RECOMMENDED BY JIM PORTER
FARM 13 / STICK MARSH FISHING REPORT
September 27, 2002
Here we are back in Florida after a summer of chasing smallmouths in the North Carolina mountains. Quite a change, too. Daytime temps in the Stick Marsh are 90-93, with high humidity and plenty of rain.
Today, we made our first return to the Marsh and what a welcome back it was! Nothing has changed and the fish are doing exactly what they have always done at this time of year.
Arriving at the ramp at 3 PM, we found two vehicles - both turned out to be crappie fishermen. There was no rain in sight and none happened by. So, after I got back to the ramp, I wondered why so many anglers are passing up the present great fishing (?). Maybe I just hit it right and the fishing has been poor up to now. I don't know that answer. But, here is what I found yesterday.
The first stop was at the opening in the trees near the ramp. No current was present. The Swimming Worm picked three fish off the edges of the drop on the sump hole. That is about par for any fishing day at that location.
Next, we tried the old submerged roadbed we like. Zilch on that place.
The end of the levee separating the Marsh and the Farm was our next target. Nothing came to the Rat-L-Trap. But, the Carolina Rig managed to get 5 small dinks and one about 3 lbs.
The East gate of the Farm was not running, but we got one nice fish off the back lip of the blowout hole on a crank plug.
Moving down the east-west canal running from that gate to the shack on the west bank, we tried a canal intersection. Nothing came on worms or cranks. But, just as we were about to move again, we spotted a huge school busting baitfish off to the west.
The schooling location was like running into an old friend again. Bass have used this 100-meter square area for decimating baitfish schools ever since the Marsh/Farm complex was new. From somewhere around late summer through the first cool days of November, this pattern is very predictable.
But, you just have to watch for the signs, in that you may not actually see the bass churning on the surface as you pass by. It is an odd thing, but the bass and the larger needlefish seems to run together when surface feeding. It may not actually be that congenial a relationship and may actually be one breed or the other simply 'butting in' on the other party. It is difficult to tell. Sometimes, the bass break on the baitfish first, followed by flying needlefish. At other times, only the needlefish will be seen running the baitfish and flipping through the air. BUT, that is usually a giveaway that bass are also active in the same area. It is also a sign that most of the bass will probably be small, in that the baitfish will be small. Needlefish do not seem to surface feed on anything but 1-1/2 inch, and smaller, baitfish. Occasionally, while catching the smaller bass, an old good 'un will blast your stuff. But, that is a bonus.
If the schooling bass are generally above two lbs., the baitfish will be large and the needlefish will not appear to be present. Then, you must watch for baitfish activity rather than needlefish. Dimples, small breaks and splashes on the surface usually mean gar rolling at flipping their tails, or small fish feeding on tiny insects. Disregard that activity. When actively feeding bass are in an area, you will see baitfish jump horizontally across the surface in a mad dash to save their tails from something with a big mouth. Unless the activity seen looks like a panic getaway effort, it probably means nothing.
We got over to the schooling activity after the school had sounded. But, there were needlefish flipping and chasing all over the open area. So, we tried a ¼ oz Rat-L-Trap. That worked great. We tried two types of small topwater plugs and they got eaten regularly, especially if we got to a break location quickly. No matter if it was a needlefish chasing the minnow, there would also be a bass there, too. What really worked best, if I do say so myself, was my small 4-inch Swimming Worm, the Junior. It would get a bass on nearly every cast.
The sad part is that these fish ran an average of only 1-1/2 lbs., with a couple of 2-1/2 lbers. That just happened by to see what was happening. It was fun, but I finally left it to work one final location.
I LIKE the SW corner of the Farm! It has always been my very favorite place in the impoundment. While I have caught most of my giant bass in other locations, that SW corner has lots of fish, a diversity of cover, and is just FUN to fish. I particularly like to take the Swimming Worm and work down the south end of that far west canal (running from just below the shack to its southern end). It is a very predictable Swimming Worm location, as many of my past guide parties can attest to. So, I was not surprised when I found a lot of fish along the west side of the canal. Most were in the 2 to 2-1/2 lb. range, with one good old 5 lb. girl that tore a new worm all to heck.
So, we are back and the Stick Marsh is still kicking and bristling with fish. I am still wondering, though, why no one is out there. Afternoons are great when the storms are absent.
If you are in the area and we can dodge the storms, ½ day trips in the afternoons (2:30 PM until dark) are going for $150. An extra person can come at no additional charge.
The following reports were provided by Randy Sanders, while Jim was in North Carolina.
September 19, 2002
Janine & Jim Shively of Ocala, Fl celebrated Janine's 1-day belated birthday by hitting Stick Marsh/ Farm 13 with me today, Janine chose bass fishing over a trip to Aruba for her present and was grinning ear to ear like the cat that ate the canary all day. Both Jim and Janine were very persistent, thorough, and alert in their approach so I had no excuses.
We started about 7:15am on a ditch intersection in Farm 13 with winds about 8 mph, I had them both start with 1/2 oz. rattletraps in "lemon" color while I searched the bottom with a heavy Texas-rig and a Carolina-rig. There was very little visible activity due to a small chop and the fish weren't quite jumping in the boat but the birthday girl was catching 2 or 3 every 30-45 minutes as Jim and I pretended to "let her" take the lead. We fished a 40-yard circle until the wind made my circle look like !#@*?!!!
14 fish was the count, about 8 fish to Janine, 4 to Jim, and 2 for me. Our next stop was to a good windy day spot, a point between the Farm and the Stick Marsh. It was to be our last stop of the day, by 2:00pm we had hooked over 50 bass, at least 36 made it to the boat. All of their fish were caught on rattletraps, every fish thought it was 10 lbs., none were but they were all 1-4 lb. scrappers. About 8 or 9 of those fish ate c-rigged 8" Gambler red shad ribbontails but the traps were definitely the chosen tool for the day, for the week for that matter.
4 days at the marsh this week and there is no doubt in my mind that a 1/2 oz. lipless crankbait is the way to go right now.
The fish that I have seen this week have been primarily feeding on threadfin shad from 2-3" in length, not shiners, needlefish, etc.
During full moon phases the abundance of bait can make fishing confusing, too much bait.
To catch fish we usually attempt to "match the hatch" or use very similar sizes and colors to the preferred bait at the time. However, during these full moon phases in these "areas of bait abundance" I prefer to match the size of the bait but not the color, in other words I prefer wildly colored baits over chrome or other reflective baits that too closely resemble the thousands of shad in the area.
If you're not in an area of bait abundance match the size and color of the preferred bait.
Retrieves will differ but steady retrieves with occasional pauses to fall below the shad are usually a good start.
September 15, 2002
In the last 12 days I have fished the marsh 7 times with nearly identical results on every trip. To sum things up for us, larger fish have been in the wood of the Stick Marsh, with numbers of fish being caught in the ditches of Farm 13.
Here's how the average day seems to go.
Approx. 7:00 - 8:30 AM:
I have been starting about 7 AM in the C-54 extension canal about 100 yards north of the boat ramp. The canal is about 12 deep now and casting buzz baits and soft jerk baits to the south side of the canal is usually good for 6-12 fish by 8:30 am or so. The fish are usually 1-4 lbs. I like to start with a 6 inch soft plastic stick bait that I designed myself, my wife hand pours the baits and does an incredible job of developing my color requests, my exact baits are not necessary to catch fish however, they just help my confidence. First thing in the morning, I like a color we call "Milky June" It's a "junebug" and white mix with no glitter; why reflect darkness? As the sun rises I will move to a "gold melons" color. It's translucent green with lots of gold flake. A Gambler Flappin' Shad also does the trick.
Approx. 8 30 - 9am:
I run into the Stick Marsh and back to the NW corner by the palm forest, don't run there because you saw me run there, idle recommended. There are several small depth changes here with specific stump rows on them in 6 feet of water. Some days are better than others, but we usually claim 3-8 fish here by 10:30 am on Bomber model "A" crankbaits in "firetiger" color. If the crankbait bite does not exist, we will pitch 10 inch Gambler ribbontails in "junebug" or "emerald blue" Texas rigged to 1/4 oz. rattlin' weight and a 4/0 Gamakatsu superline hook. As you know, Power Pro microfilament is always on all my reels.
Approx. 11:00 am:
Now that the sun is up and hot, many fish will congregate and suspend above the shellbeds located on drops in Farm 13 so it's off to satisfy the Carolina-rig craving. Others and I prefer the middle E/W ditch in the farm. Our chosen rig has been the 1/2 oz. c-rig with about 30" of leader. With the hot and sometimes still conditions I prefer a 8" Gambler worm or the same hand poured baits I described earlier which we call "Martian Baits". Any dark forms of blue, red, black, or purple seem to work.
By 1:00 PM:
I'm at the ramp with 10-25 fish; nothing was different yesterday as Trish and I caught 17 fish, no big fish. We were on a decent crankbait bite for big fish last week, several 7's, one 8-lb. fish and some 4-5 lb. fish as well. This week we have not had the big fish bite.
In my OPINION the best place to catch fish is probably still the ditches of Farm 13. For us, however, they have been small fish, which has been my reason for spending most of my time lately on the Stick Marsh side searching for hawgs.
In my OPINION, you should fish both sides of the reservoir. In summer the, farm is especially awesome for c-rigging the ditches, 4-12 feet drops loaded with mussels, shell, etc. The sticks are great for crankbaits and Texas- rigging, 5-6 feet deep with oodles of palm stumps, pepper and wild fruit trees mostly submerged 3 feet below the surface. Bring your lure retriever, as snags are to be expected.
Many lure styles will work on either body of water; these are just my first picks.
September 4, 2002
In the last two weeks the fish quality for me and many other anglers has slightly diminished in Farm 13, the big fish are there but it seems the small fish are beating them to the bait, not all the time of course. The competition among bass in the ditches of Farm 13 is unbelievable when they decide to eat. Don't get me wrong, I will never complain about a fish that will bite and fight even if small but we were due for some big fish, I felt it was time to search for individuals, territorial ones.
I had spoken with Darren of St. Louis, Missouri and discussed his priorities the night before on the phone, " big fish " he said. I felt his best opportunity of getting a BIG FISH RIGHT NOW IN THE STICK MARSH ON "COVER" RATHER THAN "STRUCTURE". In other words on brush, stumps and grass, which have less potential to hold numbers of fish like the shell piles and drops-offs of Farm 13, LESS potential, not unheard-of by any stretch.
After a half days fishing only 7 fish came aboard with no hawgs, but no dinks either all on Carolina-rigs. Darren tried one of my rods and was immediately amazed with Power Pro braided line, he said "this is my rod now", he's big, I said "ok". I dropped Darren off so he could rest up for Sea World with the family the following day. I shot back out through the Stick Marsh (NOT RECOMMENDED) to an area roughly a 1/2 mile south of Twin Palms, (you'll see me). I began fishing a roughly 100 yard area that has been good to me in the past for big fish, it has pepper trees, citrus trees, and sum-uda trees in water that is now about 7 feet deep.
Most of the "cover" in this area is about 3-4 feet down though some is visible above the surface. A great tool in this scenario is the Bomber BO5F , several colors are good but I chose chartreuse/ lime green back for the less than 1 foot visibility. I cast for about 15 minutes before I hooked a big fish that had me under "some type of wood" if I had to bet, we tugged back and forth about 10 seconds before my hooks straightened out and she was free. I was pretty excited, I didn't see the fish but I felt very strongly it was over 6 lbs. or so though I admit these fish have fooled me before. I straightened my hooks and continued crashing my crankbait into submerged branches and occasionally through hydrilla at a medium pace. In the next two hours I had 2 more good strikes, a couple "suspicious feelings" and a solid hook-up resulting in the above-pictured fish who went just under 7 lbs. on the Bogagrip scale.
There may not be as many bites right now in the Stick Marsh as the Farm but from what I have seen they are quality bites well worth the casts. Most brush is not visible though roughly 80% of the Stick Marsh side is littered with wood, every 3-5 feet, another log, and another bass possibility. Blind cast a crankbait that runs at least 5 feet to locate wood and then repeat casts to that area from different angles, then throw in the Texas- rigs, etc. Not everywhere holds fish though they may seem the same, watch your electronics for bait and bass. Pay close attention to the depth they are holding and target that depth. I like to let the crankbait bounce of the wood and create its own strikes though many retrieves can work at different times, stay open minded and creative. Hang-ups are part of the business and lures will be lost to fish and wood that you can pretend were fish, a good lure retriever will pay for itself quickly.
September 2, 2002
My wife Tricia and my best friend Bart said they could crack the big fish code for me so once again I was at the marsh on the hunt. Shad activity was up and so was the bass activity slightly but the fish were still small, 27 fish between all three of us in 7 hours biggest being just 3 lbs. Most fish were caught on c-rigs on farm ditches.
September 1, 2002
Craig had never caught a fish on a buzzbait and I really wanted to see a Stick Marsh monster scare the split shot out of him for lack of better explanation. One fish at the north end of the sticks took a swing but no hook-up. After hitting several areas in the farm with no success we came across some small fish at the east side, action had been very slow for 2 days now and Craig was ok with catching the smaller fish knowing the possibility for a hawg is always there. It didn't happen but we did manage to scrape up 20 small fish and have fun, that would be pretty good on alot of other lakes but I really wanted Craig to catch 100 fish from 5- 15 lbs., that's a near unrealistic expectation but I am always incredibly optimistic because I have seen what the marsh can do, it's powerful stuff. I cannot say enough about Craigs character, not to mention he told me on the phone he's a novice fishermen, he's an excellent fisherman and will be back with the rest of the gang. See you this winter Craig, Rob, and George Alexander.
August 31, 2002
Craig Alexander of Virginia was to be my victim for the day, I had plans of carolina- rigging a couple locations on the way to my new found needlefish eating Farm 13 bass. The fish were once again not on the c-rig pattern so I thought maybe all would be in order to go through a bag or two of Flappin' shads but boy was I wrong. Even with Craig's persistence and patience only 5 fish made it to the boat by 12:30, it was truly a tough day and without Craigs excellent company it would have been a really tough day. With things heating up quickly we agreed to try again Sunday. It was not the best day I've seen but if I said I never experience slow days I would be lying.
August 30, 2002
Water Clarity: 1 foot
22 fish did make it to the boat in 6 hours of fishing though things were not easy, the carolina-rig bite had all but dissolved and only 3 fish fell victim to the c-rig. Tricia insisted that if we weren't going to catch lots of fish then we should at least try to catch a big fish so I agreed, like I had a choice. At this time of year we always consider the buzzbait for big fish suspending under the grass, even 3 lb. fish hit them hard and pull enough to keep you guessing for a minute or two. We were already on a Farm 13 ditch that I knew had thick grass and bait on the south end so off we went.
Upon arrival I noticed very little shad activity but we threw buzzbaits for about 15 minutes anyways trolling on high speed , when we were just about to run somewhere else we noticed a needlefish skip across the surface once, twice, then dissapeared in what looked like a cinder block dropped from a helicopter, a big fish, as expected we stayed but could not hook up on the buzzbaits. We continued to see needlefish sometimes running for there lives, sometimes chasing our buzzbaits but no bass. We knew the fish were there, bait, grass, shade under the grass, hard bottom under the shade, and water from 5-11 feet deep. I couldn't stand it, I felt the surface was the place to fish, partially because of the activity we saw and because of the lack of success in the earlier part of the day. I then tried a bait that I am still finding applications for, a Gambler Flappin' Shad, this time rigged weightless, weedless, on a 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG superline hook and with glass rattle inserted, also by Gambler .
When fishing a gambler Flappin' Shad I will usually use a shad-base color however the fish were clearly eating the needlefish so I went with the "rainbow trout" pattern mostly for my confidence. If you ever have the pleasure of hooking a needlefish, NOT, you will notice a lizard-green color to most of there body and a slight pink tint on the belly, a near perfect match to Gamblers "rainbow trout" pattern. I fished the bait for a while with nothing, then at the end of a cast when I speeded the retrieve steadily for the last 10 feet I was visiously assaulted, no hook-up but I could tell it was a substantial fish. I began casting and steadily retrieving quickly, no twitching or stopping the bait but just retrieving and letting the baits tail slap the water's surface. It was the ticket for 19 fish in a little over 2 hours but we never did get the big fish, I was a little dissapointed but I didn't realize this would be the most excitement for at least a few days. All fish were caught casting to the east side of the ditch, I positioned my boat on the west levy.
NOTE:When fish strike in this scenario, do not set the hook when you see the strike, reel til' you feel, then cross her eyes !!!
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