Dissecting Florida Farms
By Rob Newell
July 10, 2018
The fourth day of the MLF World Championship brings the second half of the Elimination Round back to the Stick Marsh and Farm 13.
With weights from the Shotgun Round carrying over to seed the anglers in starting order, the five anglers are fishing the Elimination Round for the top two spots to advance to Sudden Death – the other three will be eliminated from competition.
Skeet Reese is not in competition today because he won his Shotgun Round at Garcia, allowing him to skip over the Elimination Round and go straight to the Sudden Death Round.
With that, the five World Championship qualifiers fishing today are glad to see the Stick Marsh as their field of play. Though most have never fished the lake, they are well aware of its reputation as a big bass “farm,” giving them hope they can catch up fast and snag one of the final two slots to Sudden Death.
“I’ve always wanted to fish here, so no matter how I do today, I can now at least say I have fished the Stick Marsh and scratch it off the bucket list.”
Florida fisheries have always been a nemesis for Mike Iaconelli but he is stoked about being at the world famous Stick Marsh.
“I have heard and read about this place since I was a kid,” Ike said. “For a while there back in the 1990’s, every fishing magazine you picked up had this place featured in it. I’ve always wanted to fish here, so no matter how I do today, I can now at least say I have fished the Stick Marsh and scratch it off the bucket list.”
Florida’s famed “farm lakes” are very unique fisheries. And since none of the competitors can get any information, it’s been interesting to see how they have dissected what are essentially flooded farms. Given Ike’s gift for articulating bass fishing concepts, he explains how he has taken clues from the surrounding landscape to help him find fish in these flooded rectangles.
“If you ever want to better understand a lake’s topography quickly, just drive around and look at the natural terrain surrounding the lake,” he offered. “If you want to better understand Texas lakes like Rayburn and Toledo Bend, just drive around that part of the country and see how the land rolls down to form those key ‘drains’ they talk about all the time in Texas.
“If you want to better understand lakes in the Ozarks, drive around and check out the hills and ‘hollers,’ as they call them. Imagine flooding those hollers with water and what it would look like under water.”
Ike says he has applied the same concepts this week while being shuttled back and forth to the flooded farms of southeast Florida.
“Obviously we can’t get information in MLF, but there is a lot of information out here just in observing these surrounding agricultural areas,” Ike continued. “As we’re driving to the lake, I’m looking at these big agricultural farms and seeing how they ditched them out for drainage. I see the levees that serve as roadbeds to transport heavy equipment out to the fields. I’ve noticed how most levees have a deep canals running next to them. I’m looking at all these things and picturing in my mind what these lakes look like underwater – they’re just flooded fields. But within those fields are little key relief changes due to old levees, ditches, drains, barrow pits and canals.”
At Garcia, Ike finished second using vegetation to help him “read” the lake’s underwater framework. A distinct line of shallow vegetation outlined what Ike thinks was an old barrow pit or drainage basin in the field.
“It tipped me of to a subtle little 4- to 7-foot drop,” Ike detailed. “That’s a huge contour in a lake that’s just a flooded flat field. Bass relate to that kind of relief in Florida lakes; it ended up being a key component to my catches the other day. And that’s the exact kind of thing I’m going to look for here today at the Stick Marsh.”
Since Reese already advanced, Ike enters the Elimination Round in the lead with 58-13. Four spots back at the bottom of the heap is Kevin VanDam with 27-15, over 20 pounds behind Ike.
That’s a huge deficit, which again, is why these guys are glad to be on a place known for big bass.
“I’ve heard a lot about this place, but I’ve never been here,” VanDam said. “And, hey, I’ve got nowhere to go but up.”
VanDam had a lackluster performance on Garcia and now he’ll have to make up ground fast.
“Over on Garcia I had some bites that led me in the wrong direction early on and in this format, you just can’t get behind like that or you’ll get buried. So today I’ve got to make the right decision right out of the gate. The longer you wait to get started in these deals, the harder it is to catch up. So I need get things going immediately to get a head start on this bunch.”
One thing that will be a bit of a burden to the five MLF pros in Sudden Death is wind. South winds are forecasted to blow some 15- to 20-mph and given these lakes low, flat nature, it’s hard to find protection from the wind. Wind in Florida is usually bad news because it stirs up the shallow waters and impacts clarity. When that happens, Florida bass tend to lock their jaws for a few days until the clarity improves.