Lake El Salto, New Lake Picachos and The Amazon: December 2018
As November turns to December in western Mexico, conditions start to stabilize. The sometimes-heavy rains of fall slow to a trickle, but the nutrient level in the lake is sky-high, creating a population of fast-growing fish that are fattening up before the first wave of spawners get busy creating the next generation of super-bass. It’s a period that typically produces some of the best topwater fishing of the year, but longtime guests know that the mega-monsters are likely to be in a foot of water, 30 feet of water, or anywhere in between. If you like to crank or Carolina Rig, there’s an opportunity to do that. If you want to look for big bites with a large-bladed spinnerbait, tie one on and hold on. The flipping and pitching bites can often be exceptional – like many times of year it’s possible to grab your jig rod or Texas Rig rod first thing in the morning and not put it down until it’s time to go in.
The biggest question is “How do you want to catch them?”
For years, El Salto has been the gold standard for Mexican lakes, and we’ve almost always used it to lead off our reports, but now Picachos is truly coming into its own. Our guides, all native to the area, have really honed their fishing and boat-positioning skills. Meanwhile, the fish population has continued to boom. There is so much flooded cover that there’s no way to fish even a small percentage of it in a full week, and with the fish growing 2 pounds in their first year many of them have never seen a lure. Increasingly we find that even hardened veterans of Mexican fishing travel make Picachos their first or only stop. We’ve invested heavily in the property, with a new over-water dining room and other enhancements to increase your comfort level.
Thomas Allen, a Senior Editor at Bassmaster.com, had been to El Salto twice, but after getting only a brief taste of Picachos he’d been itching to return, and used his son Tommy’s 11th birthday as the perfect opportunity to test the waters. The pair fished with Fermin and caught 348 fish in 3 ½ days up to 7 pounds. They might’ve caught more, but they were having so much fun using specific techniques that they stopped experimenting after a while and stuck with their favorites.
“The entire first day Tommy threw a Berkley Choppo 120 and caught over 60 fish on it,” Thomas reported. “He never changed that first day.” By the end of their stay, he’d caught so many mean Mexican largemouths on that one topwater that he had to retire it – it would no longer run straight.
Meanwhile, Thomas quickly turned from traditional soft plastics to a jig in treetops and staged hear shoreline brush piles and tree tops. In particular, a 3/8-ounce jig with a Bama Craw and Peanut Butter Bug skirt and matching craw trailers did most of his damage.
“To keep the jig compact, I trimmed the skirt to about a 1/16th of an inch below the hook and trimmed one of the body bumps from the craw,” he said. “The whole purpose of this rig was a slow, enticing fall through the treetops, and if a bass was in a particular tree, he’d eat it in the first 6 to 10 feet of drop. I’d say every third tree, on average, had fish in it. I brought three packages of the craws and ended up running out by the middle of the second day. We then started using Berkley Swimbait tails, (I cut about half of the swimbait head off to keep the jig compact), and that slowed the bait’s fall even more making it more effective. A 1/2-ounce jig was too heavy, and sank too fast for the treetop game, but I did use a 1/2-ounce on occasion around shoreline brush with good success. We did find that some of the bass would eat the jig as it was swimming out of the treetops after the fall. Sometimes we’d swim it back on a long cast and catch fish. But the slow drop in treetops was the ticket.”
He said that the lodge’s rods were up to the task of winching big fish up, over and around thick cover. He employed a 7’4” medium-heavy St. Croix paired with an Abu-Garcia Beast (7.1:1) loaded with 17-pound Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon. “The fluoro was critical as it slowed the fall rate of the jig, where braid would fall too quickly,” he said.
The advantage of fishing Picachos over just about any other lake in the world is that you have countless opportunities to dial in just about any bite you want to try. Most places, if you miss an opportunity because of a poor hookset, or the wrong rod or simply an unfortunately-placed snag, that chance is gone forever. Here, it’s just a taste of what is to come, and a teachable moment. After Tommy Allen caught well over a hundred fish on his Berkley Choppo, Dad decided to give him a little lesson and “by the end of the trip he was flipping and hammering bass like a pro. He really developed as a bass angler during those three days. I absolutely loved watching Tommy hammer Picachos bass cast after cast. I have no doubt that anytime we target bass with a jig, he’ll know exactly what to do.”
It is truly the perfect place to take a budding bass angler, whether they’re a complete novice, an aspiring tournament competitor, or somewhere in between – and if that angler is your son or daughter it’ll be a trip you never forget.
Young Tommy reported that “I caught so many fish my thumbs started bleeding by the end of our trip. I’m glad Dad had some Band Aids for the trip home.” It’s the type of pain that you’ll love to experience. Similarly, his dad shed some tears when Tommy spoke up on their final trip back to camp: “I don’t want to leave yet,” he said. “I love it here.”
Even reporting on it a week later, dad teared up again. “I know he’ll never forget that trip. Neither will I. We’ll definitely be back.”
“At Picachos, my best baits for numbers were a Sexy Shad crankbait and a ¾ ounce green pumpkin football jig,” he reported. “At El Salto, I caught numbers with a jerkbait and a Senko-style bait. I caught bigger fish on the crankbait and a River2Sea S-Waver glide bait.”
Indeed, glide baits and other hard swimbaits are among the most intriguing and least understood tools for unlocking populations of big Mexican bass. Some anglers are afraid to throw them in the heart of the heavy cover that covers our lakes, and others just don’t have the confidence in them to stick with them long enough. Tony’s friend Blake Becker, owner of a high-end tackle shop, also used glide baits, as well as a variety of lesser-known big baits like the Deps NZ Crawler, to show both El Salto and Picachos bass something different.
That might not have been strictly necessary at Picachos, where he reported that “you could get bit on anything you like throwing. We averaged 230 per boat, with our most at 264 in one day, up to 6 pounds.”
His best lure at Picachos, while fishing with Julian, was a SPRO Bronzeye 65 Watermelon Red frog, but certain modifications and retrieve cadences made a huge difference.
“I always like to trim the skirt tails uneven so they walk better,” he said. “At Picachos I had caught over 90 just in the morning on the frog. I burned up 3 frogs and the deal was throwing it up right on the bank, then slowly bring it to the water. The first twitch pause was when I would get the most bites and they choked it there for sure. If I walked it back nonstop to the boat I would not get as many bites.”
His second-best lure for numbers was the classic Watermelon Red 6-inch Senko, rigged wacky style, and the key was to “let it chill out for 2 to 5 seconds, then give it a nice pop. As soon as the pop happened, they would bite.”
Each morning, Blake started with topwater, usually either a Megabass Pop-X or a white Vixen. He’d throw them “right up on the bank” and then S-L-O-W-L-Y working them back to the boat. He and his partner had to constantly remind each other to slow down and take it easy. That kept the bite going, even beyond the low light period.
At El Salto, Blake fished with veteran guide Daniel and they dialed in a bunch of bites that should continue for the foreseeable future. In addition to the topwaters and Senko-style baits, he reported that ½ and ¾ ounce football jigs from Dirty Jigs and Nu Tech jigs worked on offshore structure mopped up bass that couldn’t be convinced to hit moving baits. “And definitely bring a 2-ounce bottle of chartreuse Spike-It and listen to your guides.”
In addition to the heavy dose of construction at Picachos, we’ve made some changes at El Salto to improve your experience. Most notably we’ve extended the dining and bar area over and out so you won’t be cramped when you’re telling fish stories in the evening or lining up for breakfast in the morning. Same great food, same great service, just more room to enjoy it.
While this report mentioned a wide variety of baits, please be sure to bring a lot of the old faithfuls A 10” black/blue Power Worm, an 8” watermelon lizard and a 6” watermelon Senko will produce every day of the year in Mexico. There are times when they won’t be the primary producers, but you can’t go wrong with that limited supply of staples. Add in some jigs, lipless crankbaits, deep diving crankbaits, swimbaits, spinnerbaits and topwaters and you have most if not all of your bases covered. We’ll never discourage you from bringing your favorite lure or from trying something new. After all, that’s how we got turned onto lures like the Megabass 110, the Chatterbait and the Whopper Plopper, but the key is usually to stick with the fundamentals rather than reinventing the wheel. Rather than focusing on something like color, make sure your line is fresh, your hooks are sharp and your drag is set properly. Getting the big fish that bite into the boat can be a challenge, and the best way to win that battle is to be prepared.
Our staff worked overtime to accommodate a full house just about every day last season, and prime dates for the first half of 2019 are almost gone. In fact, we’ve already filled plenty of spots at both lakes for 2020. Because the economy remains strong and fishing has been exceptional, I recommend blocking out your vacation sooner rather than later If you know when you want to come, please contact us as soon as possible to make sure you get your preferred time slot. You should also consider either a trip to Picachos, or a combo trip involving both lakes. I know that Picachos has the reputation as the “numbers factory,” but it is increasingly pumping out lunkers. More and more customers are becoming convinced that there will be a window in the near future when the big fish bite explodes, and as our guides get better and more knowledgeable every time out they’re going to be ready when it happens. Do you want to work on your flipping? Wear your arm out with topwaters? Find out what a glide bait bite feels like? This is the place to do it. You can literally expect to catch 100 fish a day if you are even semi-competent, and you can do it just about any way you want. Bring pounds and pounds of plastics because it’s possible to decimate even a healthy supply. It is only going to continue to get better. We’ve only tapped a small portion of its potential.
Picachos is just 55 minutes from the Golden Zone of Mazatlan, so it’s even perfect for day trips, but for you hard core guys, if you can’t decide which lake to visit, a combo trip is the way to go. Our new dining room sits right at the edge of the lake and you’ll be tempted to make a few casts between sips of your margarita.
Remember, our goal is to make your trip as hassle-free as possible, and one step in that direction is that we now have loaner rods for everyone to use at no cost. Thanks to our newly-developed partnership, our lodges now have a varied supply of St. Croix rods. “They made fishing pure pleasure,” said one recent guest. These technique-specific rods rods are the real deal, folks, and we are committed to giving you the best possible tools to land that fish of a lifetime. You don’t need to travel with a heavy and burdensome rod tube anymore if you don’t want to. Both lakes have an ample supply ready for you to use. We’re seeing fewer and fewer guests bringing their own rods. With the St. Croix sticks tailored to specific techniques, and available in a wide range of lengths and options, so really can’t go wrong…and it makes packing much easier to just bring your reels and tackle.
By the time you read this, I will be down in Brazil starting off nearly two months in the jungle helping avid anglers fulfill their peacock bass dreams. Water levels are great this year and I’m personally hosting every trip on record-class waters. We have the most luxurious boat available, along with chefs and staff who’ve been trained in the Anglers Inn way. We provide an “Amazon Tough” bag to every customer and it’s filled with all sorts of things like insect repellent, sunscreen and the proper hat to make sure that you don’t miss out on any part of your trip. As with Mexico, we provide quality St. Croix rods and we have Abu-Garcia reels with braided line, as well as all of the right baits for the current conditions. Once you’re in the jungle there’s no tackle shop or mail order outlet, so we want to make sure that your trip of a lifetime is fully stocked.
While I’m in the southern hemisphere I’ll also be investigating another multi-species fishery that will knock the socks off of you exploratory types, as well as anyone who wants to catch monster fish. I’ll have more news about that soon, as well as another resource I’ll be providing to the entire peacock bass fishing community.
Don’t forget about Idaho, either! In 2017 I hosted some VIP guests in the beautiful north country and every one of them can’t wait to come back. The bass fishing is exceptional, and there’s so much more to do, both on and off the water, that you’ll seriously think about moving there. It’s that good, I promise. More info to come, but it won’t be long before you can get the Anglers Inn experience in the United States. For decades that has been a goal of mine and I’m closer than ever to achieving it. Stay tuned!
If you haven’t seen it already, be sure to click on our new website at www.anglersinn.com at your earliest convenience. We’ve had it up since early 2017, and the feedback has been tremendous – especially from guests who’ve found pictures of themselves with big fish gracing the site. Our theme is “Making Every Angler’s Dream Come True,” and while our web presence is no substitute for a trip to Mexico or Brazil, it’s the next best thing and a valuable tool for planning your next trip. We continue to update it with new information and items constantly, so don’t forget to hit us up regularly.
Just as we set the standard for international fishing trips, we want to set the standard online, too. The new site includes information about all of our properties, pricing and bios of our staff. We also update it regularly with new videos on our “Anglers Inn TV” channel, and provide detailed monthly reports like this one.
Whether it’s your first trip to an Anglers Inn property or your 20th, we hope that this site will provide all of the information that you need, but if it doesn’t we’re always just a phone call or email away.
While we often provide a generalized list of lures that work throughout the year, there are times when specific bites are ongoing and we don’t ever want you to arrive under gunned. Monitor the website and social media for updated info, and if you’re ever in doubt about what you need to bring, please call us or email us. We want to make sure that you’re outfitted properly to make the most of your vacation.
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