It’s hard to envision just how great the Stick Marsh fishery really is for trophy bass fishing. If you’re a serious or competitive bass angler, you really owe it to yourself to fish this tremendous bass factory at least once. It definitely is one of the best bass fishing destinations in Florida or even majority of the country. If nothing else, horsing trophy bass out of thick vegetation and from around standing and submerged timber will truly test your angling skills and get you blood flowing.
The Stick Marsh fishing has all the ingredients that a big bass lake should: a long growing season, lots of healthy fish, plenty of forage and tons of excellent habitat all add up to get fishing.
But a lot of our Florida fishing lakes have big bass. What’s so special about the Stick Marsh and Farm 13?
STICK MARSH HISTORY
At 6,500 acres, the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 development does not feel as intimidating as fishing some of Florida’s larger lakes. Most anglers quickly feel right at home on these vigorous bass waters. Such feelings are important to anglers who like to relate to grass, structure and shorelines for navigation, although GPS equipment is highly recommended.
Stick Marsh was a marsh. It was full of trees that were tall and brush and some wild fruit trees. There were swampy areas and areas not so wet. The entire area was surrounded on all four sides by canals. In the late 1980s, the St. John’s River Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers initiated a project to restore the drained marshland and to construct reservoirs, canals and levees that would offer a new level of flood protection. The water flowed over the top of the inside levies and filled up the stickmarsh. This created, Stick Marsh the lake. The FWC then stocked the area, brush, trees and vegetation still intact, with gamefish.
The original purpose for stocking bass was to be a natural reproduction fishery. All parties involved felt that to increase the catch ratio and to extend the life of Stick Marsh fishing, it would not be good for folks to eat the game fish. For this reason, they regulated the area to be catch and release for largemouth bass.
When thinking about Stick Marsh fishing; catching trophy fish is what drives most anglers to fishing and this lake holds a ton of bass. Stick Marsh features 800 pounds of fish biomass per acre, of which 35 percent is composed of largemouth bass. This staggering figure is maintained by a very productive environment. Fed by fertile agricultural runoff, Stick Marsh/Farm 13 bass produce swift growth rates. Bass can grow up to 2 1/2 pounds in one year! While the Everglades still holds the record for number of fish caught per hour, while Stick Marsh fishing has a higher growth rate.
Stick Marsh Fishing
According to a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Stickmarsh and Farm 13 are very nutrient rich. The nutrition provides plenty of food to support threadfin and gizzard shad, small bream and shiners, which are all present in good numbers. Those, in turn, feed the bass and make them grow big.
The catch-and-release regulation for bass has been in place on this complex since 1990 to make sure the trophy bass potential remains in its present condition. With such fertile inflow and good habitat, bass fishing in this lake should be excellent for many years to come.
At the same time Stick Marsh was being assembled, Farm 13 was being built, in the exact same way. The Southern most levy that made the Southern boundary for Stick Marsh was the Northern boundary for Farm 13. Farm 13 is larger and is definitely safer for boating operation, although you have to get through Stick Marsh to get to Farm 13.
The land of Stick Marsh and Farm 13 both belonged to Fellsmere Farms. As a vegetable farm, Farm 13 had canals or irrigation ditches. These canals still remain below the surface. The deepest portions of Farm 13 are at the center of the old channels. The shallowest portions are at the tops of the old levies that are just under the water.
The two lakes together are about 6,500 acres. The Northern boundary of the two lakes is Fellsmere, which lies on the borders of Brevard and Indian County. The lakes are North/East of Blue Cypress and West of I-95. The closest town is Fellsmere. Fellsmere is very small and isolated. To the North is Melbourne and to the South is Vero Beach.
These fishing lakes are not found on very many maps. The lakes were made after the State of Florida was mapped. Fishing days of catching and releasing 75+ bass are not unheard of on these lakes. Most anglers come to Stick Marsh fishing and looking for a double-digit trophy bass. It’s been said more than once, that per acre of water, the Stickmarsh and Farm 13 yield more bass exceeding 10 pounds than any other Florida lakes open to the general public including, Lake Okeechobee, Lake Toho, Lake Kissimmee and Walk in Water.
Ten-pounders can be caught during any month of the year on Stick Marsh. But there are opinions regarding when is the best time of year to catch a giant trophy bass on this Central Florida fishing lake.
As with most Florida lakes or fisheries, periods in and around the spawn are the best times to catch a “Hawg.” Although you can catch 10-pounders all throughout the summer, there are just fewer of them and they are harder to catch. The spawn on the Stick Marsh ordinarily runs from February through April. The greatest spawning activity can be expected during the months of March and April, with the optimum water temperatures for taking a giant bass occurring in mid-March through May. Sight-fishing for big females on the Stick Marsh is pretty tough, due to dense aquatic vegetation and dark water coloration.
Sometimes when anglers target trophy bass, they give up the opportunity to catch quantities of fish. This is not always so when Stick Marsh fishing. During an average day on the Stick Marsh with a fishing guide, anglers can expect to catch plenty of bass with an outstanding chance of catching at least one “Hawg”.
Bass can be found throughout the Stick Marsh, but certain areas, like most lakes, provide better action than others. Regardless of where you fish Stick Marsh or Farm 13, moving water affects the bait fish, which controls fish behavior. One of the most predictable times to catch bass here is when water is being pumped into the lake. If you’re fishing when this occurs, get to the inflow area quickly because the bass bite is probably already starting to happen. The downside with the inflow bite is that there’s no announcement that the pumps are going to be running. Guides never know when these inflows will occur. You should be aware, however, that the pumps are often more active during the rainy season.
It doesn’t take long to find the first Stickmarsh hotspot if the water is running at the boat ramp. Check to see if water is being pumped through the inflow pipes next to the ramp. If so, don’t leave without spending some time casting around the moving water created by the inflow. Bass tend to gravitate toward current and are usually in a feeding mode at those times. In addition, all of the most productive areas are always marked with many of boats.
Other productive areas on the Stickmarsh can be found on the southwestern corner, which is noted for vast expanses of spawning areas that the big females seem to prefer. The northwestern corner is also a very productive location for trophy bass and is a favorite among regular Stick Marsh fishing guides.
Perhaps no area is more famous on this side of the lake than the Twin Palms area, which rates as one of the most consistent places on the lake to catch large quantities of bass.
The “spillway” on the southeastern side of the lake’s Farm 13 portion may be the most productive point to fish on the entire development, particularly when there is water running in. This spot truly suits the phrase, “the early bird gets the fish”, because on many trips, boats race for this location. Under the right conditions, a single boat can hook over 300 bass in a single day.
The average bass runs between 1 and 4 pounds with some stretching into the 7- to 10-pound range.
Another area to monitor for inflowing water is at the pump on the east levee. When the water starts flowing in, bass really stack up at this spot. Again, timing and current is the key to fishing Farm 13.
The maze of ditches on StickMarsh/Farm 13 embedded in the lake bottom act just like creek channels in large reservoirs. Fish lurk along the hydrilla-lined edges of these ditches and use them as roadways to move throughout the lake. The ditches are one of the most consistent locations to encounter big Stickmarsh bass, with a variety of lures.
Knowing that these trenches are lined with forage-packed vegetation serves as a hugh advantage. It’s not uncommon to witness the water erupt as schooling bass ambush prey that gets flushed from vegetation. When bass start schooling on bait, they are particularly susceptible to artificial lures.
When you locate these schooling bass along the ditches, anchor up, stay way off and make long cast repeatedly to them. Do not use your trolling motor. It scares the bait fish and in most cases spooks the school of bass. There’s no telling how many bass you might catch from a single location if you don’t spoke them off.
The only place better to find bass than an irrigation ditch is at the intersection of two canals. By observing your boats depth finder and looking at the growth patterns of the vegetation along the ditches, you can easily locate the crossing ditches.
Regardless of which area you are fishing, one question we always get from anglers is, “What bait should I use?” Wild shiners are always a good option on all Florida lakes and used by most guides fishing Stickmarsh. They can be fished from an anchored boat or trolled on bobber rigs to cover move water. Be sure to read this article from Capt Chris Shepard on fishing wild shiners.
Many anglers find more pleasure in using artificial baits. Nothing is more exciting than catching bass on topwater lures. Even with the missed strikes, it’s the action that we can’t resist. Walking style baits like Zara spook and Storm chug-bug lures are most anglers choice for topwater action.
The news craze among topwater lure fishermen has been the swimming frogs, like the Zoom Horny Toad. These baits are some of the easiest to fish. You simply throw them out and retrieve back on the surface. The hardest part of fishing these style baits is the hook set it self. As in most bass fishing, after a little field testing, the bass generally let you know which way they want it.
These topwater lures can be worked over the top of vegetation with great success. And you better be ready for the heart jarring explosion before fishing them on Stickmarsh, because some of these topwater strikes are incredible!
Stick baits, like Berkley Gulp “Sinking Minnow” are mainstay lures on the Stickmarsh and have accounted for more big bass than any other artificial bait used by our clients. Our guides prefer 5-inch versions in dark colors, such as watermelon, June bug and brown. These versatile lures can be rigged weedless — a huge advantage when fishing many portions of the Stickmarsh.
As for crank baits, nothing beats a Rat-L-Trap when Stick Marsh fishing when wanting to cover water. These lipless, medium-running crankbaits can be fished at a variety of depths, depending on retrieval speed.
When the wind blows, there is no better bait to cover water then a spinnerbait. A favorite for any lake in Florida is a War Eagle, our favorite is a 3/8-ounce Golden Shiner pattern with dual willow leaf blades.
Stick Marsh Bass Fishing Methods
Anglers can locate largemouth bass in or near hydrilla. Plastic worms, spinner baits, crank baits, soft-jerked baits and topwater propeller baits are effective. Wild golden shiners are the top choice for anglers looking to catch a trophy fish. Visit the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission for more detailed information.
We also have a full photo album and testimonials of the fish caught by our customers. If you are ready for the adventure of a lifetime, click here to book your Florida guides, or get detailed trip information.
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