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Lake El Salto, New Lake Picachos and The Amazon: July 2018 End of Season

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We’ve been fortunate to have a full lodge at Lake El Salto through May and June, as more anglers begin to recognize the amazing summertime bite in Mexico. We left the fish biting in order to take a short break to let the lakes fill up and to get our entire operation back in tip-top shape. During this brief hiatus we will tune up all of our boats in motors, give everything a deep scrub and complete some new construction projects that are going to make everything even more comfortable and luxurious the next time that you return. In particular, our Picachos lodge will undergo a major upgrade. We are committed to that lake for the long haul and think that our guests there deserve all of the same amenities that we provide at El Salto.

As I said above, the fish were still biting throughout July, even though occasional storms raised the water level and the conditions. Most of our guides have worked with us for decades, and they’ve seen the lake under all sorts of changing conditions. That makes them able to anticipate where the fish are going and what they’ll be doing tomorrow, rather than relying exclusively on what they were doing last week. It’s an important skill and it cuts down on your time in less-productive water.

While occasional storms roll through during July, one of the nice byproducts of that weather is that overcast conditions often keep the topwater bite rolling all day. Bryan Brasher, the editor of B.A.S.S. Times, had one of those “experiences of a lifetime” at the end of June:

“Just after sunrise on Monday June 25, I made a cast in a shallow pocket at Lake El Salto with one of the new topwater walking baits from Berkley,” he recalled. “There was a ferocious blowup, and I landed a 6-pounder. After a quick photo, I made my second cast. Another 6-pounder, another quick photo. When I landed yet another 6-pounder on my third cast, the other angler in the boat asked if I wanted another picture. I said, ‘No way. This could be the most amazing fishing I’ve ever done, and I want to make every cast I can while they’re still on fire like this.’ For the next 90 minutes, it was indeed the most amazing fishing I’ve ever experienced. The topwater strikes were like mushroom clouds on a battlefield — and the missed strikes would make your heart stop for just a split second. There were times when a bass would knock the bait completely out of the water twice, only to come back and inhale it on the third stab. There were times when a fish would follow the bait all the way back to the boat, waiting until it was almost beneath your feet to bite it. Then there were times when you’d land a fish with two or three more following behind it trying to steal the bait away. Bass in the 4- to 6-pound range were so common I lost count. But when we finally pulled away from that little pocket, I’m confident my best five would have easily topped 30 pounds.

“I grew up in Birmingham, Ala., a short drive from such world-class bass fisheries as Lake Eufaula, Lake Guntersville, Pickwick Lake and all the impoundments of the Coosa River. As a writer for Bassmaster and the editor of B.A.S.S. Times magazine, I’ve fished choice destinations around the country, including Sturgeon Bay, Toledo Bend, Kentucky Lake and Mille Lacs. But that one 90-minute stretch at El Salto will forever stand in my memory as perhaps the greatest thing I’ve experienced on the water — and it was just one of several amazing stretches during my 3 1/2-day trip to the famous lake.”

Brasher has fished with many of the top anglers in the world, but he’d put the El Salto guides right up there with them. This time he shared the boat with Victor (and with veteran outdoor writer Steve Quinn), and came away impressed. “This was my second trip to El Salto, and I’ve learned that it’s best to trust your guide,” he said. “They all stick to the basic script for bass fishing — topwater early, midrange moving baits as the sun gets up and deeper offerings like crankbaits and worms during the heat of the day. They won’t lead you wrong — and the staff at Anglers Inn will take better care of you than any group on earth. Whether you need a hook removed from your hand (as I did the final afternoon) or just someone to top off your margarita, they’ve got you covered. I absolutely can’t wait to go back.”

While topwater bite was perhaps most memorable – his best big fish lure was the new Berkley topwater walking bait in a leopard frog pattern with a white belly -- Brasher also had great success with a variety of other baits. For numbers, he used a1/2-ounce Booyah One-Knocker (Tennessee blush shad), 3-inch Berkley War Pig (blue silver), Bomber Fat Free Shad crankbait (citrus shad), and the Berkley Surge Shad wake bait (solid black). Big plastic worms in black with a blue tail or any other dark color produced consistently, and he used a 1 ½ ounce spinnerbait and the Berkley pre-rigged Swim Shad as alternatives to fish that might have seen too many crankbaits.

Among other VIP guests who visited in recent weeks, longtime friend Joe Thomas came down to film on both lakes. El Salto, of course, remained the gold standard, but Joe was impressed by how much the fish in Picachos have grown since his last visit. What had been a lake full of 2- and 3-pounders, is now loaded to the gills with plenty of those, plus a ridiculous number of 4- to 6-pound fish, as well as some bigger. As you’ll see from his upcoming shows, the lake is already world-class and in a few years might be better than any other place – and while it’s less than an hour from Mazatlan, it’s managed perfectly to achieve that status through an ongoing regime of careful management.

It wasn’t just longtime friends and industry folks who benefited from the great late-season bite. Kyle McMillin and his father Mack came down. “This was our first visit to Anglers Inn, but not our last, for sure,” Kyle reported. They averaged 85 fish a day, with solid quality and a variety of presentations in play.

They fished with Luis Ayala and experienced much the same bite that Brasher did – starting off with a topwater, then switched to a black/blue Power Worm and watermelon lizard, before transferring to a citrus shad crankbait. A Pop-R landed the biggest fish of the trip but a ¾ ounce chartreuse spinnerbait and the worm also produced some monsters.

Like our more “seasoned” guests, Kyle said that the key was to “listen to your guide.”

“Sometimes we would get to reeling really fast with the crankbaits and he would say ‘Slow down,’” he recalled. “Bam! One would hit it.” He also suggested bringing healthy quantities of the staples recommended in these reports and on our social media pages, but not to overpack. “It’s hard not to pack everything you own, but we found that we didn’t use about 80% of what we took.”

Eliot Ikard visited El Salto for the 13th time, and fishing with Oscar he and his partner averaged 100 fish a day and they topped 130 on their final day of fishing, with a 10-02 leading the pack. A white fluke produced early, and a 4-inch swimbait (white or white/chartreuse) rigged with a belly-weighted hook produced later.

“We had to fish slow,” he said. “Also, smaller baits worked better than big baits this year, which was unusual. Large swimbaits were unproductive. I can’t wait to come back in January.”

Mike Whitlow has been leading large groups down to the lake in February for a number of years, but many of his friends decided that once a year was not enough to scratch their itch, so in recent years he’s added a popular July option and it has paid off with big dividends.

“The final numbers were amazing,” Whitlow reported. “Eleven anglers, 4+ days fishing for half the group and 3+ days fishing the rest. We caught 2178 bass. One hundred fifty-eight were 4+ pounds. One hundred ten were 5+ pounds. Sixty-seven were 6+ pounds. Seventeen were 7+ pounds. Seven were 8+ pounds. Five were over 9 pounds with a 9.11 the biggest caught by Tracy Taylor.”

Whitlow’s groups said that “the swimbait bite was unbelievable.” Their best producers were swim minnows and ribbed swimbaits in grey ghost, sexy shad and hitch patterns.

“The crankbait bite at times was pretty good in the afternoons when the wind picked up,” he added. “The Berkley Dredger blue and silver 20.5 worked best but the Berkley War Pigs did a lot of damage this week, also in blue and silver. In the mornings a white fluke weightless was the ticket in the trees in the back of the bays. At any time during the day the bass would push the shad and tilapia into the back of bays and explode on the surface like tuna in the ocean. It was amazing when this happened and several of picked up a spinnerbait and tore ‘em up.”

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 this season. Because the economy remains strong and fishing has been exceptional, some key dates for next year are already almost completely full. 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, and our local guides get better and more knowledgeable every time out. 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. We are going to be offering some incredible discounts on Picachos trips in the upcoming months, so stay tuned. I’m so confident that it’s primed to explode for big fish and keep pumping out the numbers that I’ll do what it takes to get you down there to experience it. It’s great for kids, but it’s getting to the point where even the most hardcore anglers may make it their preferred stop.

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.

In fact, 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.

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.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Brazil already this year preparing for what I expect to be an exceptional season for big peacocks. I guarantee you that my new operation down there is going to set a new standard of accommodations and quality angling for the region, all with the same attention to detail that you receive at my Mexican properties. We’ll have the best service, on the best waters, with the best equipment. That’s the Anglers Inn way.

We’re getting ready to open our multi-species Idaho operation and I’m sure you’re going to love it. We’ve tested it with some industry VIPs this summer to make sure that it lives up to their high standards as well as our own, and next summer we should be fully open for business. The biggest issue is going to be whether you want to spend your vacation time in Mexico, Brazil or the gorgeous Pacific Northwest.

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.

If you’ve received this report from a friend, please be sure to sign up for future mailings at www.anglersinn.com. If you know a friend who would benefit from these newsletters, please make sure that they are receiving them, too.