At times it seems as if there is no winter in the Arizona desert — some years we’re still in shirt sleeves on Christmas day. Winter weather like this makes up for the 118 degree summer days, and Alamo Lake is a prime example. You’ll swelter at Alamo in summer, but the average high in December is 63 degrees. This makes for awesome days on the water.
Alamo is on the Bill Williams River where the Big Sandy River and Santa Maria River come together. It’s about a three hour drive from Phoenix, and it’s at least a couple hours from the California border, too. Alamo isn’t on the way to anywhere — you have to go out of your way to get there, and the closest town is 38 miles away and is basically just a wide spot on the highway. You’d have to go 80 miles to get to a supermarket.
Created In 1968
The lake was created with the completion of Alamo Dam in 1968 and the earthen dam was designed primarily for flood control. During floods, the lake can capture a lot of water in a short time. In fact, Alamo has been recorded rising 11 vertical feet overnight. Normally, though, the lake is kept at about 1100 feet, and covers about 3000 acres. The lake is about 100 feet deep nearest the dam.
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Excellent Bass Cover
The river end of the lake is fairly shallow, and the trees that were flooded when the lake was created still emerge from the water. These standing trees make excellent cover for bass, and in summer the flippin’ bite is awesome down there.
We went there one winter with Greg Pishkur, and he told us that slow-rolling a big white or chartreuse spinnerbait on the deeper side of these trees can produce excellent numbers of bass. There are several channels cut into the bottom in this area, and the bass tend to stay around them in winter.
Pishkur Advises On Baits
Get a map of the lake (you can get one from Fish-n-Map at most tackle shops or from www.fishnmap.com), and it will show you the channels. Greg says big spinnerbaits or deep diving crankbaits are the quickest way to find active fish, but if they won’t bite, or they slow down, try a big white jig and drag and hop it around the channels.
The bite in winter is usually just pressure — the jig will feel heavy when you pick it up. Football head jigs with white or smoke/sparkle Yamamoto twin tails are skirts are dynamite, and we’ve also had good luck with white rubber-skirted jigs with pork or a twin-tail. Fish slowly.
Best Winter Fishing
On the north side of the lake from Rawhide Wash all the way to the dam there are a bunch of good long points that run out to the channel, which swings in close to the shore here for a long way. These long points provide some of the best winter fishing, Pishkur says.
Try big spinnerbaits, jigs, and crankbaits fished slowly. The bass at Alamo seem to be particularly fond of plastic worms, grubs, and lizards. There are points and fingers hidden under the water, and they are covered with submerged brush.
Fish In Shallows
The fish will probably be shallower than you expect them to be. Make sure you check out the small coves near the dam and the steep rocky banks adjacent to the dam. Fish topwater baits, jigs, plastic worms, and Senkos all around those areas.
If the fish are being stubborn, switch to a drop-shot rig and fish a little deeper.
Sometimes the fish just don’t seem to want a bait on the bottom. When this is the case, a heavy-line drop-shot rig can get quality fish out of heavy cover. The heavy-line drop-shotting technique will keep the bait up off the bottom and in the strike zone for a longer period of time.
In clear water, use 10- to 12-pound-test clear line and 1/4-ounce drop-shot weights. Although drop-shotting is traditionally a spinning-gear technique, a baitcasting rod gives you more control.
Tungsten weights are particularly good for thick cover, because you can pack more weight into a smaller profile that will slip through thick stuff much more readily.
Crimped Mojo Weight
A Mojo weight crimped onto the line will also work well, because the long skinny weight slips easily through the sticks. Most of the time, you’ll use about a 3- to 4-inch leader, especially when pitching or flipping the rig. In colder, deeper water you may want to lengthen the leader a bit. It’s usually a pressure bite, but occasionally you’ll get a tic and your line will move off.
A lot of times, they’ll take it as it falls through the brush. Keep the weight as light as you can so it falls slowly.
Figuring What The Fish Want
If you reach bottom without getting bit, pick it up and tighten the slack. Give it a couple of shakes and you’ll usually get bit right away if anybody is home. If not, move to the next spot. John Anderson says he tends to experiment with the rig, trying it going uphill, downhill, and everything in between until he figures out what the fish want. He’ll fish this rig out to about 25 feet before switching to a regular finesse drop-shot rig.
Work A Spoon
On the northeast half of the lake the channel is further out from the bank in deeper water. In places there are still a lot of submerged trees lining this channel, and working a spoon over the trees or even in the channel can be very productive when the bass go deep.
That half of the lake isn’t nearly as deep as the dam area, so you’ll probably be fishing in about thirty feet or so. There is also a road bed that cuts right across the bottom of the lake just after the channel splits into two main arms, and that area is particularly good for spoon fishing.
Dark Worms Work
Dark worms will almost always produce bass at Alamo. They’ll take them Texas rigged, Carolina rigged, split-shot, or drop-shot. If your spinnerbaits and crankbaits won’t produce, then tie on a dark Power Worm and start hitting the steeper banks. Don’t forget to try that heavy drop-shot technique, either – it’s dynamite.
The main boat ramp is closed right now, but the other two ramps are open. The campgrounds have restrooms and showers; some have electric hook ups, and they’ve got plenty of picnic and day-use areas. The lake is fairly popular with tournament circuits, so you may want to phone ahead and see if there are any big tournaments planned when you want to go there.
You can call them at (928) 669-2088. It costs $7 per vehicle to enter the park. Camping fees are $15 per night or $22 for electric sites, with a $15 fee for each extra vehicle. You can call and reserve a site at 877-MYPARKS or go online at azstateparks.com. There are showers in Camp areas A and C, and in the main campground.
Cabins are $65 per night. They are two rooms — a sitting room in front with a table and chairs, and a small bedroom in back with bunk beds and a double bed. They have AC and electric. Cooking is all outside and each cabin has a grill and picnic table. Also front porches! Restrooms are nearby. There’s a $5 per day pet charge.
The Visitor Center is open from 8 am – 5 pm daily and they sell firewood, ice, food, fishing licenses, bait, and even Alamo Lake souvenirs.
There are two dump stations.
Take U.S. 60 to Wenden and go north (the turn is marked) 38 miles to the park.
You’ll need a valid Arizona fishing license to fish Alamo Lake. You can buy one online at Arizona Game And Fish Department.
This Is The Time For Awesome Days On The Water