those freaky three- to five-day warm fronts that often come through this month, the bass will move out of the deep water and up to the shallow water really quickly at Ross Barnett.

When I'm fishing the lily pad stems, I'll be fishing the Baby 1-Minus on 17-pound-test Berkley fluorocarbon line and the Waker on 15-pound-test line. Right now, Ross Barnett homes a number of 3- to 5-pound bass, and the bigger bass often will be the first to move up into those lily pad stems.

I select these types of lakes to fish each month because I can shrink the body of water I have to fish. The bass aren't always where I expect them, but at this time of year, you'll find the bass at Ross Barnett on that riprap and in those lily pad stems on the warm days. So, I don't have to worry about fishing the entire lake, and neither do you.