Updated: Jan 7
By David Graham: 1/7/2023
Water... the most valuable resource on the planet is our water. For our Everglades, it is the lifeblood of countless species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and of course - fish.
As Florida's water runs South from regions of continuous growth and expansion in industry and development - efforts to ensure the quality of that water are more critical than ever before to the survival of the Everglades. Canal systems, pump stations, levees and artificial flow processes are all designed to manage water quality and are controlled by various water management districts in a collective effort to ensure the water is as clean as possible.
In South Florida, construction of flow equalization basins have been instrumental in capturing and storing peak stormwater flows - allowing districts to store natural, clean stormwater in large reservoirs to be released at controlled rates to other stormwater treatment areas (STAs) to provide improved ability to treat wetlands by removing nutrients from the water.
These reservoirs, often up to 15,000+ acres in size, are seldom more than 5 feet deep at any given point. These massive expansions of shallow grassy marshlands are beneficial as a filtration system and as a naturally aesthetic wetland ecosystem for untold varieties of wildlife. Recreationally, they provide vibrant natural landscapes for outdoor enthusiasts keen on enjoying a nice day kayaking, canoeing, or fishing!
A number of such manmade water management systems exist through South Florida such as Fellsmere Reservoir (Headwaters Lake), Lake Eden, Kenansville Lake, the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin all represent controlled water bodies that benefit the health and wellness of Florida's Everglades and provide some of the most prolific bass angling in the state.
Fellsmere grade recreation area (aka Headwaters Lake) may have been designed specifically with the bass angler in mind - as individual ponds, bends, grass fields and other water features were planned in advance by the State with the intent to be an 'Eden' of sorts for Florida strain bass. Still, the lake system serves the same purpose to hold clean stormwater as a reservoir that will benefit thousands of acres beyond the lake itself. Upon its initial construction and flooding, the FWC stocked some 1,000,000 bass, crappie, and other native sunfish. The environment was groomed and managed for years prior to being opened top the public as an instant world class bass destination.
Many of these flood retention lakes and reservoirs host a variety of aquatic vegetation like cattails, lily pads, reeds, and hydrilla. All elements critical to the flourishment and reproduction of largemouth bass.
To the south, systems like the A-1 reservoir (A1 FEB) Located in southern Palm Beach County west of U.S. Highway 27 provide similar opportunities. Open to the public year round on Fridays-Sundays, the A-1 is a 'no motorized boat' zone... and provides outstanding angling opportunities for small watercraft anglers in canoe, kayak, small paddle boats or those controlled by small electric (trolling) motors.
These massive reservoirs are like a labyrinth of submerged grasses and canal systems that serve as underwater highway systems and ambush zones for aggressive predators. Days catching dozens of fish are the norm. Aesthetically, these bodies of water are among the most physically beautiful locations in the state where encounters with wildlife take place between every cast and catch.
I enjoy fishing these water management systems in the winter months. In Florida - mid February water temps can be in the mid 70's. I don't do a great deal of bass fishing, but I look forward to hitting them hard for a brief period every winter in South Florida.
I like hitting the thick hydrilla edges hard with something like a 5 inch senko in these cooler conditions because it's just one of those reliable 'numbers' baits that always seems to produce bites from fish of all sizes. I like dark colors... blacks, blues, and especially green pumpkin. A green pumpkin may be THE ultimate lure to fish hydrilla. The heavy, salty body of a senko doesnt need much weight. 50lb braid and a 20lb flouro leader is the ideal setup for the grass heavy environment you'll typically be pitching senkos in these areas.
On windy days I like throwing spinnerbaits and chatterbaits down the length of the submerged canal lines dotted with grassy margins. This is a great way to stay mobile in in the wind and actively searching for fish.
For larger bass, I throw something like a 7 inch Zoom fluke. The tall, submerged grass beds are excellent layers to skip weightless/weedless flukes up into - where the erratic moving lure can dart, dash, and crawl over grass and pads for fish hugging tight to cover and concealment.
While Florida attracts bass anglers from all over the country to places like the Kissimmee chain of lakes, Okeechobee, Lake Toho or Rodman Reservoir... don't neglect the excellent caliber of fishing a simple flood management reservoir can provide on those breezy winter weekends!