GRANDE BASS AT MEXICO’S LAKE EL SALTO By John Kruse
Here in the Pacific Northwest, a six-pound bass is considered the fish of a lifetime by many anglers, but they get much bigger than that. Arguably the best place to go to catch a trophy bass is Angler’s Inn at Lake El Salto in Mexico. Lake El Salto is a man-made reservoir in the Mexican State of Sinaloa that was dammed in 1990 to provide irrigation and flood control to the surrounding area. Situated in the shadow of the Sierra Madre mountains, the 27,000-acre reservoir was planted with fast growing Florida-strain largemouth bass as well as tilapia, which are an important forage fish for the bass, and also provide a commercial harvest for local fishermen.
Billy Chapman Jr. saw the potential for a world class trophy bass fishery in this oasis within the Mexican desert and founded Angler’s Inn. The all-inclusive resort sits on the south side of the lake and includes comfortable accommodations, an inviting open-air bar and dining area, a small tackle shop, and a spa. The resort prides itself on customer service, and it is indeed outstanding. The rooms are kept very clean, daily laundry service is provided, and you are never without a drink in your hand. There were several couples in our group who enjoyed the services at the spa and raved about the excellent massage therapist who works there. As for the food- it’s incredible! Meals were a mix of Mexican and American fare. One night was Ribeye Steak Night and not only were the steaks cooked to perfection, they were huge! Breakfast every morning included made to order eggs and omelets along with fresh fruit, and the hot lunches were also delicious.
The resort provided a luxurious base camp but it was the fishing that brought everyone here. I was in a group hosted by Mike Whitlow, the Western Representative for Angler’s Inn International. I’ve gotten to Mike know well over the years through the sportsmen’s show circuit. There were some 19 anglers in our group, hailing from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Texas, New Jersey, and even Hawaii. The experience level varied from anglers who seldom fish for bass to others who were experienced tournament anglers. Half of the anglers in our group had been here before- some of them, multiple times.
Every morning after breakfast we would be shuttled in a van to the boat launch, where our guides were waiting for us in 18-foot Triton aluminum bass boats powered by 60 HP tiller outboard motors. My guide was Victor Rodriguez, a local resident who told me about growing up here before the reservoir was built. Victor had been working for Angler’s Inn International for several years and has had the opportunity to guide several very well-known professional bass anglers, including Denny Brauer, Gerald Swindle, Brandon Palaniuk, Shaw Grigsby, and Mike Iaconelli- all drawn to Lake El Salto for the promise of huge (Grande) bass.
Victor was a hard-working and patient guide/instructor who taught me several new tricks when it comes to bass fishing. In the morning we would usually start off fishing with topwater baits, looking for big largemouth bass to explode out of the water to hammer the plugs we were retrieving. After that Victor liked to fish soft plastic worms with a shaky head jig to entice bass to bite near the flooded timber and rocks of the reservoir. Around 11 AM, all of the boats would motor back to the launch and we would head back to the resort to enjoy a hot lunch, a cold drink, and a siesta, before getting back into the boats around 3 PM for another four hours of fishing.
The setting for these daily trips was both pastoral and unique. Cattle, many of them with clanging bells around their necks, would graze along the shoreline and the bird life was amazing. These included falcons called crested caracara, green parakeets, cattle egret, great blue heron, pelicans, magnificent frigatebirds, and West Mexican chachalaca, also known as Mexican turkeys. The chachalaca occurred in great numbers in the trees surrounding the lake, and the cacophony of their calls echoing across the water was constant in the morning.
Afternoons on the lake were accompanied by a cool breeze, which felt nice under the warm sun. We would fish points and flats on the lake with big Texas rigged plastic worms, heavy spinner baits, or lipless crankbaits such as Berkley War Pigs. The key was finding the schools of bass. If you could do that, and trigger them to bite, you could be in for some fast action. I was able to do this several times with the Berkley War Pig lure, catching not only smaller two-pound bass, but also several bass between 4 ½ and six pounds. I also bested my previous personal best bass of 5.4 pounds several times over during this trip. What was my largest bass? An 8.1 pound largemouth that took a Berkley Bullet topwater popper.
As for the rest of the group, just about everyone caught bass weighing six pounds or better, and six anglers from our group caught bass weighing ten pounds or better. Larry Fugate Jr. caught 10-pound, 8-ounce bass as well as the biggest bass caught by the group: a massive 11-pound, 3 ounce largemouth. Larry’s wife Mandi was no slouch either. She beat her previous personal best 3 ½ pound bass with two 9-pound bass.
This in an exceptional opportunity for bass anglers looking to hook into a trophy and have a great time in the process. You can find out more about booking a trip to Anglers Inn at Lake El Salto at www.anglersinn.com. Book a hosted trip (which I would highly recommend) by emailing Mike Whitlow at firstname.lastname@example.org