• Bass Fishing Heaven Stick Marsh and Farm 13

    Legendary Professional Angler and Guide Hugh Crumpler began fishing Stick Marsh and Farm 13, Florida two months after they opened in 1991. Hugh Crumpler was the first guide to take clients to Stick Marsh and Farm 13. One of Hugh's clients on December 31st, 1991 was the first person to catch a ten pound bass in Stick Marsh. That bass was 23 inches long and 21 inches around. The bass came out of a bush about twenty five feet to the left of the anglers lure and made a submarine like wave all the way to the lure. The lure was a Culprit Jerk Worm (soft plastic jerkbait) worked at a medium speed just below the surface.

    On two occasions the biologists at Stick Marsh and Farm 13 have told Hugh that he has been on those waters more than any human alive. Hugh has named some of the bass and legend has it that Hugh has many of the large ones named and trained. Legend aside, Hugh Crumpler's clients have caught more than 450 bass over ten pounds in Stick Marsh and Farm 13.

    Hugh Crumpler has been fishing and studying bass from the end of a rod for more than fifty years. Every day, every client, every person who fishes knows something about catching bass that will increase his knowledge. So Hugh Crumpler fishes alot and talks fishing alot. Here in this article Hugh Crumpler is going to share information about Stick Marsh and Farm 13 and the Monster bass that inhabit these two impoundments.


    Hugh Crumpler looks at Florida as a giant sand bar hanging off the Southern end of the United States. Looking at Florida in this way helps him to realize that Florida is alot of sand, alot of low places and very shallow lakes. Water is the key element in Florida's habitat. The water is used for agriculture, recreation, and human consumption. Florida's water therefore has huge demands placed upon it. Controlling the water because of the agriculture, recreation, and human consumption becomes a very critical and precise job when the tropical climate of Florida is taken into consideration.

    When it rains in Florida the water comes down in great quantity in short periods of time. This rain pattern causes run-off. Farm land run-off causess many chemicals to be swept into the rivers and streams. The St. John's River is the largest river in Florida and runs from the South to the North. In fact, the St. John's River runs inland then back out to the ocean while it is running North. The farm land run-off many times containes fertilizer chemicals.

    The fertilizer chemicals that run-off into the waters of the State cause aquatic plants to grow at a phenominal rate. In order for water to flow in a normal state the State of Florida has to spray chemicals on the aquatic plants to control their growth. The chemicals do not kill fish but the decaying plants land on hard spawning bottoms for game fish and eliminate those spawning areas. Gardually, over the years this has caused loss of water quality and loss of game fish.

    A possible solution was reached. Catch the run-off, naturally filter the water, and let the water flow into the lakes and rivers. The starting place to test this solution was at the waters that started the St. Johns River. So Stick Marsh and Farm 13 were built. This was a small part of the worlds third largest land reclamation project.

    Since the time Stick Marsh and Farm 13 were put into operation there have been NO fish kills on the St. Johns River where the water was cleaned from Stick Marsh and Farm 13. There have been numerous fish kills down river.


    Because of the value of water and the importance of water control Florida is full of canals. Early in the development of Florida The Fellsmere Grade was built. This was the original road that went from East to West in Florida. This was the breaking point for water. All water North of the grade stayed to the North and all water South stayed to the South. On the North side of the Fellsmere Grade is the C-54 Canal. The Fellsmere Grade was the Southern most road in Florida that went from East to West. If a traveler wanted to go from Miami to Naples he had to cross the Fellsmere Grade. Things have changed over the years.

    The part of the Fellsmere Grade that concerns the bass fisherman is the part on the East side of Florida. The Fellsmere Grade is located on the Brevard and Indian River County line.

    Canals in Florida are built by a drag line. What happens is that a flat portion of land is approached. A drag line makes a long hole (canal) and the sides of the canal are higher than the original land. So water can be placed in the canal at a higher elevation than the land. By putting culverts in the canals and doors on the culverts the water can be used for irrigation. These culverts and doors are called "Gates".

    OK- Florida is lined with canals. All over the place. The State of Florida, the Army Corps of Engineers, the St. Johns River Water Management Distric and Fellsmere Farms came to an arrangement for the purchase of lands to make Stick Marsh and Farm 13.

    Stick Marsh:

    Stick Marsh was a marsh. It was full of trees that were tall and brush and some wild fruit trees. There were wet areas and areas not so wet. The entire area was surrounded on all four sides by canals. The parties involved made the outside walls of the canals higher and higher. Finally, they stopped the water and the canals filled up. This was in a rectangular shape, almost square. Finally, the water flowed over the top of the inside levies and filled up the marsh. Now there was Stick Marsh the lake. All brush, trees, every thing intact. The area was stocked with game fish.

    The original purpose for stocking game fish was for the game fish to be a natural adviser if the chemical run-off had reached a dangerous level. If the game fish died it was time to drain and clean. The parties involved felt that it would not be good for folks to eat the game fish so they made the impoundment catch and release for largemouth bass.

    Farm 13

    At the same time Stick Marsh was being built Farm 13 was being built. 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 a little larger and is definantly more rectangular than square.

    The land of Stick Marsh and Farm 13 both belonged to Fellsmere Farms. Stick Marsh was a marsh and Farm 13 was a vegitable farm with limited trees at the Southern end. As a vegitable farm Farm 13 had canals. These canals remain below the surface. The deepest portions of the lake are the center of the old canals. The shallowest portions are the tops of the old levies that are under water.


    The two lakes together are about 6800 acres. The Northern boundary of the two lakes is the Fellsmere Grade on the Brevard and Indian County Lines. The lakes are North and East of Blue Cypress lake and West of I-95. The closest town is Fellsmere. Fellsmere is small and isolated. To the North is Melbourne and to the South is Vero Beach.

    These lakes can be found on very few maps. The lakes were made after the State of Florida was mapped.


    Stick Marsh averages a depth of five foot. In fact it is five foot deep almost every where. Trees every where. Every where you see a tree there is a tree. Every where you do not see a tree there is a tree. One hundred percent perfect habitat for bass. No wasted areas! Most lakes have zones where you will never find a bass. This is not true at Stick Marsh. So, while the lake is fairly small it holds tremendous numbers of bass.

    Farm 13 has the old canals and levies. It has some wood and it has grass. With an average depth of six feet Farm 13 is also one hundred percent perfect habitat for bass. No wasted water for the bass catcher.

    Originally, under the levy that separated Stick Marsh and Farm 13 there were some culverts that allowed the water to flow between the two. Originally, boats could not go to one from the other without bringing the boats over a levy.

    At the Southeasten end of Farm 13 is a spillway. Water flows, when it is open, from the South to the North. On the East side of Farm 13 is a pumping station. A pumping station is a gate that has a pump on one side to speed the transfer of water. Fellsemere Farms controlls this pumping station. Running water attracts fish and causes them to feed. There is always some water flowing! The water flow may not be visible to the naked eye but, there is always some water flowing. On the West side of Farm 13 is an old pumping station that is now a gate. (Water can flow here, if opened, based on gravity.) On the side of the levy away from Farm 13 is a canal that leads to Blue Cypress. No- boats can not go from Blue Cypress to Farm 13 or Stick Marsh.

    At the Northeast corner of Stick Marsh (at the boat ramp) is a set of gates (3) that allow water to flow into or out of the lakes. These are controlled by Fellsmere Farms. The St. Johns River Water Management Distric controlls the water flow at the Spillway.

    No one will tell anyone the scheduele of the water flow. The angler has to just go look.


    Understanding that the purpose of the lakes was to trap farm land run-off and filter out the chemicals the biologists constantly tested the game fish for quality. All species of fish were weighed and checked. The original growth rate was two and a half pounds per year. The largest growth rate ever recorded for largemouth bass. The reasons for this were the perfect habitat and the constant off and on of running water that triggered feeding.

    Being catch and release for largemouth bass allowed more bass to stay in the water and spawn and reproduce. More for us to catch. They also grew and made our lines sing a tune when we hooked the Monsters.

    With the catch and release regulations the sharing of information about catching methods and locations has been good. After all, even if someone else catches the bass. The bass will still be there the next time. They are not eaten- they are released and they just continue to grow.


    The trees in Stick Marsh stood above the level of the water and the leaves were still on the trees. The leaves were green. An angler could go out in a bass boat and fish casting at targets. The trees were tall enough out of the water that a standing angler who had casted his way through the trees could get lost and not know the direction back to the ramp. Along with trees there were some stands of cattails. There was also areas of hydrilla and an area with Kissimmee grass. There were many mats of floating vegetation.

    The majority of the Stick Marsh was dangerous for outboard operation above an idle speed. The majority of the bass were caught by drifting and casting as the wind would blow the angler. Bass were every where and easy to catch. The key was when you caught one to slow down and work the area. It was easy to catch fifty, sixty, seventy, bass out of one tree.

    Most Florida guides anchored around the floating mats and casted shiners towards the mats. Bass were under the mats and would come out to eat the wild shiners.

    Most anglers who fished the Stick Marsh kept it a secret from their fellow anglers for fear of losing or spoiling what was becoming known as Bass Fishing Heaven. Hugh Crumpler fished the Bassmaster Tournament Trail and was well aware that BASSSMASTER MAGAZINE was going to let the world know that Florida fishing was getting very bad. Hugh Crumpler continually sent photos of bass his clients caught over 22 inches long to BASSMASTER MAGAZINE. In July of '92' Hugh Crumpler caught a bass that was 32 inches long in Stick Marsh. In the November '92' issue of BASSMASTER Florida fishing was shamed by BASSMASTER MAGAZINE with one small exception. There was a small story about Stick Marsh and Farm 13. The secret was out.

    Farm 13 and Stick Marsh were separated by a levy. Bass boats could not get over the levy. However, some anglers came to Stick Marsh with small boats and used PVC pipe to roll their boats over the separating levy and get themselves into Farm 13. Most of the Farm 13 anglers were pan fishermen.

    In the beginning it was said by many "You can not buy enough wild shiners to fish Stick Marsh and Farm 13." This was a true statement. Bass would eat them as fast as they hit the water. Anyone who owned a boat and had a rod could use wild shiners and catch thirty good sized bass a day. If someone knew what they were doing- a hundred a day was not out of the question.

    Anglers using artificial lures easily caught lots and lots of bass. The first year the largest ones of the original stocking were in the ten pound range. There were a small number of bass in the canal system and the wet protions of Stick Marsh that grew and were the larger ones caught. One of these was the 32 incher that Hugh Crumpler caught in July of '92'. Bright sun, 12:30 (lunch time), soft plastic jerkbait fished just under the surface- those were the conditions. It was July 29th.


    Getting a boat into Stick Marsh was not an easy thing in the beginning. The main surfaced road was Hwy 507 (also called Babcock Street) led to the top of the Fellsmere Grade levy. The top of the levy is what the anglers had to drive. This was a trip West of 6.2 miles. Six miles of the worst road on the face of the earth. Truck parts were strewn all over the road as were trailer parts. Fenders would bounce off trucks. Once a boat trailer lost its axle, tires and wheels. The axle, tires, and wheels were never to be found again. And when it rained- UGH the road was slippery.

    Once an angler reached the end of the road there was the ramp. Well, it was not really a ramp. What the angler did was back his boat off the side of a levy. The angler could see the hood of his truck and the sky- no land. It was steep, slippery, and treacherous. Anglers found it necessary to go down in pairs. One truck would hook up a cable to the other to be sure that each vehicle would come back up the ramp. The first time Jimmy Houston came to the ramp Jimmy spent three hours filming the ramp and how it was used.

    At the ramp there was parking for four rigs. Then anglers had to park down the road. That was a mess.

    Awful road, awful ramp but the fishing was well worth the effort. And how!!!


    Stick Marsh and Farm 13 remained in this state for several years until Hurricane Gordon arrived. Hurricane Gordon came up the East coast of Florida. It began to rain at Stick Marsh and Farm 13. Hurricane Gordon turned West across the state and passed over Okeechobee. It continued to rain at Stick Marsh and Farm 13. Then Hurricane Gordon got over the Gult of Mexico. The rain continued at Stick Marsh and Farm 13. Then Hurricane Gordon turned and crossed Florida from West to East and passed across the state North of Stick Marsh and Farm 13. It never stopped raining at Stick Marsh and Farm 13.

    When it finally stopped raining Hugh Crumpler took his guide clients fishing at Stick Marsh and Farm 13. The water level had risen many, many feet. The water was over the top of the road on the way into the lake. The water level on the road was within inches of the trailer frame of Hugh's bass boat.

    Water was flowing over the top of the levy that separated Stick Marsh and Farm 13. Water was also flowing over the levy on the East side of Farm 13 and the threat of a levy break was real. The St. Johns' Water Management Distric had dump trucks being pulled by bulldozers bring in earth to shore up the over flowing spots.

    The necesssity to relieve pressure was real. The St. Johns Water Management Distric used earth movers to open a hole in the Northern levy of Stick Marsh. (There had been culverts here.) This allowed the water to flow more swiftly North into the C-54 canal. Essentially Stick Marsh just got larger as more land was flooded.

    At the same time earth movers were opening a hole in the levy that separated Stick Marsh and Farm 13. Hugh Crumpler used hand signals and inbetween moving of levy dirt Hugh was able to manuver his bass boat into Farm 13. Hugh and his were clients were so excited to be the first bass boat into Farm 13 that they did not catch any bass in there.

    Because of Hurricane Gordon the surface water in Stick Marsh was increased and the access into Farm 13 by larger boats was made possible.

    Fishing remained excellent. But the lake levels came way up.


    The effect of Hurricane Gordon's rain is felt today at Stick Marsh and Farm 13. The water levels have remained significantly higher than the original levels. Also, the high water immediately after Hurricane Gordon allowed bass boats to "zoom zoom" over the tops of the old trees.

    All those boats running around chopped up the tops of the old trees and when the lake came down to normal levels the majority of the trees were no longer visible. The floating mats had moved. The cattails had been drowned and were no longer there. The hydrilla was gone as was the Kissimmee grass. The basic metods of fishing the lakes had changed.

    Stick Marsh and Farm 13 now resembled a shallow midwestern tree filled reservioir. The bass were still there and they were growing. The methods of catching these bass changed both for artificial fishermen and live bait fishermen.

    For several years most of the Florida fishing guides spread the rumor that the fishing was down and the bass gone. They even spread rumors of fish kills. The oposite was actually true. The bass were growing and they were active. The key was to use "non-Florida" fishing techniques. Hugh Crumpler had one day when his clients caught five bass over ten pounds. Several days were experienced with three bass over ten pounds caught by his clients. Experience fishing in a variety of situations and locations adds to ones fish catching skill and knowledge.

    During this time one popular statement about largemouth bass was put out of the books. "Bass do not eat dead bait!" Many times live bait was killed because dead bait produced better than live. This was one of Hugh Crumpler's secrets for a long, long, time. However, sharing information with other guides who worked for Hugh and the clients sharing the information with others let the secret out.

    The logical transference here is the term "dead sticking" with artificial lures. In actuality the bait and the lure do not lay on the bottom looking dead. The bait and the lure are effected by the line, the pressure that is put on the line by wind and current and rod position. Yes, the lure, or dead bait is actually moving very slowly. Slower than any angler could do on purpose- other than "dead sticking". An analagy that helps to understand this: If my lips are stapled shut and someone puts a choclate covered ice cream cone in front of me; sooner or later I will get a bite.


    In the location where the hole was dug in the levy separating Stick Marsh from the

    C-54 Canal a very nice two lane boat ramp was built with a dock separating the lanes. The ramp was built to be handicapped accessible. At normal lake levels an angler in a wheel chair can roll right into a bass boat.

    One day Hugh Crumpler came in from fishing and found a sign up. "RAMP DONE- ENJOY! Hugh Crumpler did. His was the first boat to use the new boat ramp. The new ramp brought fears amound Stick Marsh and Farm 13 regulars that the new ramp would bring increased numbers of anglers. It may have, but, the road in soon slowed the numbers.


    Catching bass became a little different. There were no more targets to cast at. It became necessary for anglers to visualize the depths of the lake. Stick Marsh fishing required an angler to visualize trees under water that looked like a bunch of limbs. The methods of fishing varried. Most relied on putting a lure out there and very slowly retreiving the lure so that it bumped the limbs as it came over them. Yes, lots of lures stayed in the trees. Some with bass.

    Other methods required fishing lures in a technique that drew the bass out of the trees and caused them bite. Topwater lures, soft jerkbaits and hard jerkbaits were the ususal choice. All the time it was necessary for the angler to visualize what was under water because on top there was nothing showing except water.

    Finding a tree full of bass was easy. But finding the same tree again was difficult. Any markers left over night like coke bottles, gatoraide bottles or floats were bitten and moved at night by alligators. GPS was not readily available at this time.


    Construction began in 1998 on some changes. The result of Hurricane Gordon and the measures to relieve the pressure found the St. Johns River Water Management Distric needing to make a few changes. At this time a parking lot was also built. The ramp was closed for three months.

    There is only one ramp and only one road into Stick Marsh and Farm 13. The land surrounding the lakes is owned by private groups or is owned by the State. The closing of the ramp essentially closed the lake. But, not quite. Hugh Crumpler would put his boat in at Garcia Reservoir and work his way through the camal system to the Spillway at the Southeastern corner of Farm 13. Hugh and his clients would then walk over the levy and fish off the bank. It was awesome fishing to have the place to yourself.

    The construction included dredging a canal for water flow; filling up one portion of a canal at the North end of Stick Marsh; blocking water flow by the ramp so as to cause the water to flow into the Stick Marsh; closing up the hole that was originally dug between Stick Marsh and Farm 13 and widening a new one at the Western end of the same levy.

    All these changes made the water flow different. Bass moved and repositioned themselves. Super areas turned into average areas and some average areas turned into super areas. There was now two new lakes- again.


    For several days before the opening of the new parking facility there was lots of rain and lots of heavy Southern wind. Rising lake levels and the Southern wind blew all the floating mats into the canals and then the mats were blown down the canal and into the front of the ramps. Construction ended and the ramp opened but not one could go anywhere because the floating mats had congested the canals. Griping anglers eager to go fishing and not getting to brought about the spraying of the floating mats. Then they were gone and have not been seen to this day.

    Several ways of catching bass were gone. The shiner fishermen had no mats to anchor by. And the pitchers and flippers had no topped out vegetation to probe. The bass now had no over head cover for protection and had to reposition themselves.


    Florida lakes are living lakes. The presence of vegetation makes them so. As the grass grows or gets sprayed the bass move and the cover changes. The falling of old timber in Stick Marsh and Farm 13 also changes the lakes. Add the effects of different currents combined with changing lake levels and you have lakes with definite living characteristics. They grow.


    The lakes now are basically as they were after '98' Construction. Bass over ten pounds are regularly caught in both Stick Marsh and Farm 13. Large numbers of larger bass are caught on a regular basis. Topwater action can be awesome. Basic techniques and lures that work on a consistent basis are Topwater lures, Carolina Rigged soft plastics, soft jerkbaits, Lipless crankbaits, Texas rigged soft plastics, hard jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and, on occasion, deep diving crankbaits.

    The catching conditions can stay the same for months or change on a daily baisis. All the catching techniques are based on water flow and weather. Even changes on a minute by minute are possible. The key to being consistent catching bass at Stick Marsh is to have an open mind; a variety of techniques the angler can use; and the angler must be aware of his surroundings.

    It has been said many times that more bass over ten pounds are caught from Stick Marsh and Farm 13 than the rest of the state of Florida waters totaled together. In the last catching survey performed by the state Stick Marsh and Farm 13 had the best catch rate in the state of Florida- they more than doubled what was in second place.

    A good time to come to Stick Marsh and Farm 13 is any time you can get there. The lakes will always produce bass. And the possibility of catching a Monster Florida bass is real. The Monster Bass are in the lakes and they are not going any where. The lakes are catch and release. All the bass do is get larger. A bad day at Stick Marsh and Farm 13 is better than a real good day any where else!