FARM 13 / STICK MARSH FISHING REPORT
March 29, 2003
This past week, we hosted Tommy Powell and Dave Sheppard for 2 days of bassing on the Farm 13/Stick Marsh. What we found was exactly what I have been predicting for the past few weeks - the Stick Marsh side of the Impoundment has gone bonkers with bass!! You'll read al about Tommy and Dave's adventure in a Fishing Report real soon.
And, then yesterday, Lou Daniels and I went to se if we could repeat the catching in the Marsh. Boy, did we!! Big old bass, too. These fish we are on are a steady 3 - 5 lbs. and will literally try and take the rod away from you!
The very center of the Marsh side is just fill of the big bruisers. Soft jerk baits (like Randy Sander's 'Martin Bait' or the Bass Pro Shops STIK-O) are deadly. With Tommy and Dave, the going thing was Rat-L-Traps. In addition to the jerk baits, Lou and I ate them up on Rebel Wee Rs and similar depth crank plugs.
You will also find a lot of bass all the way from that center area to the west wall of the Marsh, as well as just south of the major stand of Palms in the NW corner. The key is, whenever you catch a good fish, to search for the place the school is holding. Lou and I were able to zero in on one nice school of big fish that were holding in a group of old brush tops. There were a lot of clear bottom areas around this brush and that allowed us to identify it from the other surrounding areas. We also found that whenever we hit a limb with the crank plugs to be sure to work all around that location before we moved further.
Wheeee!!! Fishing sure looks great for the next month or so. It might change a bit as the heat causes the grass to grow more. But, for right now, it is super. Think 'MARSH', not 'FARM'!!
March 26, 2003
We had the pleasure of hosting Tom Ellison and Matt Webb recently. They came to 'catch fish' and I did not understand until just before we went out that they wanted to also catch a big mess of crappie. So, when the bass were a bit reluctant and the winds beat us up, we showed Matt and Tom just how effective the PERFECT jig could be. Not only did we get the crappie, but we got beat up by the huge Marsh bluegills and the bass, too.
Actually, we started fishing right at the ramp and moved back to the backwater off the exit ramp at coordinates B14 to D14 (see our interactive Stick Marsh map).
At the boat ramp, the grass line along the palm trees adjacent to the ramp always has some good crappie and big bluegills on it. Plus, there is a 'secret spot' there where the big shellcrackers (red-eared sunfish) seem to stay. With everyone armed with the PERFECT jig, we started pitching to the edge of the grass line and around the palm trees in the water.
Immediately, we were catching fish. The only problem was that there was only one keeper for every 10 we caught!!
So, after just having fun for awhile and putting a few in the livewell, we fired up the STRATOS and went back around behind the ramp and down the exit canal. Moving to the south side of the flat basin, we found hoards of big bluegills and crappie along the grass. After getting a good mess, we decided to go to the Farm and chase bass awhile.
Stopping at the ramp, we iced the crappie and bluegills down in Matt's cooler. Already we had plenty for a good fish fry. But, Tom and Matt also wanted to put some in the freezer for a later date. So, we planned to return to the exit canal area late in the day for a final shot at the fish.
The bass in the Farm cooperated pretty good. But, the size was what we call 'just catching fish'. However, Tom's very first cast was a big old girl who put his rod tip right down in the water. But, alas, she spit the worm and is still out there growing.
It was a little windy, so I suggested that a Carolina rigged worm might be easier to fish than a Texas rig. Plus, the shell beds I was targeting would be much easier to feel. Boy, that sure worked out to the good and the bass came aboard faster.
We tried the crappie that I have been working in the Farm, but it appeared the spawn was about over and they were progressing back to the open water. All we found we little bucks, who joyfully ate the PERFECT jig, but were too small to keep.
So, after a period of search, we headed back to the exit canal flat. That really turned out to be a good move, too! With so many big bluegills and crappie along the grass line of the south side of the flat, we could draw a strike nearly every cast. It made for non-stop action the rest of the day, with a good number of big fish going into the livewells.
As we neared the west end of the levee we were fishing along, a bonus gift came about. There were bass in the grass and they, too, like that little jig we were tossing. Most were 2-lbs and down. But, once in awhile, we tangled with one that the untralight outfits just could not handle in the grass. (The next day I was to find that there was actually a 'motherlode of 2-5 lb. bass in the slightly deeper water out behind our boat. We just never turned around from all the grass line action to find them.)
Back at the ramp, we iced down the crappie and bluegills for Tom and Matt's return trip to Ft. Meyers. Tom said it all when he remarked, "I have never seen such action or caught this many fish before in my life. We're sure coming back to the Stick Marsh!"
In our next report, find out how we blew Harry Olsen's mind on Carolina rig fishing for school bass on the Stick Marsh. It even made Harry forget the three feet of ice that was still on his home lakes in Minnesota.
Until next time, keep in mind that 'New line never breaks --- unless it does!'
March 24, 2003
Dave Pollard was in the area for a bit of vacation from the Washington, DC, cold weather and figured he might as well wet a line, too. So, he called us.
Dave and I managed to share a few old Army stories (he was an Artillery Officer and I was an Ordnance Officer), tell some tales about Vietnam, and note we both have had too many security clearances. Kind of like old home week with a past friend. Dave could handle a worm and a soft jerk bait, too!!! And, he got a 'biggie' for the camera.
Trying to get out of the wind, we went behind the ramp and down the exit canal (A15 - G15 area). A lot of people don't pay attention to the fact that this area even exists, much less ever take the time to fish it. Randy Sanders and I have been using it for years, especially when the winds are tough out on the open waters of the Farm and Marsh. The big flat and open water area on the south side of the canal holds a LOT of fish, many of them trophies.
Dave and I did not find his trophy back there this day. BUT, we did locate some good fish holding in the hydrilla along the south bank. While I pitched a jig to check for the presence of crappie, Dave tossed a SENKO against the grassy levee shoreline.
It wasn't long until I found there were LOTS of crappie there (that will be in our next update with Tom Ellison and Matt Webb) and Dave found out Stick Marsh bass like SENKOs. Dave's 'magic touch' was to simply toss the SENKO out and drop his line on the water. Many times, the bass inhaled the lure as it was in free-fall. Other times, it took one small twitch on the lure to bring the fish.
As the winds dropped down, we finally headed out to the Farm 13 hotspots. The first produced absolutely nothing. I finally got into the act to see if we could saturate the shellbed area with crank plugs and find the fish. I darn near wore the lip of a new Deep Wee R on those shells, without even a nibble.
So, off we went to the north/south canals of the Farm.
This day, the hard shell bottom structure along the canal levees produced only a few fish. But, we found that, if we got into the grass a bit, the bass were evidently just inside the grass lines. Who can say why; it was just the pattern of that day.
Dave found out that a Carolina Rig would work well in the sparse grass. He also found that the bass responded to the quick action of the worm, as the sinker was ripped loose from the grass.
The small 'catching-size' bass came pretty regular. And, then, along came John (or, Joanne, if you prefer). Whatever the name was, it was one nice bass and took ALL the kinks out of Dave's line.
That Stick Marsh is sure one great place to fish!
As we stated earlier, we had the pleasure of hosting Tom Ellison and Matt Webb recently. They came to 'catch fish' and I did not understand until just before we went out that they wanted to catch a big mess of crappie. So, when the bass were a bit reluctant and the winds beat us up, we showed Matt and Tom just how effective the PERFECT jig could be. Not only did we get the crappie, but we got beat up by the huge Marsh bluegills and the bass, too.
Until next time, keep in mind that 'When the enemy is in range, YOU are, too!!'
March 15, 2003
Barry Edwards came down from Oak Ridge, NC, to check the Marsh. Had his boat along and was on a fisherman's vacation for a few days. After the first day, Barry called and said he was having a problem finding the bass in the Stick Marsh. So, we showed him. Barry could fish that plastic worm, you betchcha! And, the bass found it out, too!!
Starting out on a drop-off area, we found a few takers for our crank plugs. Then, anchoring just off the drop in the deeper water, we set Barry up to use a worm on an associated rock pile at the edge of the drop. It was very apparent, right off the bat, Barry knew how to fish that worm and do it right. I figured this was going to be a good day, as he boated a bass near 5 lbs. and his fourth fish of the day.
Pointing the big STRATOS to the southeast, we made for an area along a North/South canal. Here, the weedline was interrupted with shell beds and good hard bottom along the levee.
After I oriented him to the terrain and probable location of the bass, Barry Edwards wasted no time. I had no sooner gotten the anchor down than Barry was calling for the net. A nice fish came aboard. I replaced the net in its storage location just in time for Barry to call for it again. And, then, again. He was putting a hurting on the bass on that shellbed section and got a number of really nice bass off that one spot.
- Open areas in the grass on the submerged levees are GOOD places!
- Shell beds always grow on places that are hard and that are a bit higher than the surrounding terrain. The reason is so that they will not slit over and be smothered. By attaching themselves to a high place, the water currents wash the slit off and it settles in the adjacent lower areas.
- Back in the days when Farm 13 was an active produce farm, the canal levees lay bare in the sun and baked for many years. That is why they are so hard and rock-like. In locations where the levee is exceptional hard, grass will not be able to take root and you find the open areas.
When the action cooled a bit, I re-positioned the boat about 50 feet and Barry worked the grass sections, as well as the shells. BANG, POW, POP - he had them going. By the time we left this small section of canal, Barry already had 4 bass in the 5-lb. range.
Moving to the center North/South ditch, I worked it with the depth finder until I got on an anomaly in the canal levee. This 'different place' is a bit of structure that has really been a magnet for bass for a long time now. As soon as he looked at the depth finder screen, Barry understood its potential.
And, 'understand' he did, as more bass came into the boat. He was sure proficient with that plastic worm rigged Texas style.
Somewhere among all the fish, Barry looked back at me. I was sitting in the comfortable driver's seat watching him work the fish. "You know, you sure have it easy on this guide trip. You don't have to work at all,' Barry noted. I told him he was exactly right. Usually, I am up chasing shiners and taking fish off all the time. But, in Barry's case, all I was doing was locating the spot, dropping the anchor, and pointing out to him where the bass should be. Except for getting the net for the big bass and taking pictures (of which I DID take a lot!), all I had to do was observe and applaud. Mr. Edwards did all the rest. And, very well, too!
Moving to only our fourth fishing spot for the day, I again dropped the anchor and gave Barry the usual orientation as to the underwater structure present and where the fish might be. He did well on those fish and closed out the day with another of those 5 lb.-range bass. It made a great photo shot against the near-sunset sky.
Another great day of fishing with a great boat partner on the Stick Marsh. It doesn't get much better than that. I just wish that old giant fish had happened by with all the 5 lbers!
Next, Dave Pollard and I talk old Army stories (he was an Artillery Officer and I was an Ordnance Officer), tell some tales about Vietnam, and note we both have had too many security clearances. Kind of like old home week with a past friend. Dave could handle a worm and a soft jerk bait, too!!! And, he got a 'biggie' for the camera.
Until the next time, keep in mind that 'A stranger is probably just a friend you have not met yet!'
March 1, 2003
Recently, we hosted Howard Goodin for a day of fish chasin' on the Marsh. Again, the small bass overwhelmed us. But, AGAIN, a big girl showed up to make Howard's day. And, the big crappie made for a fitting finale against the setting sun.
Howard has to be a 'good old boy'. I know that because he never got upset, threw any rods, cussed any fish or guides, and basically was a gentleman at all times. Your 'friendly' guide, on the other hand, got pretty riled up over the lack of decent fish. At one point, the guide even gave thought to using one of those 'duPont spinners' most of you have heard about. I just did not have a match to light the fuse with.
Howard said he wanted to 'major' in artificials, but the guide talked him into just a couple dozen shiners 'just in case the wind blew hard'. So, we went to the shiner hole and set those minners a'swimming. And, darn if they didn't do a good job, too. They swam and swam pretty well.
Finally, the shiners began to attract some bass. The only problem was that they were small. I mean small, as in 'little'. The shiners probably laughed at most of the bass, but those little bucks were off the beds and ready to eat! A decent number came to us, --- but small/little/tiny/underage/miniscule/a guide's worst nightmare.
So, we decided we would have to work for them.
Taking Deep Wee R's to a good canal edge, we boated a few. Then, we tried a worm place and boated a few more. Heading to the next location, a shell bed on a canal levee, we stopped just short of the shells and started tossing the crank plugs again. The idea was to run a section of the submerged levee that had held a good school of bass prior to the spawn, just in case they had finally returned.
Guess what? Some HAD returned. Especially that one good fish. As we eased along the levee, I tossed a worm looking to draw a strike. Howard burned the Deep Wee R along the levee, banging on the shells and gravel hard. A couple of decent fish came to us, so we stayed at it.
As we got within 100 feet of the primary shell bed, Howard indicated that he had another fish on the Rebel. His tone of voice was normal, so I thought it was probably another 2-3 pound fish. I guess Howard did, too, as he just kept his seat. But, he did say something about the fish 'coming right at the boat'. I should have recognized that fact as maybe something special.
Suddenly, and about three feet off the side of the boat, the bass decided it was time to rid itself of the Deep Wee R. Blasting skywards, the huge bass caused Howard and I, both, to nearly drop our teeth! It was a grown one!!
By now, the big fish was under the boat and in danger of breaking off on the short line. The bass had the line so tight, Howard could not release the free-spool button. But, Howard knew exactly what to do and began to back off the star drag on the reel. As he backed the star drag off, I reached and stripped a couple of feet of line off the reel to get the drag slipping and then went for the net.
From that point on, it was all Howard. He had done this before and kept the fish away from the motors. The big fish made her runs and tried to jump again. But, she tired soon, like all the big ones are prone to do, and slid right into the net.
After a picture or two, Howard put the bass back. As she left, she gave him the customary 'kiss in the face' with a tail-slap on water.
Moving down to the shell bed area, we found a few more smaller bass on the hard-bottomed area. A Texas rig worm did the damage there, plus a couple of a Carolina rig.
After a quick stop on another canal location, we headed off to show Howard the fine Stick Marsh crappie. They cooperated, as usual and we closed out another good fishing day. It started slow and the fish started small. But, persistence usually pays off in the Marsh.
Barry Edwards came down from Oak Ridge, NC, to check the Marsh. After the first day, Barry called and said he was having a problem finding the bass. So, we showed him. Barry can fish that plastic worm, you betchcha! And, the big bass found it out, too!!
Until then, here is something to remember: 'When you get 10 miles down the lake from the ramp and have that nagging feeling that you have forgotten something --- you can bet your bippy you sure have.' It may be the rainsuit, tackle box, or drain plug. But, you will surely have forgotten SOMETHING!
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