Lake Jackson Bass On The February Rocks

Barry Stokes details a crankbait and jig pattern for Jackson bass in February.

Brad Gill | February 1, 2002

If a big bucketmouth in the boat is on your agenda this spring, let me get you started a few weeks early — and you’ll barely have to leave Atlanta to try and catch one.

Located in portions of Butts, Jasper and Newton counties, Lake Jackson is a traditional big-fish lake in February. You don’t have to be an expert to catch one, anybody can do it in February on Jackson.

Big bass will begin feeding more as we gradually begin to see warmer days as springtime nears.

Tournament angler Barry Stokes of Covington can testify.

“In February your chances just really go up when it comes to catching big bass on Jackson,” Barry says.

Barry has been fishing Jackson for eight years and has gotten very consistent on his home lake. He’s a regular contender when fishing pot tournaments at Berry’s Boat Dock. On the Friday night tournaments he’s won big fish of the year and angler of the year once.

When he’s not on Jackson, he’s fishing the Walmart BFL. One year Barry made it to the regionals, and because he was late for the weigh-in he was disqualified from going to the All-American, but he had the fish that would have sent him.

If everything goes well with BFL this season, Barry wants to begin fishing the Everstart trail. But this month Barry will be keying in on Lake Jackson, his home lake, because fishing is about to get real good.

Barry’s February pattern is fairly simple, one that you can go out and duplicate.

Catches like this won’t be uncommon in February. Just look for rock and start fishing. After three warm days and warm nights the fish may then decide to move to wood cover.

“I’m looking for shallow rock — rip-rap, seawalls, bridge pilings, chunk rock or pea-gravel banks, because they all hold heat and attract bait fish and bass,” Barry said. “I just key on some type of rock that has the water several degrees warmer than most of the lake. It only takes a few degrees to make all the difference in the world. Sometimes sand and red-clay banks heat up enough to attract the bass. Sandy banks are good because sometimes they’ll stage there and also spawn.

“I fish shallow, because it’s been my experience that this is where the majority of the big fish are going to be this time of year.

“I know a lot of people use jigging spoons in deeper water this time of year, and it’s a great way to catch a lot of fish. But in my experience it’s not the technique to use to catch that kicker fish in February.

“The big fish seem to move up first. I think it’s a way for those big bass to move up and feed early and get them a good easy meal of crawfish or shad.

“Sometimes you may catch more than one big fish in an area, but most times you’ll just catch one good fish where you don’t catch a lot of fish.

“It’s like a pond that’s full of little fish and you’ve got big fish in the pond. If you go to fish just for fish, more than likely those big fish won’t bite because those little fish are so aggressive. The big fish know that and want to get away from them, so when they want to eat they have no competition. I think the majority of the time your trophy-size fish stay isolated.”

For the most part, Barry will use two main baits for these shallow February lunkers — a crankbait and a jig ’n pig.

“If it’s muddy I like the 6A Bomber in chartreuse, gable green and firetiger,” said Barry. “If it’s clear I like the No. 5 or No. 7 Shad Rap in a shad color, like Tennessee Shad. Crawfish color is good for both clear and muddy conditions. Both are medium-diving crankbaits.

“A lot of times when you get those warm days and you throw it up on the bank you don’t even get to crank it and they’ll be on it. That’s when they’re in less than half a foot water.”

Most of the time Barry will hit an area first with a crankbait. If it’s an area he really thinks may be holding a big bass, he’ll follow his cranking up with some flipping.

Barry prefers flipping a 1/4- to 3/8-oz. black/blue jig with a chartreuse trailer on it.

A lot of times if Jackson receives some unseasonably warm weather you can expect the bigger bass to move away from the rocks.

“If they’re not on that heat-holding pattern, and we’ve had some good warm days, a lot of times they’ll move to wood structure in a day or so,” Barry said. “It’s that quick too. You’ll be catching them on rocks one day and the weather changes and they’ll be on wood the next day.

“As a general rule, if we have three warm days in the  60- to 65-degree range and nights around 40 or 45 degrees, then they might move to shallow wood cover.”

The first spot Barry mentioned for a great place to pick up a big one, or two, is the first western point just north of Waters Bridge (this is the bridge just north of Berry’s).

“It’s a long, shallow flat point that has red clay and some scattered stumps on it,” said Barry. “The point goes out 150 yards and just drops into the channel. This place is great. Two Februarys ago I caught three fish on it that weighed 22 pounds, the biggest one weighed 8-lbs., 11-ozs.”

You can also fish the bridge pilings on Waters Bridge just below the point. They are also good attractors for bass trying to warm themselves in the sun.

“If someone said they’d give me a million dollars to go and catch one fish, I’d fish those pilings first, especially the bridge pilings at Waters Bridge,” Barry added.

The next place to try for a big bass is just north and straight across from Waters Bridge, on the eastern bank of the Alcovy River. If you’re sitting under the bridge you’ll see a red-clay bank and a several-hundred-yard stretch of pine trees on the bank. Fish this area.

“You’ve got rock, red clay, stumps and brush in this area,” said Barry. “It’s a shallow, slow-tapering bank adjacent to a flat. The fish come up in here to feed.”

Another big-fish hole in this same area is Rocky Creek. This is the first eastern creek right after you pass under Waters Bridge heading north. When you go into the creek, fish the northern bank.

“You’ve got some blowdowns with rock under them,” said Barry. “I’ll throw a crankbait first and then maybe a spinnerbait. If I don’t get bit, I’ll go back with a jig ’n pig. What I’ll do is fish where the tree goes into the water, and then I’ll swing out and fish deeper, in the top of the tree.

“This area used to get a lot of pressure, but not so much any more.”

A fourth area to try is the rip-rap on the bridge where Kersey’s Marina used to be. There are two pretty small stretches of rip-rap here that help to concentrate the fish in one general area.

“It’s like the rip-rap around Berry’s Boat Dock, just a small stretch, but it really attracts fish,” Barry said. “If you’re going under the bridge the left side is deeper and may be a little better, but I’d fish both sides.

“The crappie fishermen fish under this bridge all the time, and when they’re through fishing they’ll dump their buckets in the water. There’s a steady stream of bait always in this area. Fish the bridge pilings, too. This area used to get hammered, but it doesn’t receive as much fishing pressure anymore.”

A fifth place to try is the long point off the end of the island in front of Martin’s Marina. The southwestern corner of the island has some blowdowns and rock present. When you get done fishing the point, fish the south side of the island back toward Martin’s.

“This area does get some pressure, but it does hold a good number of bass,” Barry said.

A last place to get you started this month on Jackson is in the South River near Walker Harris Marina. If you come out of the marina head east on the northern bank. Go right across the mouth of the first cove until you come to a red-clay bank.

“This red clay heats up good, and you’ll find bass up there eating crawfish,” Barry said.

When you fish this bank heading east you’ll come to a point. That point actually connects to another point, just across a smaller cove.

“This place is awesome because you’ve got some rock, brush and red-clay all together,” Barry said.

If you’re just itching to stay on the lake while most other bass fishermen head home, then go ahead. This is another pattern that Barry enjoys doing this time of year — cranking or flipping lighted boat docks from 9:00 p.m until about 3:00 a.m.

“You can possibly catch a big fish that has come up to feed,” said Barry. “The pressure is very light at this time, and the fish will bite sometimes. Hit any lit boat dock you see, cast five or six times and go on to the next one.”

You don’t have to be a BASS Pro to head to Lake Jackson this month and catch fish. Temperatures should be on the rise and big lunker largemouths should be heading shallow to start feeding more aggressively. Just tie on a crankbait and a jig, find some good rock and you’ll be ready to pull in one of Jackson’s lunker largemouths.

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