(1.2) BASS: Bass Fishing the REAL FLORIDA Part Two: Our Natural By God Freshwater Marsh Wet-Prairie Lakes

Bass Fishing



Part Two:

Our Natural

By God

Freshwater Marsh



Shinbone Ridge (of the Tallahassee Red Hills) with elevations beyond 250 feet above sea level in top right corner of photo

An Information, Opinion, Photos, & Sources Report

Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca

With the assistance of Captain Erika Ritter and K. Alwine

Created: 12 August 2013

Last Revised: 10 December 2017

NOTE: Click-on individual photos to enlarge them!


Real Florida could possibly be described as being those treasured pieces of the state's real estate that still appear to us modern-day Floridians much as these same lands and/or waters did hundreds of years ago when originally seen by the first European explorers and settlers.

Florida's cities, suburbs, and agricultural lands plus its theme parks, developed beaches, and other tourist attractions along with the state's man-made canals, impoundments, water control structures, borrow and/or phosphate pits, and various additional improvements would not be considered Real Florida natural environments.

Sink hole pond surrounded by prairie at sundown

Given a choice, I normally prefer to fish for bass in a Real Florida body of water. Real Florida freshwaters would include this state's remaining stretches of free-flowing rivers and creeks plus our naturally-occurring still-water lakes and ponds. The less that the water and its surroundings have been altered by man, the more I like being there.

As many of you know by now, river-bass fishing in current is undeniably my preferred angling pursuit. Streams have supplied a whopping 70% of all the freshwater bass that I've ever caught. But sometimes, I experience great amounts of aesthetically pleasing and un-crowded pleasure from canoeing (or wading) and casting lures for bass upon some of north Florida's natural prairie-type lakes. And these By God freshwater marsh/wet-prairie lakes and ponds have contributed a respectable 20% share of my total bass catch since 1965.


Many of the biggest/heaviest largemouth bass ever reportedly caught in Florida were (as reported) from natural freshwater marsh wet-prairie lakes or the marshy, shallow, vegetation-filled margins of deeper, open-water lakes.

The following are some examples:

(A) 24-lb 12-oz; 39.5 in L; 30 in G: Osceola Co; West Lake Toho; 4-20-1974 by Raymond Tomer (GFC couldn’t certify weight).

(B) 23-lb 2-oz; 37.5 in L; 29.5 in G; Lake Co; "near Altoona"; circa 1880 by H.W. Ross (reported by Dr. J.A. Henshall in his 1881-1913 Book Of The Black Bass--16.5-inch girth head of this fish was sent to the office of Forest and Stream in New York which merged with Field & Stream in 1930).

(C) 22-lb; Volusia Co; "small lake near Pierson"; Dec 1981 by Billy Johnson (GFC couldn’t certify weight).

(D) 21-lb 8-oz, Alachua Co; Orange Lake; 1954 (reported by Breard Snellings in "Sarasota Journal" 3-26-1975: "...was not caught on rod and reel").

(1) 20-lb 2-oz; 31 in L; 27 in G; Pasco Co; Big Fish Lake; 5-19-1923 by Frederick "Fritz" Friebel (documented current non-certified Florida state record; 1923 Field & Stream annual fishing contest winner).

(3) 19-lb 15-oz; Hillsborough Co; Keystone Lake; 1927 by R.E. Lucas (documented; 1927 Field & Stream fishing contest winner).


"All-Time Top-25 Biggest / Heaviest Largemouth Bass Ever Caught (or Reportedly Caught) In Florida"



Freshwater Marsh Wet-Prairie Lakes

Generally, Florida's freshwater marsh/wet-prairie lakes and ponds began existence hundreds to thousands of years ago as geologically-formed solution basins containing one or more limestone-dissolved sinkholes. As time passed more depressions possibly formed and connected with each other during high-water periods allowing the drainage basin (which usually is a closed system with no outlet) to enlarge its original acreage.

But today these marshy-prairie wetlands--OFTENTIMES HAVING EXCELLENT POPULATIONS OF WEED-LOVING LARGEMOUTH BASS--remain shallow waters mostly less than 10 feet deep because two powerful processes are also working year round: (1) EVAPOTRANSPIRATION and (2) THE ACCUMULATION OF PLANT-PRODUCED SEDIMENTS.

When you get a chance, you can read about (1) EVAPOTRANSPIRATION at "Evapotranspiration Water Losses of Rodman Reservoir"


(2) THE ACCUMULATION OF PLANT-PRODUCED SEDIMENTS is also heavily at work with the dead remains of the luxuriant, native aquatic vegetation constantly settling to the bottom forming an ever-deepening layer of organic muck (ooze). Nature's remedy for this filling-in of the lake bottom is long periods of drought LASTING FOR SEVERAL YEARS when much of the wet-prairie goes dry (sometimes even draining into temporarily collapsed sinkholes) thus allowing the compression and/or drying-out of the mucky depths back into good, firm material just waiting for the next high water to grow native aquatic plants and become productive BASS habitat again.

Fragrant White Water Lily

The natural freshwater marsh and wet prairie lakes of Florida are usually very densely populated to a depth of 8 feet or so with various combinations of native aquatic vegetation (floating-leaved, emergent, and submersed) including: fragrant (white) waterlily, yellow pondlily (spatterdock), water shield (dollar bonnet), duck weed, coontail moss, peppergrass, maidencane grass, pickerel weed, arrowhead, bulrush, spikerush, cattail, buttonbush, various sedges, etc. Most of those aforementioned plant species are used to some extent by the inhabitant largemouth bass as important structure for cover, feeding, and spawning.

White Water Lily flowers opened-up in morning

This vegetative growth is so thick (especially during the summertime) that there may be only two types of open water holes to be found in these shallow freshwater marsh-prairie wetlands:

(1) SINK HOLES containing deeper water that have been formed geologically or

(2) GATOR HOLES kept open and deepened by the activities of wallowing alligators.

White Water Lily flowers closed-up in late afternoon

Spring-fed, beaver-dammed pond east side of the Ochlockonee River

Spring-fed, beaver-dammed pond east side of the Ochlockonee River


My favorite north Florida prairie-type natural lake basins are separated by an as the wood duck flies distance of almost 200 miles. Colorful wood ducks, both resident and migratory, are present in varying numbers year-round. And LARGEMOUTH BASS also regularly FLY through the air, not attached to an angler's lure, but CHASING DRAGONFLIES--many times this activity announces that one of those daily moon-influenced feeding periods is in progress.

For more about moon-influenced fishing feeds see "Does The Moon Influence Bass Feeding Activity Even in a Flowing Stream?"



Freshwater Marsh Wet-Prairie Lakes

Surface Elevations 75 to 100 Feet above Mean Sea Level

To the northwest--but east of the Ochlockonee River--my favorite prairie-type natural lakes, THERE, are located within north Florida's Tallahassee Red Hills physiographic province and support moderate to high largemouth bass densities. In addition, the Tallahassee area's wet-prairies may offer the bass fisherman many pleasing amenities and wildlife observations from time to time including:

Canada, blue, and snow geese;

Mammoth flocks of ringneck ducks;

Other species of diving and dabbling wild ducks;

Doves and snipe;

Deer and wild turkeys;

The Bob White sounds of quail;

American lotus pads (great structure for bass fishing--no V-notch in the leaf to snag your hook);

One hardwood-hammock island with massive old-growth trees of various species (its rare pit and mound topography is the result of huge trees dying from old age, never having been cut by man);

One island with wild strawberries (the only wild strawberries that I've ever found growing in Florida);

Some islands have aromatic sassafras trees;

And there are also several Islands with tasty blackberries, black cherries, muscadine grapes, pecans, and persimmons--along with armadillos and marsh rabbits.

Bobwhite Quail

American Lotus

Great structure for bass fishing--no V-notch in the leaf to snag your hook

Wild Strawberry leaves (laminated in plastic) collected during a 5-19-1996 fishing trip


Freshwater Marsh Wet-Prairie Lakes

Surface Elevations 20 to 75 Feet above Mean Sea Level

To the southeast--but west of the St. Johns River--my favorite marshy-type natural lakes, THERE, are situated alongside the flanks of north Florida's Mount Dora Ridge and also contain good to excellent largemouth bass populations. As a bonus, the sandhill and scrub prairie lakes and ponds of this region between Palatka, Ocala, Leesburg, and Deland can furnish a bass angler many other enjoyable features and wildlife sightings on occasion including:

Running trotlines for butter-cats (bullhead catfish) while camping;

Sandhill cranes (sometimes even the endangered whooping cranes);

Florida (mottled) ducks;

Other species of diving and dabbling wild ducks;

Doves and snipe;

Black bear, deer, and wild turkeys;

The Bob White sounds of quail;

And there are some islands and/or shorelines with delicious blackberries, blueberries, muscadine grapes, and persimmons for the picking.

Whooping Crane (an Endangered Species)

Circa early-1980's camp eats (12 to 16-inch bass)

Almost all 17-inch and longer LARGEMOUTH BASS are usually released

Caution: Stands of SAWGRASS are present in this part of north-central Florida.

Sawgrass was aptly named by the local pioneers--its blades can really cut!


Freshwater Marsh Wet-Prairie Lakes

Using a 12-foot telescoping push-pole, a paddle, and some good-old man-power, this canoeing bass fisherman gets around to lure-casting at the prairie potholes just fine on any of these bonnet and/or grass-choked marshy lakes and ponds. Their freshwaters are mostly limited by official regulation (or sanity) to 10-hp motors, or less, anyway (sometimes no internal combustion motors at all)--which means no noisy airboats or run and gun bass boats damaging the environment or my eardrums.

Headed towards the famous Cattle Gap

12-foot telescoping push-pole in front of canoe

My lures of choice for fishing these weedy natural Florida lakes are (in alphabetical order): buzzbaits, plastic worms, spinnerbaits, topwater plugs, and weedless spoons (with attached pork-rind trailers). I make an honest attempt to avoid using topwater plugs (which have treble-hooks) and plastic worms (which tend to be swallowed too deeply by the bass) whenever possible. Thousands of feisty bass that I've released over the years have probably thanked me for trying not to injure them any more than necessary!


Given a choice, I normally prefer to fish for bass in a Real Florida body of water. Real Florida freshwaters would include this state's remaining stretches of free-flowing rivers and creeks plus our naturally-occurring still-water lakes and ponds. The less that the water and its surroundings have been altered by man, the more I like being there.

River-bass fishing north Florida's remaining segments of swift-flowing streams is undeniably my preferred angling pursuit. These stretches of free-flowing By God rivers or creeks are rare and treasured pieces of the Real Florida experience.

But so too are our much more numerous north Florida By God freshwater marsh/wet-prairie lakes--and if or when I choose to fish for bass in still-water--I'll probably choose to launch my canoe into a naturally-occurring Real Florida lake.

Some Florida bass anglers and bass-fishing-business promoters obviously prefer man-made lakes, possibly dreaming that these manipulated freshwaters are some kind of aquatic Fantasy-Magical-Super-Wonder-World tourist attractions containing state or world record-sized largemouth bass (heavier than 20 to 22 pounds) that are growing fat on something artificially enriched and improved like growth-hormone or steroid-injected wild river shiners maybe (or stocked rainbow trout like they use in southern California). Dam the Real Florida because man-created lakes are much more easily MANAGED for the benefit and convenience of organized largemouth bass fishing interests.

It is quite OK with me that some master largemouth bass anglers and para-commercialized individuals or groups seemingly worship the fishing opportunities provided by Florida's legendary man-made waters.

JUST AS LONG AS the historically free and swift-flowing 56-mile long Silver-Ocklawaha River system (including its Silver Springs headwater)--once capable of supporting naturally reproducing populations of native STRIPED BASS weighing up to 30 pounds, in addition to trophy-sized largemouth bass--doesn't remain blockaded as a sacrificial offering to those that practice the Rodman religion.

Retaining Lake Ocklawaha (a.k.a. Rodman Pool or Rodman Reservoir) ignores the importance to this state of restoring to free-flowing a rare, lengthy riverine ecosystem with cool waters and strong currents sought-after by various Florida-native species of anadromous, catadromous, and other lotic, migratory fishes of the St. Johns River basin.


require about 50 miles of free and swift-flowing river for successful natural spawning!

Besides, any state or world record largemouth bass taken from a NOT-Real Florida freshwater probably should deserve an asterisk (*) next to it whenever officially booked--just like the name and home run number of every slugger in the record book with more than Babe Ruth's (in a 154-game season) 60. We may owe that much to Fritz Friebel and George Perry. They were NATURALS.

Read this historic account of striped fishing in Marion County's

Silver-Ocklawaha River system before Rodman Dam was built:


Read about Frederick Fritz Friebel and his Florida Record largemouth bass at



Read about George Perry and his World Record largemouth bass at



Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca's Bass Fishing Began in Florida Over 52 Years Ago (1965)!

Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca is an accomplished stream angler who has caught nine different varieties of bass plus three different species of cold-water trout along with many other fishes from the flowing freshwaters of several Southern states. Although he has fished many of the still-water canals, lakes, and ponds plus salty tidewaters that almost all other Florida fishermen are accustomed-to and greatly prefer; river bass angling in current is undeniably Paul's preferred pursuit. Paddling a canoe (or bank-walking and wading when advantageous), Ocklawahaman skillfully uses buzz-bait and spinner-bait lures almost exclusively while bass fishing moving freshwater. Motorized watercraft for run and gun fishing or other aquatic tomfoolery and plastic worms or live shiners for bait are not part of his personal angling ethic. Ocklawahaman practices a style of bass fishing on natural segments of streams that is ideally an aesthetically pleasing and un-crowded solemn quest for some of Nature's most game fishes; the great majority of bass caught to be released unharmed for future benefit. North-central Florida's swift-flowing Ocklawaha River is the home water of Ocklawahaman; it is where Paul Nosca first learned freshwater stream angling techniques and where he continues to employ them as often as possible--from his man-powered canoe.

REFERENCE AS: Nosca, P. 2017. "Bass fishing the real Florida part two: Our natural by God freshwater marsh wet-prairie lakes" webpage report. "Paul Nosca's bass fishing photos" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL.


Email: ocklawahaman1@gmail.com