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New Bassin' Bonanza Opens in Mexico

New Bassin' Bonanza Opens in Mexico
Mexico's latest lunker factory, Lake Picachos, is now open for business. (Buddy Gough photo)

Every few years seem to bring rumors of a hot new bass lake with awesome action. More often than not, the rumors soon prove to be true going back to Lake Guerrero in the early 1970s to the emergence of lakes El Salto and Comedero in more recent years.

Such is the case once again with the recent opening of Lake Picachos near Mazatlan on Mexico’s west coast. News of the lake’s tremendous bass action over the past few months is now spreading like wildfire among legendary pro bassers like Jimmy Houston and connected anglers eager to be first in line to fish the lake.

For much of the past six years, however, Picachos has been a “mystery” lake for American anglers fishing the well-known Mexican bass lakes. There were vague rumors about it, but those in the know were being close-mouthed until the lake was ready for its debut. Recent reports emphasize the worth of the wait for a lake designed from its impoundment to be a world-class trophy fishery.

Notable is the lake’s large size at 24,000 acres and its water quality fed by the Presidio River, a large clear-water river emerging from the mountains and flowing into the foothills of the lake’s location. Destined to be a water supply lake for the city of Mazatlan, the lake will not be subjected to severe ups and downs that have plagued other Mexican lakes.

Picachos’ development as a bassin’ paradise was further fostered through a partnership between the Mexican fisheries authorities and Ron Speed, a long-time Texas-based outfitter who opened the first lodge on Lake Guerrero in the 1970s and has had lodges on other top lakes since then.

Speed supported stocking the lake with Florida-strain bass five and a half years ago, but instead of stocking fingerling bass, he stocked good-size females on the verge of spawning. Those females account for the true giants in the lake today. The offspring of the first and subsequent spawns have been growing at an exceptional rate, thanks to the lake’s tremendous forage base.

Tilapia represent the primary forage, but the base has been further enhanced with the stocking of crayfish and Nile perch. The lake also supports a species of freshwater shrimp known to grow up to eight inches. As a result, the bass are growing by as much as two pounds per year, according to fisheries surveys. Do the math for how the bass population presently stands.

The lake also features a great amount of cover from standing timber and brush, as well as submerged structure in the form of creek channels, humps and drop-offs. In addition, the lake flooded six villages, which supplement the cover. Other important factors also make the lake unique among other Mexican lakes.

Perhaps most important, the lake is catch-and-release only, and the rule is strictly enforced. Bass are not even allowed to be kept for a shore lunch. There is only one road accessing the lake’s single launch location and there’s a check station monitoring anglers going and coming 24/7.

There is only one lodge and a single outfitter allowed to operate on the lake, which is Ron Speed Adventures, now being managed by Ron Speed’s son, Ron Speed, Jr. who, himself, has more than 25 years of experience in the business.

To top things off, the lake is located only 45 minutes from the airport in Mazatlan, meaning anglers can be on the water within an hour or so of touchdown.

If it all sounds too good to be true, the recent fishing reports emphatically suggest otherwise. Over the past couple of years, Ron Speed, Jr. has invited a few long-term clients and close friends to “test” the lake. They were all skilled bassers who could be counted on to keep a secret. Several of these anglers were so enthralled with the action they stayed for several weeks or more.

With the new lodge opening for guests a couple of months ago, Speed invited nationally known anglers like Houston. Following his trip, Houston said, “I love this lake so much that I’ve put it only my calendar to fish four or five times a year.”

The early reports also excited Drew Daniel, an Arkansas-based outfitter who has been booking clients to Mexico and the Amazon with Rod Speed Adventures for more than ten years. Before getting on the bandwagon, Daniel had to experience the lake himself and made a trip in mid-June with a good friend Larry Walker of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Within an hour of landing in Mazatlan, Daniel and Walker arrived at the lodge where they found their fishing guides waiting and ready to go.

They jumped in the bass boats and were soon into what Daniel described as “unbelievable” bass action that showed no let up for the length of their visit even though they were fishing well after the prime months of the year.

“We averaged catching and releasing 166 bass a day,” Daniel reported. “A lot of them were 3 to 5 pounds, but we had 52 from 5 to 6 pounds. Our largest bass was 9 pounds, 1 ounce and our second largest was 7 pounds, 11 ounces,” Daniel said, noting that the lake record so far was 12 pounds, 2 ounces.

The two fishermen found two basic patterns, finding bass hitting topwaters early and late and then finding fish suspended in trees and taking deep-diving crankbaits. “The first morning there, we caught more than 50 bass on topwaters. When we moved to the trees with the crankbaits, we would catch 25 to 30 bass in one spot and then move to the next clump of trees and start over,” Daniel added.

He could not say enough about the appearance of the lake regarding its terrain, water quality and the clean shorelines. Often, there was not another boat in sight. “I believe this is the best premium bass lake I’ll see for the rest of my lifetime,” Daniel said in summing up his fishing experience.

If he was impressed with the lake, he also was impressed with the lodge and accommodations and the operation thereof. It consists of a central lodge and dining facility flanked by separate bungalow-style sleeping quarters with tile roofs and large porches overlooking the lake. Each air-conditioned room had flat-screen televisions with cable and refrigerators kept stocked with beverages of choice. Laundry service was provided each morning.

Speed also spared no effort to provide great food. He brought in one of the top restaurant managers in Mazatlan to train the cooks and waiters. Emphasis was on freshly prepared food, including lobster, shrimp, mahi mahi and thick-cut Angus ribeyes. The food got a rave review from Houston, who rated it the “best” of his 40 years spent visiting fishing camps around the world.

At the time of the visit, less than 200 anglers had fished the lake, but the experience is only going to get better for those to come. The lodge is currently using Express bass boats, but within 30 to 60 days, the lodge will take delivery of brand new 19-foot boats fully rigged to be tournament ready.

At present, the bungalows will accommodate 20 anglers, but additional bungalows under construction will bump the number up to 32.

The fishing, of course, is predicted to become more phenomenal as the prime months approach and many double-digit bass are expected to be caught and released.

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