Fishing foreign waters, Part 3

In Part 2 of this series, I shared some of my more memorable experiences fishing in Japan — like seeing a 20-pound-plus bass swimming freely in Lake Ikehara and fishing from the shores of an active volcanic island. For me, those events were extraordinary and special. But what I'm about to share here might interest you even more.

So sit back and let me tell you about the fishing in Mexico and Europe, and how bass are bass … no matter where they swim.

South of the Border

A year or so after the trip to Japan, Shimano decided to send us to Mazatlan on the west coast of Mexico. The project called for another combined fresh and saltwater effort, and I was excited about the prospects.

I had always wanted to fish Mexico. My previous trips there were as a kid with my parents and once during college (to surf). This time it would be about the fish!

We began on Lake El Salto, at Billy Chapman's lodge, high in the foothills of the Sierra Madres. The action was good, too. We caught countless fish up to nine pounds, but none of the double-digit bass the lake is known for.

After a couple of days on El Salto, we returned to the coast for some offshore fishing. That's when things got interesting.

On the first day, we scored countless sailfish and tuna on light spinning tackle. Shimano had just introduced the Stella, and they wanted to document as many saltwater catches as possible. With such fast action, I couldn't imagine the trip getting any better.

On day two, however, I hooked a 275-pound blue marlin using 20-pound-test line on spinning tackle. The reel was Shimano's first-version Stella 10,000 and we weren't sure how it would handle such a large fish. Although the battle took awhile, the reel performed flawlessly and the fish eventually came boatside.

Later, that same day, I hooked up with a big dorado (see photo). The fish was lying beneath a buoy marker just offshore, within sight of our hotel. With one quick cast, it was game on!

Here's my big dorado from off the coast of Mazatlan.

On the third day I hooked a 500-600 pound swordfish. Though they're usually caught from extreme depths, this fish was sunning on the surface and eagerly took a live bait.

Again, I was using the Stella 10,000 spooled with 20lb. line. Shortly after the fish was hooked, it made a couple of incredible jumps. It was like watching a clip from "The Old Man and The Sea."

Thirty minutes later, I asked the captain how long he estimated the fight would take. He said all day. Hearing that, I thought long and hard, then decided to pop the fish off. I couldn't see spending the entire day cranking on a fish that might eventually break off or, much worse, die on the line. Besides, there was another angler onboard who wanted to fish, and to that point I was seeing most of the action. Needless to say, the captain wasn't too pleased with my decision.

Watching a fish of that size clear the water was mind blowing, and though Shimano's film crew captured every second of the action, the image of that leaping giant will be with me forever.

The Plain in Spain

A few years later, Gary Yamamoto asked me to represent his brand by competing in the European Bass Classic on Lake Caspe in Spain. I knew there were bass competitions in Europe, but I had no idea how organized their tournaments had become. I eagerly accepted and in a few weeks we were off to Barcelona.

Yes, there are black bass in Europe, and I've enjoyed chasing them there.

When I first saw Lake Caspe, it reminded me of our reservoirs in the desert southwest. The water was greenish in hue, but quite clear. The landscape was nearly barren. Only boulders and scattered flooded bushes provided any type of cover for the fish to relate to. And I knew from fishing on lakes Meade and Havasu that it would likely be a test of light tackle and soft plastics … perfect for what Gary had in mind.

I was paired with an angler from Italy, and though we couldn’t communicate very well, we hit it off from the start. His 16-foot fiberglass bass boat was equipped with a modest set of electronics and a 24-volt trolling system. It was all we needed.

For the next two days we probed countless points and pockets, amassing enough weight to finish 6th overall. Our biggest was a five pounder I caught, which won that day's big bass honors. It was fun and relaxing, and as predicted, light line and soft plastics dominated the event.

The awards banquet was interesting, to say the least. Europeans are a festive bunch — pretty much anything goes … everything from hugging and kissing to fighting one another.

It was an experience I'll long remember.

In Retrospect

Looking back, it's not only the many foreign fishing destinations that drew me in — it was the people, too. I've met some really unique and incredible individuals along the way. And though there was a language barrier at times, it was clear we all had something in common — a passion for fishing.

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