Viva El Salto!

Big bass, big times and a big show

Lake El Salto, Mexico
David Hunter Jones
A sight all too common on El Salto — big fish and an ear-to-ear grin.

If, during a Mexican fishing adventure, your hands do not turn into ragged meat, your guide does not describe you as borracho or you fail to gain less than 10 pounds, you’ve missed out. These things mean you’ve not taken full advantage of everything Mexico — Angler’s Inn, in particular — has to offer the bassin’ man or woman.

I recently had the pleasure of spending several days south of the border near El Salto, Mexico, on a lake that bears the same name. Playing host was Billy Chapman Jr., his Anglers Inn Resort, as well as some Abu Garcia folks who were there to abuse the newest line of Revos (more on this later). Chapman is single-handedly responsible for making Lake El Salto the fishery it is today. Decades ago, he stocked it with Florida-strain largemouth then sat back and patiently waited as his pet fish grew to freakish proportions. Check out the braggin’ board in the photo gallery to see the weights that are being caught. Only there and Falcon Lake do 8-pounders fail to cause a stir.

Today, Anglers Inn is a first-rate operation. When you’re picked up from the Mazatlan airport, there’s a cooler full of beverages, mostly Pacifico beer. Upon arrival at the inn, a host bearing a tray full of fresh margaritas charges toward the van. Before you can lick the salt from the rim, your bags have been unloaded and sent to your room. Chapman has made “service is our focus” the mantra of the lodge, and it shows in every aspect of the resort.

From there, you fill out your preference for coffee, which is delivered to your room when it’s time to wake up, steak (you will have steak, probably bacon-wrapped), and beverage preference aboard the boat. No request is unreasonable, and most can be accommodated.

When it’s time to go fishing, you’re roused by a gentle rap on your door and a “Buenos días, señor. Hot coffee!” Upon opening your door, there’s hot coffee, just as you like it.

After an ample breakfast, you’re ushered off to the lake, either in a van if the water is low, or just out back of the resort if it’s at full pool. On average, you can expect no less that 50 fish a day, per boat. When conditions are right, you might catch that many in a morning or afternoon.

Bring lots of big worms (any combination of black and blue works, and 10- or 12-inch Berkley Power Worms are best), dark jigs (these bass have a steady diet of tilapia), deep diving crankbaits (Bomber Fat Free Shad in citrus shad color is ideal), chartreuse/white spinnerbaits, swimbaits and craw baits. If you’d like to bone up on a certain style of fishing, this is the place to practice. Just don’t expect to boat many fish on finesse tackle.

Pitching a Texas rigged Berkley Jumbo Chigger Craw produced some of my best fish. Mornings usually bring a good flurry of topwater action. Our group was supplied with Sebile Splasher poppers, which produced some heart stopping explosions.

If the fish are hitting “plastic,” you’d better bring plenty of terminal tackle. Once you think you’ve got enough hooks (4/0 and 5/0) and weights (3/8 and 1/2), double that. If you don’t, you’ll surely be begging some off another guest. The lake is full of submerged trees that are notoriously greedy with hooks, weights and crankbaits. Don’t bother with tungsten, either, the fish don’t care and you’ll just be wasting money.

Fishing is done from new, custom designed Trackers with ample casting decks at the bow and stern. Most of the guides have worked for Chapman for 15 years or more, and they can put you on fish in any season and any lake level.

The Garcia crew’s goal was to thoroughly abuse the new line of Revos, dubbed “Generation 3.” On hand were the retooled S, SX, STX and all- new Premier models. Nearly every reel in the Revo line has undergone improvements to lighten, strengthen or increase spool capacity or smoothness. The effort shows in each model. Through hundreds of bass in several days, no reel so much as groaned.

For me, meeting the men behind the reels was a real treat. These are hard-working guys who have an earnest desire to make a quality product at a reasonable price. They love fishing as much as you do, and also like you, they want to have the best possible gear. They just happen to be in the fortunate position of designing, marketing and selling these babies.

As an important aside, we felt no fear of being hauled off in the night by a Mexican drug lord while staying at Angler’s Inn. Reports of drug-related violence has severely reduced tourism throughout the country, including Lake El Salto. The upside is that fishing pressure is less than half of what it used to be just a few years ago, and the fish are even more cooperative than they used to be.

Most of the chaos created by these warring gangs is to the north in Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Coahuila and the border states (yes, Mexico has states much like the U.S. does). El Salto is in Sinaloa, a fairly rural and sleepy state. Think of it as the Montana of Mexico; it’s huge, largely uninhabited and has real cowboys, or in this case, vaqueros. Also, like most things in Mexico, a trip to El Salto is affordable. Check out Anglers Inn's website for specials, which are as common as the giant fish that lurk in the lake.

The bottom line is that you’re going to experience some of the best bass fishing the planet has to offer, and thus you’re likely to have some of the best fishing you’ve ever experienced.

Plus, there’s no (affordable) cell signal at the lodge, so you’ve got an airtight excuse as to why you don’t call home or answer those pesky emails.

Check out the photo gallery, 26 reasons to cross the border.

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