Ross Barnett is my bass-fishing pick for February, and we'll fish this lake with baits we can bang against rocks, lily-pad stems and vegetation.

I think February is probably one of the most-productive months to fish Barnett, since the bass start moving out of the deep water and into the shallows. I'll fish this lake several different ways for bass during February, primarily concentrating on three places. I'll first fish the rocks (ripap) near the dam, next the rocks in Pelahatchie Creek and then the lily-pad stems by punching vegetation.


Bass on the rocks

You'll find rocks to fish for bass down near the dam and around the railroad trestle at Pelahatchie Bay. But the main rocks - several miles of them - that I like to fish are down by the dam. You can catch numbers of bass at certain sections of those rocks.

I like to start by covering as much of that riprap as I can. Usually I'll find some 100-yard stretches of riprap where the bass will gang up. I'll fish with a Mann's C4 crankbait and a Mann's 3/8-ounce Classic spinnerbait. I'll start off fishing with Mann's black/brown/orange C4 crankbait. I'll cast the C4 parallel to the bank and retrieve the bait fairly slowly. I want the crankbait to bang into the rocks and deflect off them.

Most of the bites will come in water only 1 1/2 feet deep, because the rocks absorb the heat from the sun and transfer that heat into that region's water. The shallowest rocks will absorb the most heat, and generally that's where the bass are going to be holding.

I'll fish the C4 on 15-pound-test fluorocarbon line and use a Pinnacle 6.3:1 gear-ratio reel with a 7-foot, 11-inch Pinnacle Cranking Rod. The real secret to catching those bass is to keep that C4 coming back to the boat with a steady retrieve, even when it hits the rocks. Don't stop or pause the bait at all. When the C4 hits the rocks, this very-buoyant bait naturally will float up. But if you pause the bait, it will float too high. Keep a steady retrieve.

Due to the vibration that the C4 gives off, when it bounces off of, comes over the top of or swims around the side of a rock, the bass just can't stand not to eat that bait. This type of February fishing will get you a lot of reaction strikes.

I'll also fish a Mann's Classic spinnerbait with a small nickel Colorado blade up front of a No. 5 gold willowleaf blade on the rocks. Besides the warm water, the bass will be on the rocks where the crawfish, the bluegills and the shad will be holding. Bass don't want just the sauna bath the rocks provide; they also enjoy a sauna bath with a buffet.

I'll use a chartreuse/white skirt with a white 3-inch Mann's Curly Tail Grub as a trailer. I want to slow-crawl that spinnerbait over the rocks in that same depth of water. This way to fish is aggravating, because you'll hang your bait up in some of those rocks. However, you won't lose many spinnerbaits, since you can use your trolling motor to go to where the lure is hung and free it. Don't wake the spinnerbait, but instead fish it just out of sight most of the time.

Usually in February, Ross Barnett is fairly muddy, and the only time you may see your lures is when they come over the top of really shallow rocks. Also, don't expect a violent strike when a February bass takes the spinnerbait. Your line just will feel heavy when the fish sucks the lure into its mouth.


Bang lily-pad stems

One of the most-productive areas to fish lily-pad stems at Ross Barnett will be around the No. 7 channel marker in 1 1/2 to 2 feet of water. I'll start off fishing with a black/chartreuse/orange Mann's Baby 1-Minus, and use this crankbait as my search bait. I'll reel it down and cause it to hit the bases of the lily-pad stems.

At this time of year, the bass on some days will want a really slow retrieve, but on other days they'll want a fast retrieve. So, you'll have to try both types of retrieves until you learn what the bass prefer on that day. The bass you'll be catching are pre-spawn, and they're coming in to look for bedding areas around those lily-pad stems.

As soon as the water in Ross Barnett starts to warm, the bass will move into those stems. Once I catch two or three bass out of an area, I'll put my poles down and pick up a flipping and pitching rod with Mann's new HardNose Franken Toad creature bait on it. This new lure can be fished many different ways. You can buzz it on the surface, it can be pitched and flipped like creature bait, or you can swim it under the water.

But this month I'll be pitching the bulky Franken Toad in black/red flake to individual lily-pads stems and allowing the bait fall to the bottom. I'll put a 1/8- or 1/16-ounce pure tungsten sinker in front of the Franken Toad, use a No. 6 Gamakatsu hook and 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line with a 7-foot, 6-inch flipping stick.

When I'm fishing the Franken Toad, I'll have it rigged on three different rods - one with a 1/16-ounce weight, another with a 1/8-ounce weight and my third with either a 1/2- or 1-ounce tungsten weight. The rod with the heavy weight will be spooled with 50-pound-test braided line.

I'll use that heavy-weighted rod to punch through the mats and get the Franken Toad under the mats. Often the bigger female bass will be holding under those mats. Using the two other rods with lighter weights, I'll be pitching to the other lily-pad stems.

Ross Barnett is not known to hold numbers of big bass. But on a good day in February, I should be able to catch 12 bass off the rocks that will weigh from 1 1/2 to 6 pounds each. On a good day in the stems, you'll probably catch about 20 bass. Although many of those will be males that will weigh less than 2 pounds, every now and then you'll catch one of those females that will weigh from 3 to 7 pounds. And the good news is that this pattern should hold up all during February at Ross Barnett.