If you want to catch a 10-pound-plus bass, perhaps several lunkers that size, your best chance lies in planning a fishing trip to Mexico. Dozens of lakes built by our neighbors south of the border offer good fishing opportunities for huge largemouths, thanks to a long growing season, plentiful forage and Florida bass genes that produce hawgs often reaching double-digit weights.
The question is, which of many prime Mexican fishing waters currently offer the best chances for landing that bass of a lifetime? Here are four you certainly should consider.
Location: 75 miles northeast of Mazatlán in western Mexico’s Sinaloa state
Size: approximately 24,000 acres at full pool
Lake record largemouth: 18-1/2 pounds. Only three U.S. states - California, Florida and Georgia - have produced records greater in size.
Facts: Fishing pressure on El Salto can be heavy, but this scenic lake has borne the pressure well. Salto’s abundant largemouths put on an astounding 2 pounds annually. Untold thousands of 7- to 14-pound bass swim here. Many experts believe this to be the best trophy bass lake in the world.
There are times, especially in years following high water and a good spawn, when the biggest issue is getting away from 1- and 2-pound fish. Sometimes bass school up by size and you’ll wreck 3- to 5-pounders for hours. Other times, just when you think they’re all small, a 9- to 12-pounder will suddenly test your tackle.
In May 2005, Les Melton of Charleston, W. Va. established a lake record by catching five bass one day that weighed a total of 66.8 pounds. The five largest bass caught during his seven day trip weighed 71.5 pounds, an average of 14.3 pounds each!
Fishing tips: Salto is full of excellent cover and structure for bass, everything from rock piles and standing timber to deep creek channels and long points. Consequently, big bucketmouths are caught throughout the lake on a wide variety of lures.
Many of the heaviest fish are caught on deep-diving crankbaits or swimbaits fished on flats adjacent the old Elota River channel, on super-sized Carolina-rigged worms and lizards fished by the dam, and by running long-billed crankbaits or big Rat-L-Traps through deep holes where hawgs suspend.
October 1 through April 30 produces the best fishing for sheer numbers of bass, including some heavyweights. Prespawn usually occurs between December and January, with spawning February through March. The best months to fish for big postspawn females are April, May, June and July. Trophies can be caught almost year-round, from Sept. 15 thru July 31.
Lodging and guided fishing: Angler’s Inn
Location: approximately 100 miles (a 3-hour drive) east of Los Mochis in Sinaloa
Size: approximately 30,000 acres at full pool
Lake record largemouth: 15 pounds, 3 ounces
Facts: It’s possible to land scores of 2- to 8-pound largemouths daily on Huites, but tactics that catch smaller bass rarely work on the lake’s 10-pound-plus trophies. You must be 100 percent focused on catching a big fish if you are to succeed. You must tell yourself, “If I don’t get but one bite a day and it’s a 10 pounder, I’ll be happy.”
Fishing tips: To increase the odds of catching a bass exceeding 10 pounds, don’t fish shallow water along the lake’s shores. Fish open-water structures instead. Big fish typically hold off the ends of points, on deep breaks or humps, and often along the dam face.
Explore the water with deep-running lures until you find fish on these structures, then once you’ve pinpointed bass, hammer them with big swimbaits, deep-diving crankbaits and spinnerbaits, three of the top trophy-catching lures here.
Plan your trip when the weather is hot, the hotter the better. The weather is more stable then, the water’s warmer and big bass are most active. Prime time is from mid-April until mid-July.
Lodging and guided fishing: Lake Huites Lodge
Location: approximately 90 miles due east of Los Mochis in Sinaloa
Size: approximately 30,000 acres at full pool
Lake record largemouth: 19 pounds, 2 ounces, a record for Latin America, including Cuba. Local netters, who harvest tilapia in Baccarac, say they have caught and released largemouths exceeding 22 pounds.
Facts: Like many Mexican bass lakes, Baccarac has experienced ups and downs in bass fishing due to droughts, hurricanes, fish kills and other factors. Just a few years ago, some anglers were saying it was long past its prime, but conditions recently have been favorable for good spawns and growth of older bass, bringing the lake back into the limelight as one of Mexico’s prospering blue-ribbon destinations for sizeable bass in numbers. Visitors today can expect to catch 60-100 bass daily, including, if they’re lucky, one to several 10-pound plus monsters.
Fishing tips: Certainly other lures often prove productive as well, but on Baccarac, deep-diving crankbaits are valued above all others for enticing the lake’s huge bass. Casting big cranks all day will give you throbbing hands and wrists, but when the result is the bass of a lifetime leaping high above the water, you’ll be glad you made the effort. Cast close to the bank or visible cover, reel fast to get the big wobbly bait down to the fish zone, then retrieve with momentary pauses now and then. On good days, you’ll catch a bass every cast using this technique.
Can’t handle the rigors of chunking and winding crankbaits? All is not lost. Near dawn and dusk, big topwater plugs worked noisily on the surface often provide unforgettable action. Spinnerbaits, rattlebaits, large plastic lizards, worms and swimbaits will nab plenty of battlers throughout the rest of the day.
Plan well ahead for your trip. You’ll have to book early to get some of the limited accommodations during the September through June fishing season.
Lodging and guided fishing: Lake Baccarac Lodge
Location: in the state of Nuevo Leon in northeastern Mexico, a 1-1/2-hour drive on paved highway from the town of Monterrey
Size: 40,000 acres at full pool
Lake record largemouth: 14 pounds, 9 ounces
Facts: The newest Mexican Mecca for trophy bass is El Cuchillo. The lake is still unfamiliar to most American anglers but harbors an almost untapped gold mine of big bass.
Opened to fishing in 1994, El Cuchillo is home to a mix of northern largemouths and Florida bass, a combination that promotes the growth of huge bass with nasty attitudes. Be sure to beef up your line and tackle so you’re ready to handle these tackle busters. Anglers fishing recent tournaments have weighed in good numbers of 10-pound-plus fish.
El Cuchillo is a catch and release lake, and commercial fishing isn’t allowed, both of which promote growth of bigger bass. The water is not used for irrigation or power either, so lake levels do not fluctuate much, a bonus for visiting anglers.
Fishing tips: Many visiting anglers work big plastic worms and lizards through the lake’s plentiful trees and submerged brush to nab big fish. But reports indicate the best fishing for double digit hawgs may be around the many small earthen dams and irrigation canal systems flooded when the lake was built. Inundated buildings and road beds also produce monster bass, and areas where any of these features intersect can be real gold mines, especially in water 10 to 20 feet deep.
Favored local lures for El Cuchillo’s giants include Texas-rigged, 10-inch-plus soft plastics, big jigs rigged for snag-free retrieves and deep-running crankbaits.
Lodging and guided fishing: Rader’s Fish & Game