Bass hunters know February can produce some of the biggest largemouth bass of the year. It takes knowledge of the correct tactics and a lot of patience to wait it out for the four or five big bites of the day. Here’s how.
Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks is a bass-producing phenomenon. Built in the 1930s to provide electricity to the center of the state, few, if any, people realized that in a couple of decades the lake would attract the attention of bass anglers from all over the nation.
The winter scene at Lake of the Ozarks can be brutal. The cold winds and harsh winter weather hold all water sports enthusiasts and all but the hardiest of fishermen at bay. However, those anglers who venture out in snowsuits, heavy gloves and insulated helmets experience some well-deserved best bass fishing of the year.
The LOZ is famous for its spring bass fishing, but many say that the fishing is even better in the winter. At least the absence of crowds provides far more favorable conditions for anglers. Fishermen can pursue bass under some of the most natural conditions of the year.
No discussion of bass fishing at LOZ is complete without mentioning the numerous boat docks at water’s edge. Anglers are naturally drawn to the structures because they are the most visible cover on the lake. Most of the year, the docks are very productive, including February. However, the best cold weather bass fishing can be found far offshore, on secondary points in major tributaries and on main lake points. These features attract baitfish and also funnel currents. Therefore, bass concentrate over these deep structures.
Anglers need to search the flats and higher up on the points when the floodgates are open at both ends of the lake. The flowing current and accompanying stained water brings bass out of the deeper water. Throw in a couple of warm days and fish will follow baitfish back to the coves. This scenario creates the perfect setup for tossing baits to the sunny corners of docks.
Born and raised at LOZ, Keith Enloe now has four decades under his belt as a bass fishing guide. A big man, Enloe, has a soft nature and a softer place in his heart for big bass. He grins as his voice spikes when talking about big LOZ bass.
From his four decades of guiding on the lake, Enloe has zoned in on the north shore and the Gravois arm for his winter bass hunts.
“Water clarity is the key,” he said. “Water clarity and temperature determine how deep I fish. On the average, I fish from 12-to-25 feet deep during cold weather.”
Smithwick Rogues are Enloe’s starting lineup for February bass.
“I like to run these baits over brush piles, which I have marked on my GPS unit,” he remarked. “When the water temperature is 38-39 degrees, I slowly bring my baits over the structure to imitate a dying shad.”
Although the lures Enloe utilizes are referred to as jerkbaits he uses a different technique.
“Bass are lethargic in cold water and are not going to chase a bait. I literally pull the bait down, slowly, rather than jerk it,” he explained. “I drag it 12-to-18 inches and then let it sit for at least 30 seconds, and sometimes as long as a minute.”
A good rule of thumb is to follow the old adage “when you think you have slowed your bait down, slow it down some more.”
“Anglers must pay close attention after stopping the bait,” Enloe continued. “Often, the line only begins to feel heavy. Bites are usually light. Sometimes, the line sort of jumps. This bite is very difficult for beginners to adjust to.”
As water temperatures climb into the upper 40s, Enloe adjusts his techniques.
“It may seem like a subtle difference, but it works,” he said. “Rather than drag the lure, I pop it and then let it sit.”