October 05, 2016
Tucked away in western Mexico’s Sierra Madres, Lake Huites often has been described as one of the world’s top trophy-bass lakes. That’s tough billing to live up to, but by all indications, this prestigious designation is well-deserved. This 30,000-acre impoundment, a three-hour drive from Los Mochis, has produced astounding catches of big bass since it was first stocked with Florida largemouths in the 1970s, including a 15-pound, 3-ounce lake record.
“Most anglers visiting Huites have a single goal in mind,” says big-bass expert Mark Davis, host of BigWater Adventures with Mark Davis on Outdoor Channel. “They want to catch the bass of a lifetime, one that weighs at least 10 pounds.”
Davis first visited Huites in 1999. He’s returned numerous times since then. On his 20-plus visits, only twice has he failed to catch a bass weighing at least 10 pounds. He’s caught scores of 10- to 12-pounders, and several even larger. His biggest Huites largemouth weighed 14 pounds.
“Many come here believing they’re sure to catch a 10-pounder,” says Davis. “They think it’s a snap. Unfortunately, it’s usually not that simple. You may luck into a hawg, but many anglers go home disappointed when they discover that lunkers aren’t jumping in the boats.”
That’s not to say you can’t catch that 10-pounder of which you’ve dreamed. You can. The odds are in your favor if you heed Davis’ expert advice.
Mindset is Key
Davis says one key to catching a Huites 10-pounder is the angler’s mindset. It’s possible to land scores of 2- to 7-pound largemouths daily. But tactics that catch these smaller bass rarely work on trophies.
“You must be 100 percent focused on catching a big fish,” Davis says. “You must tell yourself, ‘If I don’t get but one bite a day and it’s a 10-pounder, I’ll be happy.’ When there’s nothing on your mind but the urge to catch a big bass, you’ve done what I call percentaging. You’ve reduced the number of different lures you throw by about 75 percent. You’ve reduced the percentage of key fishing areas. And you’ve reduced the number of small bass you’ll catch. You may only land one or two fish a day, but chances are, those will be the 10-pounders you’re targeting.”
It’s also important to remain focused throughout each day.
“Fishing for a 10-pounder can get tedious,” Davis says. “It’s almost like sitting in a deer stand. How many times have you heard of guys who sat for hours in a stand, then when they least expected it, here comes this big buck? By the time the hunter realized what was happening, that trophy deer was gone.
“The same thing can happen if you don’t have experience catching big bass. Things get monotonous and you lose your focus. Then, when you’re not ready, a huge bass hits, and it gets away because you were half-asleep.
“This is a mental game as much as anything,” Davis adds. “You can’t ever forget you’re in Mexico and on your next cast, a 10- or 12- or 15-pound bass could hit.”
Lures for Lunkers
Many Huites anglers carry a wide variety of lures. But when a lunkers in your sights, you can dispense with many baits widely popular on U.S. waters.
“I can count on one hand the number of 10-pound-plus Huites bass I’ve seen caught on lures such as plastic worms, jigs and Shad Assassins,” says Davis. “Do these catch fish? Absolutely. But you have a problem using them because the smaller, more-plentiful bass are quicker and more aggressive than trophy fish. Small bass hit the baits before big fish have a chance to.”
Davis fishes with three proven lunker-catchers: swimbaits, deep-diving crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Swimbaits are his favorite.
“I’ve seen 200 Huites largemouths 10 pounds and up, and 95 percent were caught on swimbaits,” he notes. “I like Optima’s 6-inch swimbaits and Storm’s 7-inch, but I sometimes use an 8- or 10-inch lure, and occasionally a 12-inch. If you throw a big swimbait, whatever grabs it is going to be serious.”
Davis uses a Pflueger 7-foot 6-inch flipping stick and Pflueger baitcasting reel spooled with braid when working swimbaits. He casts the lure, lets it sink to structure, then brings it in with a steady retrieve.
“Work it nice and steady,” he says. “You want the swimbait to mimic a lazy shad swimming along. When a bass hits, it may feel soft or like you’re hung up. When that happens, tighten down on the fish and set the hook as hard as you can. Then do everything you can to keep that bass from coming up. If a big bass jumps, 99 times out of 100, it’ll spit the swimbait. Keep your rod tip in the water, and be sure your guide is ready to net the fish when it first comes up.
“Bass generally aren’t shy when hitting swimbaits,” he continues. “They eat them and swim off. If you don’t catch them using these tactics, then they’re probably not on swimbaits and it’s time to try something else.”
If you follow Davis’ lead, that something else will be a deep-diving crankbait, either Excalibur’s Fat Free Shad or Rapala’s Down Deep Rattlin’ Fat Rap.
“The Fat Free Shad has no rattle and makes no noise,” Davis says. “The Fat Rap has rattles and makes lots of noise. Some days bass prefer one, some days they prefer the other. So bring both in a variety of colors.”
Crankbaits are Davis’ exploration tools, fished on a 7-foot Pflueger cranking rod and a Pflueger baitcaster spooled with braid or 14- to 17-pound-test mono.
“Crankbaits let me cover lots of water, make contact with the structure and learn how it runs,” he says. “If I catch several fish in one spot, I know there’s bass-holding structure there—a hump, for example. When those little bass quit hitting, I take a swimbait and throw in the middle of that structure to see if a lunkers waiting to bite.”
Spinnerbaits are what Davis calls “mop-up baits.” He prefers 1- to 1-1/2-ounce. models with a single, half-dollar-sized Colorado blade.
“I like this type of spinnerbait because it’s a vertical-fishing lure, not the slow-roll type,” Davis says. “They’re ideal on Huites where you’re typically fishing 15 to 25 feet deep. After I’ve used my crankbaits, then that big swimbait, I’ll take a spinnerbait, stair-step it down, thump it across the bottom and try to mop up on more nice bass.”
Regardless of which lure you’re using, pay attention when you catch a bass.
“Always remember where you caught it and what you were doing when you caught it,” Davis emphasizes. “Mexico is the king of patterns. Determine the pattern, and you’ll clean house on bass.”
Avoid the Banks
Huites harbors schools of large gizzard shad, the primary forage of 10-pound-plus largemouths. Because current runs through the lake, the shad frequent open-water structures 15 to 25 feet deep. Smaller bass forage on tilapia fry and crawfish near the banks, but 10-pounders rarely do.
“If you want a 10-pound-plus bass, stay off the banks,” says Davis. “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 baits until you find fish on these structures, then once you’ve pinpointed them, hammer them.”
Davis did just that when I fished with him on Huites in 1999. The bassing action was extremely slow, but Davis kept moving, searching for a productive fishing pattern. He found it while bouncing a spoon through one of the lake’s deep canyons. There was a rock pile there with bass stacked up in phenomenal numbers.
Davis took me to the spot. I shot photos while he fished, and watched, astonished, as he caught 125 bass on 125 casts. He didn’t catch a 10-pounder, but several would have been the bass of a lifetime for most anglers.
These additional tips from Davis should also prove useful in catching a Huites lunker:
- 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.”
- Be sure your fishing guide knows that catching a 10-pounder is your goal. “If your guide takes you to the canyons to catch 2-pounders off the sides of the walls, go to the concierge and ask him to tell your guide you want to fish deep water, points and humps in mid-lake. Have him tell the guide, ‘Big fish, big tip. Little fish, little tip.’ That’ll get the point across.”
- To keep your lure in the strike zone, it may be necessary to fish extremely deep water. “At times, the only way I’ve caught lunkers is by fishing a swimbait 40 feet down in 150 feet of water. Deeper is sometimes better because Huites has an oxygen level much deeper than many lakes.”
- Bring companions who also want a trophy catch. “The more guys who are out there focused on big fish, trying different locales, throwing different lures, the better your chances are. Sooner or later, someone will lock in on the right pattern, and the same pattern will generally work for everyone.”