El Salto Mexico: A Bass Anglers Paradise
Flying into Mazatlán for the first time the landscape is much more mountainous than expected. It could be the time of year, or the fact that the region just received a large amount of rain but it’s also much greener than I imagined. This is my first trip to the area. As most Americans, I’m familiar with the traditional Mexican vacation spots. But, I’ve never ventured off the beaten path before. There’s a mix of trepidation and excitement as the plane begins it’s decent. I’m with a group of writer’s and bass pros making their way to that legendary bass mecca known as Lake El Salto.
Once we arrived at the Mazatlan airport and moved through customs we met our friendly driver from Angler’s Inn, operated by Billy Chapman. He loaded up our bags offered us our choice of beer or water and off we went. The 1.5 hour long drive is scenic and you get a truer sense of what Mexico is like outside of the tourist towns. Once we pulled into the resort the experience was on-par or better than other all-inclusives you’d find - with the added benefit of big bass fishing. The staff greeted us with a tray full of margaritas and food and our gear was delivered to our rooms.
A couple things struck me about El Salto. One was the beauty of the surrounding area. It was a lush environment with mountains on all sides. We were only a few hundred feet from an amazing lake filled with some of the biggest largemouth you’ll ever see. The lake was about 110% of normal for that time of year, November. During the key season (April – June) the lake is down and it looks more like a desert environment. There are stumps everywhere, a bass angler’s paradise. The second thing that caught my attention were the guides.
Fishing out of large jon boats with a transom mount trolling motor the setup was minimalist. No electronics needed. For a lot of the guys that work the resort they had two options for jobs, tilapia fish or guide. El Salto is one of Mexico’s largest tilapia fisheries, which contributes to the bass getting so big. From September through May each year tilapia nets are put down twice each month. There’s no doubt its hard work. We saw many fisherman working from sun up to sun down checking nets, pulling nets, or laying new nets. During the tilapia season the fishermen setup little huts around the lake. It's here they cook their food over an open fire and catch a few hours of sleep before they get up and do it all over again. For those lucky enough to become guides it can become a family business. A tradition passed down from father to son. Often with no electronics it is the only way to learn the ins and outs of the lake.
Every morning during our stay we were awoken by the friendly staff with a hot cup of coffee and breakfast. After we ate we hopped into a trailer to get driven down to the lake where our gear was ready and waiting with our guide. With the sun cresting the top of the mountains we would head out to the first spot of the day. Each guide has their rotation of spots. They all know where the channels are, or where that bridge used to be, or the old cemetery that now has big bass clinging to it. No matter the water level, no matter your skill level, the best thing to do was trust the guide. We learned that trusting our guide yielded big bass.
Whether it was a Digger 8.5 in Big Money or a 10” Powerbait Powerworm in black with blue tail we caught fish. The bass know what they like and don’t venture too far away from it. During the trip our group had four 10-pound fish, two 12-pounders and at least a half-dozen over 7-pounds (and this was a slow time of year). From the drive to the fishing the experience is like no other. If you’re an avid bass angler the experience at Angler’s Inn at Lake El Salto is the trip of a lifetime.