By Alex Mei Throughout your angling life there are a few fishing images that you just can’t get out of your head, for some it may be their first topwater strike, for others it is the first double-digit bass, and for me the image of a 11.5lbr that completely cleared the water seconds after I set the hook ranks high on my personal list. That priceless image was courtesy of the famed world-class fishery that is El Salto. There are few lakes in the world that provide such an unbelievable fishing experience, and the Lake El Salto has been billed by many outdoor writers as the greatest bass lake on the planet. Prior to my own visit I was filled with skepticism, after all with destinations like Clear Lake in my own backyard it was hard to imagine a fishery that could be much better.
While skeptical something deep down inside me hoped that my own experience south of the border would parallel all that I had read. Last June I had the opportunity to field test new rods and reels with the team from Shimano at El Salto, and there seemed like no better place to put the new products to through the paces. Within hours of landing in Mazatlan I was on the water and had boated more quality fish than at any other lake, period. Through the week I averaged over 60 fish per day, most in the 3-4lb class, and some in the 8-9lb class. I had been struggling all week to break double digits but on the last day that 11.5lb fish took a Texas rigged Zoom Lizard like no other hit I’ve ever had. Many that have visited El Salto come away with their biggest bass, and while I have caught bigger at the Delta and Clear Lake, I have never had a day with so many fish just shy of double digits. With each and every cast at El Salto there is an opportunity to break double digits, that’s what makes El Salto “legendary.”
So what makes El Salto, and so many of the other south of the border lakes such incredible fisheries? It is the combination of three interrelated factors, location, management, and pressure. Because lakes like El Salto, Aqua Milpa, and Baccarac, just to name a few, are located closer to the equator they are blessed with an abundance of warm weather making for ideal conditions for an extended growing season for largemouth. The management or in some cases lack of management allows the bass to grow both in numbers and size by gorging themselves on Tilapia, which has yields a very high level of protein. Finally, the lack of fishing pressure makes these lakes an easy place for anglers to have success with a wide variety of lures. Unlike lakes in the U.S. that are readily accessible these fisheries are located in the Sierra Madres and there are few locals that are able to fish these lakes on a regular basis. The increase of outfitters on the popular lakes like El Salto have no doubt taken a toll on the fishing, but the overall pressure is still far less than that of the average trophy lake in the States.
While there are many south of the border lakes worth visiting El Salto still ranks the highest for many anglers due to the lake’s well publicized “big fish” success stories. To separate fact from fiction, Lake El Salto is located just over seventy miles from central Mazatlan, Mexico. Mazatlan is just a short plane ride from Arizona, and is also a popular destination for cruise ships traveling the region. The actual lake is man-made and built on the Rio Elota River. It covers approximately twenty-five thousand surface acres, though this varies a great deal during the dry months when water is used for irrigation. The main lake isn’t all that deep, and the deepest point is near the Dam and just over 200 feet when the water level is high. There have been rumors that the El Salto bass fishery is no longer as good as it once was. In past seasons this was true, as a hurricane a few years ago did indeed hurt the fishery. The lake has rebounded nicely however and is now nearing pre-storm quality once again. Over the last couple of years more than half of the anglers who came to El Salto reported catching a double-digit fish during a three-day stay. 90% have caught a 6lb. fish or larger. Want even bigger than that? The lake record currently stands at 18lbs 5oz, and the best five fish single day limit is a whopping 53lbs and 5oz.
So when is the best time to venture across the border? The Lake El Salto fishing season is from mid September through the end of July, and the rainy season actually starts in August and goes through September. Lake El Salto fishing reports shows there is top water action from October 1st through April 30th, with the best being November 1st through February 15th. The pre spawn on Lake El Salto occurs in December and January with the spawn taking place in February and March. Fishing reports indicate the best time to catch the big post-spawn females is April, May and June. As a rule of thumb December through June is best for large fish while the fall is best for numbers of fish. While there are a great many quality lakes on US soil, the recent Bass Elite series stop at Falcon Lake, TX. proved that, but there are times like early in the season here in the U.S. when a quick hop across the border to Lake El Salto can deliver some incredible “priceless” fishing memories. Alex is the editor in chief of www.tackletour.com