Stick Marsh

Day three brings the Elimination Round of the Major League Fishing World Championship to be contested on Florida’s famed Stick Marsh and Farm 13, a pair of lakes that have become legendary in Florida bass fishing lore.

These two illustrious lakes were created by a large scale co-op project between the St Johns River Water Management District, the Florida Wildlife Commission and private farm owners to help with water retention, irrigation and siltation reduction.

Essentially, landowners offered up 6,500 acres of swamp and farmland and the St. Johns River Water Management District designed a series of levies and dikes around the land to retain water for irrigation and desilting.

The result was the flooding of a swamp – originally called the Stick Marsh due to the sheer amount of brush, trees, palmettos and “sticks” that were submerged – and Farm 13 – an adjacent agricultural farm.

The flooding of both the Stick Marsh and Farm 13 was completed in the late 1980’s. Shortly after that, the new lakes were stocked with a variety of freshwater fishes, including the coveted Florida strain largemouth bass.

The area was open to public fishing in the early 1990’s. Originally, the Stick Marsh (to the north) and Farm 13 (to the south) were separated by a levee. In time, the levee was opened and now the two lakes have become one, going under either name.

Due to Florida’s climate and the surrounding fertile farmland, it didn’t take long for Florida strain bass to grow to trophy class fish and for the word of the Stick Marsh/Farm13 to grow into Florida lore. By the late 1990’s the Stick Marsh become a bucketmouth bucket list destination like lakes Okeechobee and Toho. And now MLF World Championship qualifiers are going to get to test these fabled waters for themselves.

“Obviously, I’ve heard about this place. Anyone who bass fishes has heard about this place.”

In a twist unique to the World Championship format, anglers arriving to the Stick Marsh this morning are already seeded in order from first through fifth, based on their weights from the Shotgun Round on Lake Garcia on day one. Andy Montgomery, who won the first Shotgun Round, earned a ticket straight to Sudden Death Round and, consequently, has the luxury of skipping today’s Elimination Round.  For the remaining five pros, however, their weights from the Shotgun Round carry over today and only the top two from today’s Elimination Round will join Montgomery in the Sudden Death.

Given that, Edwin Evers enters the Elimination Round in the lead with 37-12 from Garcia. He will have a big target on his back as others will be gunning for his #1 spot on the Stick Marsh today.

“Usually we all start MLF competition with a zero weight, but this one is a little different,” Evers said. “We get to keep our weight from the last round, but since we’re in Florida where big ones live, having the lead really doesn’t mean that much. Those guys who are behind me by a few pounds could catch up with one bite. So it’s not like I can rest on my laurels here.”

Evers believes the fishing tactics on the Stick Marsh will coincide with what he learned at Garcia.

“I’ve seen the map this morning,” Evers said. “This place looks like Garcia – they’re both shallow, flooded rectangles so I would have to think it will fish pretty similar.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Greg Hackney enters the day in last place with 27-02, nearly 10 pounds behind Evers.

Though Hackney knows what place he is in before entering the Stick Marsh, he is not exactly sure where the Stick Marsh is located.

 “This is the Stick Marsh?” Hackney questioned while being handed his map.

“Wow, I always thought it was over there between Lake Okeechobee and Tampa somewhere,” he said with a chuckle. “That tells you how much I know about where we are.”

Once he processed that he was indeed going to fish the famed Stick Marsh, Hackney’s grin grew.

“Obviously, I’ve heard about this place,” he said. “Anyone who bass fishes has heard about this place. I’ve heard the stories from back in the day of all the giants that have come out of here. So, needless to say, I’m pretty excited about the prospects.”

Entering the day in fourth place, some 7 pounds behind Evers, is Jeff Kriet who is also beaming about the Stick Marsh.

“I’ve always heard about this place and I’ve always wanted to fish it, so I’m pretty pumped about this opportunity,” he said. “The best part is you can make up ground quick here. I’m 7 pounds off the lead and that’s just one or two bites here.”