Skip to main content

St. Marks Suwannee Bass

One of Florida's spring-fed gems also contains one of the world's rarest bass.



One of the most beautiful stretches of river in Florida is home to one of the rarest bass in the world: Micropterus notius, a.k.a. Suwannee bass. And, they are an absolute blast to catch.

The lower St. Marks River begins at the St. Marks Rise, a large spring vent located south of Natural Bridge near Woodville. From there the river is a swift-flowing chute of cool, clear water lined with limestone shoals and thick manes of eelgrass—perfect habitat for the scrappy Suwannee.

Heading north from the bridge on Highway 98 (the ramp is on the east side of the river, under the bridge), you can run only two or three miles before the river becomes so narrow, crooked and shallow that you have to idle from that point on up. A Gheenoe or small aluminum riverboat is the perfect craft for this adventure. During periods of low rainfall you may even have to get out and pull your boat over a few limestone rapids, depending on how far up you venture. The St. Marks Rise is about 7 miles north of Highway 98 and requires several portages over shoals to reach.

As for catching Suwannee bass, motor or paddle until you see noticeable current and begin fishing there. At the ramp, the current is sluggish. But as

you venture upriver a few miles it gets shallower and the current becomes apparent.

A Suwannee bass held above a common largemouth.

Number one rule for Suwannees is to fish the swiftest part of the current with crawfish imitators. Try a 3-inch plastic craw (black/blue or blue flake)

on a ¼-ounce “shaky head” type jighead on 8- or 10-pound fluorocarbon, and fish it in fast bends or at the base of shoals.

Another approach is to throw crawfish crankbaits like a Storm Wiggle Wart or Bomber 6A in craw patterns below shoals or in the deeper, sandy lanes between the eelgrass rows.

Another unconventional way to catch Suwannees is to “punch” mats of hyacinths or eelgrass with a 1-ounce tungsten weight and a 3-inch craw on fluorocarbon or braided line.

There is also a healthy population of largemouths in the St. Marks River. Don't be discouraged if you catch a few bigmouths before you catch a Suwannee; I often catch the two species side by side.

A day on the St. Marks will generally yield 5 or 6 Suwannees complemented with 8 or 9 largemouths. But the best part of the St. Marks is fishing in the brutal heat of the summer under a shaded canopy of live oaks with a spring water-cooled breeze roiling up around you. Trust me, it's like fishing in the A.C. when compared to being on the flats that time of year.

And don't be alarmed if the parking lot at the Highway 98 Bridge is full of trucks and trailers. Be assured that most of those folks went south because when they think of the “St. Marks River” they think “trout.” You, however, are now thinking “Suwannee bass.” - FS

By Robert Newell

First Published Florida Sportsman May 2011

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Videos

Kayak Fishing Fun 2023 Product Showcase

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Store

Refurbished 1987 Alumacraft Jon Boat | One Man's Dreamboat

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Learn

New Berkley Finisher: The All-Around Live Sonar Lure

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Gear

New Berkley Power Switch: Powerhouse Lure Designed for Foward-Facing Sonar

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Gear

New Berkley Krej: A Reversed Lip Jerkbait?

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Store

How to Install New Fuel Tanks in an Old Boat

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Videos

Testing Out the Latest from Old Town in the Marquesas

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Store

How to Powder Coat: Benefits of Powder Coating Metal Fuel Tanks

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Gear

Father & Son Customize a 20' Center Console | One Man's Dreamboat

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Gear

Best Features of the Shallow Sport X3

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Learn

How to Fix an Outboard Motor that was Submerged in Saltwater

The crew at Marine Customs Unlimited takes on restoring a 31' Contender that has seen Better Dayz.
Store

Analyzing a Hurricane Damaged Boat for Restoration

Florida Sportsman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now