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News & Press

Lake El Salto, New Lake Picachos and The Amazon: January & February 2019

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We’ve been running full houses (and motherships) nonstop since our last report, hosting legions of happy anglers and doing our best to provide them the best service on earth. Fishing can be unpredictable, even on world-class waters, so we control the things that we can to make sure that you have a true bucket-list experience. That’s probably why over 80 percent of our clients are return customers.

Let’s start with Picachos this time around, because there’s lots to report. Since opening our operation there, the lake has rightfully gained a reputation as a “numbers factory.” It was expected that two competent anglers would catch at least a hundred bass a day, and two or three times that number were not unheard of. We have guides who keep careful count and they’ve verified those numbers. In the early years, most of those hungry fish would be 1- to 2-pounds, but then the averages grew to 2-3 pounds, with an ample supply of 4- and 5-pounders mixed in. Occasionally there would be a bigger fish mixed in, but they were unpredictable….unlike El Salto where they’ve showed up every day for decades.

After decades of operating in Mexico I knew that it was only a matter of time until the new lake broke out in a BIG WAY.  

Some of my El Salto veterans were hesitant to leave a sure thing, but gradually word has been leaking out about the big changes at Picachos. Guests are torn between wanting to brag about their catches and wanting to keep this newer gem, less than an hour from Mazatlan, as their own private playground. Now the word is out. I have a feeling that next season Picachos will be hottest ticket in bass fishing anywhere in the world.

Dave Precht is the Editor-in-Chief of Bassmaster publications, a 40-year veteran of the outdoors industry, a member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, and a longtime visitor to my properties in Mexico and Brazil. He’s fished on just about every great tournament water from coast-to-coast, plenty of highly-managed private lakes, and has been in the boat with the best anglers in the world, and even he was more than impressed during his recent trip to Picachos with B.A.S.S. owner and former CEO of Time-Warner Don Logan.

“I first fished Picachos in 2015, just after it opened, and fell in love with the place,” Dave wrote. “That was the year Billy had guides from El Salto train the guides from Picachos. He told us we needed two guides just to keep up with all the fish we would catch. That was mostly true. The following year I fished with Don Logan and Jim Copeland. Jim and I fished together one day that year (2017), and we caught fish every cast on medium-running crank baits. Counting the fish I caught with Jim and the ones I caught that afternoon, I personally caught more than 150 that day.

“Our trip Jan. 18-21 was even better, believe it or not. Don and I went out the final morning, and after a nice flurry of topwater fish (poppers were deadly), we tied up to a bush and started throwing deep crankbaits. I had a Berkley Dredger 25.5 and Don was fishing a Dredger 20.5. For the first hour, we caught fish almost every cast. Most were 2 1/2-4 pounds but quite a few ranged between 5 and 6. Don caught one huge bass on that crank bait that got our guide went nuts. He said it was his biggest bass of 2018 and 2019. He said it weighed 9 pounds and I believe him. We did not weigh the fish. Also during the morning, Don and I caught a couple in the 7-8 pound range. Almost all our bigger fish were on crankbaits, but a few hit lipless crankbaits — Red Eye Shads and 3/4-ounce War Pigs.”  

And then things got absolutely insane!  

“During the afternoon we fished some worm/lizard holes and caught several, and then moved to a spot our guide liked for deep crankbaits. We were amongst four other guide parties, and all were catching fish, but most were twos and threes. One of our buddies caught two good fish on one crank bait. I had a double like that -- a 3 and a 4 on one cast. After a while, everybody else left to go for topwater fish, but we stayed. And then the big ones turned on. Don caught a 10, and a 9, and I caught a couple between 9 and 10. By the time the sun went down and our magical day was over, we had caught more than 300 bass, including 50 over 5 pounds. We stopped taking pictures of 7 pounders. I regret that we weren't weighing those fish. But I feel comfortable that our guide was pretty accurate. I was amazed at the thickness of the fish, and also their fighting capabilities.”

But you don’t have to be a longtime visitor to Mexico to get in on the action. John Janousek of Minnesota experienced similar numbers and plenty of quality fish during his first trip to the lake.

“We did best overall on deep cranks like a Rapala DT16,” he said. “Other deep crankbaits, too. As long as the bait had some chartreuse it worked.” He also had great success with Texas Rigged Senkos and chatterbaits for numbers, and 1 ounce jigs and ¾-1 ounce spinnerbaits out deep for larger fish.”

The success that John and Dave experienced out deep reflects the maturation and increased experience of our Picachos guides. They were all raised in the villages that were flooded when the lake was impounded, so they know the lake bed and its contours intimately. These are literally the places that they walked, lived and went to school over a decade ago. What they didn’t know as well in the early years of our operation was how to fish offshore. Our El Salto guides trained them in all sorts of different tactics – including crankbaiting, Carolina Rigging and swimbaiting – but with such incredible numbers of bass up shallow year-round they never needed to leave the bank. You can still catch all you want up shallow, but by expanding the playing field to include offshore structure they’ve provided anglers with more options to intercept the massive schools of bigger fish that live much of their lives out there.

“Topwater fishing was good both morning and evening,” Dave Precht added. “Poppers were by far the best. At times we got on good chatterbait bites, but the fish weren't as big as those we caught in deep water. I'd say 20-25 feet was the magic depth for big bass.” Bring plenty of deep diving crankbaits that penetrate the 15 to 25 foot zone, and don’t ever leave your traditional soft plastics at home. Dave added that if he “were going back tomorrow, I would pack: 8-inch lizards in green pumpkin, 10-inch Berkley MaxScent worms in green pumpkin, and plenty of chartreuse garlic dye for the tails. I would fish these on 4/0 wide gap hooks with 3/8-ounce tungsten sinkers.”

Dale Steele and Danny Mack are frequent El Salto visitors, and they had to be convinced to make their most recent trip a combo trip, but they’re glad that they did. After enjoying the “gold standard” at El Salto, they moved over to Picachos where they found out that the guides have locked in the offshore bite.

“I had 56 total one afternoon on a citrus shad 8XD, kicking it on the bottom,” Dale said. “They also ate watermelon red flake lizards and 13-inch straight tailed worms. We had 31 over 4 pounds for the day.”

Their highlights were Dale’s 9-02 and Danny’s 8-05, more proof that the “new lake” is reaching prime time status.

Of course, Dale said that the service was fully up to Anglers Inn standards. “Omar and Giovanni were wonderful guys. They took great care of us.” Dale’s son Matt caught his personal best at El Salto a few years back, and now Dale wants him to experience Picachos, but Dale and Danny own a business together – who is going to watch over it if they’re all in Mexico?

This January El Salto was lower than in either of the previous two winters, and fishing was solid, but at times tricky. That’s where our guides’ decades of expertise came in handy. Rather than rotating through a milk-run of spots hoping for the best, they’ve learned to anticipate the movement of the bass and to change tactics accordingly.

Hanna Robbins of Virginia came down near the end of the month with over 20 friends from around the country for her 14th visit to Anglers Inn properties in Mexico. Notably, she’s come down every May/June since 2013 and every January since 2015. Despite the frequency of her visits, she said that it pays to be adaptable every time and to have a solid assortment of tackle.

“The past three years the water has been at totally different levels in January and that has necessitated changing up our techniques,” she reported. “Two years ago the best bite was on topwater in low light conditions and then chatterbaits later in the day, especially in the wind. Last year, we did the most damage on big fish with deep diving crankbaits like the Dredger and the 10XD. This year we couldn’t dial in either of those bites, but we were able to consistently find fish with hard jerkbaits.”

She relied on several different lures, including a Megabass Vision 110, a Yo Zuri 3DB and the new Berkley Cutter. Translucent models with blue backs produced the best results, definitely outfishing jerkbaits with a gold base. When that bite slowed, but she was sure that there were more fish nearby, she’d wacky rig a Senko in the same areas, sometimes right on the bank, otherwise as deep as 10 or 12 feet deep. “A 5-inch model in watermelon or green pumpkin was the best choice, even for larger fish” she said. “I was glad that I had some in my tackle bag because usually a 6- or even a 7-inch Senko is my bread and butter down there. It has produced several of my 9-pound-plus bass.”

Another thing that she noticed was the nature of the forage. A large part of what the bass eat consists of tilapia, but El Salto also has baitfish such as shad, and at times replicating them was the key to success, especially on numbers.

“One afternoon we followed a pattern where bass had corralled pinky-sized shad in the backs of creeks and canyons,” she explained. “As you drove back, you’d see birds on the bank waiting and others diving on the shad, with occasional bass blowups. If you tried to throw a large bait in there it usually wouldn’t get bit, but a ½ ounce blue and silver Berkley Warpig caught fish after fish after fish, sometimes two on the same cast. The key retrieve was to burn it as fast as you could. We’d usually leave after catching a bunch of smaller fish, but sometimes just as you prepared to leave you’d get a bite from something bigger.” She stressed that anglers should bring extra treble hooks because they’ll tend to get dull or bent out after being removed from one fish after another.

Hanna’s group included a serious bass fishing couple from Wisconsin – Samantha Sukupcak and Mike Yee. Samantha had traveled to El Salto for the first time last January and liked it so much that she chose to escape the sub-zero temperatures of her home state again. This time Mike insisted on accompanying her and while they were jovial the whole time, there was some competition going on as well. It started during their first session on the water when Samantha caught an 8-02 personal best fishing a Senko on a bluff. Poor Mike continued to whack more than his share of fives and sixes throughout the trip before finally catching an 8-02 PB of his own during their last session. That fish also came off of a bluff, but this time on a black and blue 3/8 ounce jig. El Salto – where dreams are made!

Duncan Maccubbin and Amber Phillips have fished with us over a dozen times each – they even got MARRIED at El Salto! – and they visited again in January. Like Hanna, they found the jerkbait bite to be the best option – specifically a Megabass Vision 110+1, the deeper diving model – and that produced one over 8 pounds for Amber. They’ve caught them on topwaters, chatterbaits and Carolina Rigs in Januaries past, and those were intermittently productive during this trip, but overall they found that they had to work hard to dial in a new pattern each day. Fishing is rarely “slow” at El Salto, but when it’s not quite exceptional Duncan cautioned that anglers should always remember that they’re probably within sight of an 8- to 10-pounder at all times.

“When fishing slows down, do the same things you would do at home,” he said. “Slow down, downsize, and try to reproduce areas that produced your best fish.”

Jim Taibi brought a group of El Salto veterans to the lake at the end of January and said they “dominated the white board at the lodge.” Their numbers were lower, but plenty of big girls showed up.

Their best numbers came on 8-inch watermelon/red lizards, but quality depended on shad imitations. Specifically, a 4.8” ringed swimbait on a ¼ ounce tungsten jighead slow-rolled off deeper ledges and drop offs, along with larger jerkbaits like the Lucky Craft Pointer were their best producers.

“Next year our group is fishing both lakes, El Salto and Picachos,” he concluded. “We just can’t get enough of the fantastic experience Billy Chapman Jr. has created for us!”

While the majority of our guests use conventional baitcasting and spinning tackle, we can easily accommodate fly anglers at all of our properties. Pat Sleeper of California has been to Mexico with us several times, and this year she led a group on a combo trip, reporting that they had “the best time we’ve ever had at each lake.”

“The topwater bite was on for some depending on the level of overcast, while for others it was best just for the morning and evening,” she reported. “We found a few flies that were ‘lights out effective.’ Our go-to flies for numbers were Clousers with a white body and an olive top portion. This paired with a full sink line was ‘nonstop effective!’ Bring a lot, they get torn up! I used 3-4  new Clousers per day!

I also like to set up a popper/dropper – a minnow imitation on the dropper, 3 feet from the popper fly. We used 9 weight rods, intermediate tropical, full sink 1-3-5 and tropical floating lines, and 20 - 25lb tippet on twisted leaders from the fly lines.”

Our staff continues to work overtime to accommodate a full house just about every day, and prime dates for the last half of 2019 and the first half of 2020 are almost gone. Fishing has been exceptional, so 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. As indicated above, you should also consider either a trip to Picachos, or a combo trip involving both lakes. 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.

I recently concluded my Amazon season with a lot of happy customers, both first-timers and veterans like noted peacock bass guru Larry Larsen. I personally hosted every trip this year 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.

Joe Thomas filmed an incredible show in Brazil that you’ll see later this year. Even after 30 years as a pro he still gets excited by a great bite, and ever since he got home he’s been calling me consistently looking to schedule a return visit.

“The boat is so sweet,” he said. “I had been on the floating suites and they were great at accessing remote waters, but in terms of overall comfort this may be even better. It’s like you get treated at any Anglers Inn property, and I hate to say it but the food may be even better.”

If you don’t have decades of experience like Joe, or even if you do, it pays to dial in your casting accuracy before you go. “The ability to get your bait back into the jungle, deep into cover, was extremely important,” he said. “If you could cast accurately your success would go up exponentially.”

Joe’s best lure was a 4-inch walking topwater. “I don’t think they wanted a really big bait,” he said. “But it’s important that you trade out the factory hooks and split rings with saltwater models.”

Scott Townley from Colorado made his first visit to the Amazon, although it was his 6th trip to an Anglers Inn property. He caught his personal best, a beautiful 15.5 pound peacock, on a locally-made jig. I have the available for purchase on the boat and this is a lure that works everywhere and just about every day for peacocks.

He agreed with Joe Thomas that “getting the lure as close to the edge of the water as possible generally improved your chances.”

While many of our customers are focused exclusively on the fishing, it’s a shame to visit the Amazon and not take note of the incredible and unique wildlife that populates the rain forest. “Our guide ‘Ah-no’ was great,” Scott said. “I am a birder as well, and it didn't take him too long to figure that out.  After a day he'd slow the boat down and point out birds so I could get a photo.  I logged 24 species while fishing.”

As I’ve advertised for years, I provide my Amazon customers with an “Amazon Tough Bag” with many of the little items and necessities that will make your trip more comfortable and more productive. Scott reminded travelers that some of the items in the bag (like scissors and fluids over a certain number of ounces) are not TSA-approved. Be sure to transfer those to your checked luggage before traveling.

Richard Mason of Washington was hesitant to join us, due to the fact that he didn’t think his wife could withstand the trip’s rigors, but she blessed a solo trip and he’s glad that he made the long journey south.

“You really need to experience the fishing for yourself,” he said. “It’s fast and the fish have more power than you can imagine. The first day out we were trolling and I hooked a monster. As I fought to get the drag released, the fish completely straightened the hook on a heavy jig. I learned quickly to make sure the drag was set correctly.”

He fished with several different guides and several anglers during the course of the week. “I was very impressed with all of the guides,” he said. “They were professional and worked hard to catch as many fish as possible. The guide had a fish clicker and we averaged 25 plus fish for the boat, which was nice because I lost count. I was amazed in the variety of the peacock bass -- I believe I caught five different variations. I landed a 16-pounder and felt pretty good, but then my fishing partner Dave caught an 18-pound monster. Day Four I pulled in a 19-pound fish. The amazing part is that my fish got wrapped on a tree. I could feel him and it was a tug of war. My guide slipped in the water, swam down the line, fastened his fish scale in its mouth and delivered it to the boat. He did that on four separate occasions. I thought that was over and above.”

As the season progressed, we experienced some changing weather, including rain that raised some of the rivers. Our high level of mobility and guides who were born and raised on those waters kept us on top of the fish when others would have struggled. At the same time, please know that if the conditions become unsatisfactory from a fishing perspective, I won’t hesitate to reschedule your trip. Yes, I know it can be a hassle, but it’s better than spending thousands of dollars and not getting the full benefit of this amazing opportunity. It costs me some bucks, but it’ll keep my customers happy and that’s what matters most.

Laster this year I plan to investigate another multi-species fishery that will knock the socks off of the adventurers among you, 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 and 2018 I hosted some VIP guests in the beautiful north country and every one of them couldn’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 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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