with Boyd Duckett
Bass fishing in February can be either feast or famine. Cold fronts and harsh temperatures turn off the bass but a three day warming trend can herd the big bass to shallow area where you can catch them better than any other time of year. Improve your odds by heading south. Demopolis Lake is a good bet for February bass in shallow water.
At 10,000 acres Demopolis is the largest lake on the Black Warrior/Tombigbee River system. It extends up the Black Warrior River 48 miles and 53 miles up the Tombigbee River from an overflow dam near the city of Demopolis. Since it is an overflow dam and the land is very flat the lake can rise or fall quickly depending on upstream rains, and there are no controls on the water level.
Demopolis offers tough fishing at times but the 14 inch limit means the average size of bass weighed in at club tournaments is good. In the 2007 BAIT reports Demopolis ranked 17th in angler success but 5th in average bass weight. You will catch a lot of bass under the 14 inch length limit that must be released and are not brought in during tournaments.
Boyd Duckett grew up in North Carolina and started fishing with his brother when they found a pond back in the woods near where they lived. He began tournament fishing when 17 years old and jumped in at the pot tournament level on local lakes. A move to Nashville, TN for business allowed him to learn fishing deep in highland reservoirs, a change from what he was used to fishing.
In 1991 Boyd moved to Demopolis and within a few years his tournament fishing seemed to get a lot better with him winning many events. In 2002 he got serious about his tournament fishing and entered bigger tournaments. That paid off in 2007 with a Bassmasters Classic win and he now fishes the Elite Series as well as the PAA events. He will be fishing the Classic this month on the Red River after qualifying through the Elite Series.
In 2007 Boyd set a one-season record, winning $860,000 that year, more than any other fisherman had won in one year on the BASS trail. He was also the first fisherman in 36 Classics to win one on his home state lake when he won at Lay Lake that year.
Boyd learned a lot about Demopolis fishing it in local tournaments with Bill Champion. He agreed to share some of the keys to February fishing there and says water level is critical to catching bass in February. If the water is rising from upstream rains the fish will move far back into newly flooded cover and you can not get to them. Falling water pulls them to the edges and makes them easier to catch.
Since Demopolis is so shallow Boyd says the bass will move to the spawning areas as soon as there are a few warm days and the bigger bass move in first. They will head into sloughs and creeks, working their way to the very backs of them to spawn. You can follow them this month and use a variety of methods to catch them.
Water clarity is very important, too. Rising water forces muddy river water back into the sloughs and you need to go back in them until you find a good color to fish. Some are so long that muddy water almost never gets all the way back in them.
Boyd will tie on a Berkley Little Chigger Craw behind a heavy Tru-Tungsten weight for flipping mats and heavy cover, a Rat-L-Trap for searching for active fish and a Falcon spinnerbait for covering water where the Trap is ineffective. He also likes a shallow running crankbait like the Mann’s 1 Minus to run over shallow grass back in the pockets.
Boyd showed me the following spots a few weeks ago and fish were already in some of them. They will get better all month as more and more bass respond to the warming water and move in.
1. N 32 31.159 – W 87 52.209 – Running upriver from the dam the second small ditch on your left runs back and opens up into a big slough that runs parallel to the river. Boyd called this the “Meat Hole” because of all the bass caught in it. When we were there the rising water had filled the ditch with hyacinths and it would have been hard getting in but Boyd says it is well worth the effort.
The ditch going in is only about 2 feet deep with the river stage at 20.5 feet so you need it at least that high to get in. When you get back where the slough opens up, there will be a lot of flooded brush and tree bases standing in the water. Boyd says to fish the first 5 feet of cover from the edge back, working it with a spinnerbait when you can and flipping or pitching a Little Chigger Craw tight to cover where it is thick.
If the river stage is over 22 feet this spot and others gets very hard to fish since the water will be many yards back into thick woods you can’t get to. Bass follow the rising water and get where you can’t catch them. When the level is between 20.5 and 22 this is one of the best places on the lake.
2. N 32 31.920 – W 87 50.953 – Culpepper Slough runs off the right side of the river upstream of the marina and dock at Demopolis and goes back under Highway 43. There is standing timber in the middle of the slough going in so be very careful. It is a good idea to idle in until you learn it.
Go back to the bridge and start fishing. Bass will move up the slough and hold around razor grass, tree bases in the water and under matted vegetation. One of Boyd’s favorites is what he called “alligator grass,” a plant with small leaves on long stems. The roots are on the shallow side and the plant grows toward deep water, making a covering shelf bass love to hold under. The plants warm from the sun and the water temperature will usually be several degrees warmer under the mat than in the surrounding water.
Near the back of the slough on your right you will see the old causeway for Highway 43. Fish all along the slough on both sides. There are lots of mats of grass to fish here. Flip a heavy weighed Chigger Craw and let it fall through the mat. Boyd says be ready, you can’t drop your rod tip and set the hook since the weight is so heavy. The fish will spit it out quick so set the hook on any tick or hesitation as your bait falls.
Work all around this slough and go back as far as you can. You can’t go too shallow in February if there have been a few warm days. Hit all the cover you come to including grass mats, tree trunks and razor grass edges.
3. N 32 32.496 – W 87 50.947 – Run up past where the two rivers join and watch for an opening on your left. The ditch leads into Dobbs Swamp, a huge area where you could spend all day fishing. As you go in the channel will split off to your left, the coordinates above are just upstream of that split going left.
Start at the split and fish into the lakes and sloughs on that side, fishing open water with Rat-L-Trap and spinnerbaits and pitching a plastic bait to heavy cover. Keep working back until you find clearer water if the mouth is stained up. Here and in other areas river stages of 20 to 21 feet are best.
Watch for old beaver dams across channels. At high water they will be covered but most have grass and trees growing on them. If the water is dropping and a current is moving across them the little cuts and channels with current always hold bass. For some reason rising water creating a current on the upper side of them does not hold the bass but Boyd says you are guaranteed a bass if the water is dropping and you fish the current on the downstream side of them.
4. N 32 33.126 – W 87 51.633 – Come back out and go up the right side at the split. You can run a long way back in a narrow channel then it will end at mats of hyacinth. Push through it and lakes will open up on your right and ahead of you. The one on the right is choked with hyacinth and the one a head is more open, with hydrilla in the middle.
Both can hold fish but after warm days the one ahead will be better, and the water will be even clearer. It was very clear in here the day we fished and individual bass were chasing shad. Boyd said two days before we fished, on a cloudy day, there was a lot of schooling activity here and he caught a bunch of bass. The day we fished he landed three fish on a shallow running crankbait fished slowly over the grass.
In this and other areas, if the water is still in the low 50s Boyd will flip the edges of the razor grass beds with a Chigger Craw. Bass will hold in these spots until it warms a little more. Also concentrate on the mats if the sun is shinning and the water is warming. Bass are more likely to be active and in the hydrilla if the water is warming, too. When it gets above 55 degrees Boyd will go as far back into these areas as he can, pitching to all the heavy cover. He says you can not go too far back in February; the bass will be very shallow.
5. N 32 31.033 – W 87 49.004 – Run up the Warrior River until you see the cement plant on your right and an old rail road trestle running down the side of the river. It is being dismantled. Go under it at the small ditch and a steep bank slough opens up. The water in here is usually clear and it is deeper than any of the other sloughs in the area. Boyd calls this the “Citadel.”
Boyd says this is a good early February hole since the water stays clear and warms fast. He will start just inside the slough and work all the way around it, hitting all the shoreline cover. There is another ditch opening to your left not far from the mouth that is very good if the water is in the mid 50s and warmer. It opens up into about an acre size lake and holds some big bass.
6. Run into French Creek, the big creek on your right above the cement plant. It opens up and goes back to a bridge. Run to the bridge and start fishing on the left side as soon as you go under it. Fish all the way to where the bank turns back to the right at coordinates N 32 31.315 – W 87 47.331 or go to this spot and start fishing back toward the bridge.
Boyd says this is a good early spot since it is a steep bank with a lot of wood cover along it. You will see a metal gate running off the bank, too. When the water temperature is 50 to 51 he likes to fish all along this 400 yard stretch, working the cover slowly and carefully.
Bass moving up will hold along this bank before moving on toward the back of the creek. And French Creek tends to have bigger bass than most other areas so it is a good place to work during tournaments. Florida strain largemouth were stocked from the bridge here for three years back in the mid 1980s and, although they have been diluted over time, their offspring still produce bigger bass than most other areas on the lake.
7. Go back to the bridge and start on the other side, the upstream side on your right going upstream. Fish along the road bed around the point and into the small creek entering there. The bank is deeper from the bridge around the point and has wood cover then gets shallow in the creek. Keep fishing the grass mats and razor grass edges all the way to the rail road bridge in the back of this small creek. (no coordinates here – pretty obvious what to fish from one bridge to the next!)
This creek is a good spawning area so the bass will first move up on the steeper bank then work their way in to the back to spawn. You can follow them as the water warms this month. Boyd says the bigger fish tend to spawn early on Demopolis and thinks the full moon in mid-March will be a heavy spawn. The bass should be moving into these areas all during February getting ready for it.
8. N 32 31.035 – W 87 47.149 – From the bridge run the left side of French Creek to the back to a dead cedar tree lying on the left bank. Start fishing at it and work toward the back of the slough, around the cove here. There are some power lines crossing in the very back of it.
The left side of this cove where the cedar tree lies on the bank is a little deeper with some wood and grass patches. The right side has razor grass beds. Boyd says he will keep working around this cove over and over as long as he catches a bass on each pass. He says you can often stay right here and limit out on good fish as they move in.
9. N 32 32.242 W 87 47.871 – Run up the river from the mouth of French Creek and you will pass a creek on your right that sometimes holds bass but often gets muddy since it opens up back on the river on the upper end. Upstream of it is another slough that runs parallel to the river and is a good one. Start fishing toward the back near the small island on the left side. Across from it is a ditch.
Work both sides of this slough from the island to the ditch. You will come to a beaver dam across the slough and then it opens up above it. It is hard to get across this dam but when the bass are spawning it is a good area. In early February fish up to the dam then back out.
If there is any current coming across the dam there will be bass in the small channels. The day we fished we spent a lot of time here since Boyd had caught a bunch of fish here two days earlier. We saw individual fish chasing shad and big groups of shad, a key to fishing since bass will follow the bait until they make their spawning move.
Boyd impressed me the way he picked apart the cover and carefully worked different baits until he found what they wanted. On a tough day with rising water and a hard cold front after cloudy, warm days for a week Boyd caught about 15 bass. Most of them and the biggest hit a spinnerbait he crawled on the bottom here. He kept working slower and slower until he found what the bass wanted. If the fishing is tough keep working until you find what works that day.
10. N 32 33.587 – W 87 47.272 – Yellow Creek is a creek on the right after you go around the bend with Slough Creek on the left. Boyd will go back into it to the left side of what used to be an island and is still shown as one on some maps. It has silted in on the right side and is now a big razor grass flat. Go back to where it looks like there is a split then stay to your left.
Go in and make a 90 degree turn to your left at the entrance. Start on the left bank past the long point and work to the pocket upstream. Throw a spinnerbait in the more open water and flip a plastic bait to the edges of the razor grass. Stay to the left and work way back in here, especially if the water is warming.
Fish these ten spots and see the kinds of places Boyd finds bass in February on Demopolis. There are others similar to them but remember this lake fishes small. Some of these places are worth fishing all day. Boyd says keep moving until you find some feeding fish then stick with them.