February 2008

Beyond Arizona

Destination: El Salto Lake And Lodge, Mexico
By Jeanne And Don Glass

We wind our way through small, sleepy villages at the foot of the beautiful Sierra Madre Mountains, and the excitement and anticipation of fishing the lake is peaking.

The lake just happens to be 27,000 acres of one of the premier largemouth bass fisheries in the world. It is located 700 miles south of Nogales, Ariz., and about 75 miles north of the major city of Mazatlan.

We arrive at the lake and our host Siguis Benitez (pronounced quickly: see-geese) is there to greet us. He is the general manager/co-owner of the lodge. He tells us briefly about the history of the lake, and we are off to meet our guide for the day: Jaime.

How’s The Fishing?

For the next several hours, Jaime will move us about from cove to cove in a well-equipped bass boat. The sun is now breaking over the Sierra Madres, and the air is beginning to warm us as we move into our first fishing location. This is what we had been waiting for.

Jaime hands me my spinning rod rigged with a deep-diving swim bait. On my second cast, I feel a strong strike as I barely start retrieving the lure; I am into my first El Salto largemouth!

I have caught many largemouth bass over the past 34 years, but this fish feels unbelievably strong. It has been brought to the net after several minutes, and Jaime says it is about 4 pounds. It feels much bigger.

It is obvious these fish don’t just roll over and play dead. El Salto provides a huge food source and that, along with its catch-and-release policy, the fish grow rapidly, and many become real hogs on the threadfin shad and small tilapia. The possibility of catching fish up to 10 pounds in El Salto is well known.

Time To Fly

I just couldn’t resist asking our guide to hand me my fly rod. I had rigged my 7-weight, 9-foot Sage with a 10-foot sink tip type- IV line. Tied onto my 8-foot leader was a shad fly I had created two days earlier. Jaime looked at me and said, “ No senor; no work here.”

I asked him again to hand it to me and he did so — reluctantly.

In only a few casts about 30 feet away, I placed the fly not more than 10 feet from the shore and upon making two or three strips of my fly, the water exploded with a violence I seldom have seen.

This fish headed under the boat with my rod bending much more than I like, but eventually the fish was netted and released.

I looked at Jaime and said, “Estampado?” (impressed?) He just grinned and nodded his head as if to say, “OK, but that’s only uno,” followed by, “Vamanos.”.

As the day went on, at every location I took fish on my fly rod. Near the end of the day I said, “ Estampado ya?” His eyebrows went up and he had a big grin on his face, “mas o menos” as he motioned with his hand — So, so.

Truly Amazing!

We were off to another location, skimming the water at high speed. At the next cove I was handed the spinning rod again and the action promptly started — several strikes and hookups followed within a short time, and it didn’t take long for me to realize the reputation of the lake had not been exaggerated.

I had been so intent on the fishing that I suddenly realized the full value of the beauty that surrounded me — the mist in the air and the bird life together were stunning. I thought, “ This place is truly amazing”.

I began casting my swim bait again and not much time passed when it was attacked by another angry, hungry predator and it became airborne. This guy spent more time in the air than in the water!

Out of the corner of my eye I could see my wife Jeanne trying to get a picture, but it was futile. This fish seemed to be everywhere at once. It took longer to land than the others, but it, too, was released to get even bigger.

Services At El Salto

El Salto Lake produces big bass for the novice and the experienced bass fishermen alike. In three to five days, using the tackle of your choice, you can quickly reduce the learning curve,

This is especially true with a knowledgeable and patient guide you will find at El Salto Lodge. Siguis is able to keep his guest rates reasonable because he has hired and trained the local people, which benefits the community..

This is the only lodge at the lake that is made up of local Mexican employees. Siguis himself grew up in a nearby pueblo and has been intimately involved with the lake for almost 20 years.

He is definitely a hands-on manager and still lives in the area with his wife and four children. He is totally committed to excellence and providing his guests with a wonderful experience. His word-of-mouth referrals bring most anglers here, and many are repeat guests.

Combination trips van include bird hunting and saltwater fishing. The meals at El Salto Lodge are served in a festive atmosphere and are enjoyed by all their guests. And, the rooms at the lodge are spacious and comfortable.

Mazatlan From Anywhere

Mazatlan can be reached by air from almost anywhere in the world. You will be escorted by vehicle to the lodge as well as on your return trip to the airport.

For those of you driving by car or RV on Mex.15 from Nogales, Ariz., south it is an easy and safe drive. I know my wife and I will return to El Salto Lake because we are less than one hour away at the at Celestino RV Park Resort on the beach.

The RV park is owned by an American Chris Jolibois and his Mexican wife, Maritza. They also own the beautiful Casa Bonita B & B in Old Town, Mazatlan. Accommodations with them will enhance your trip.

Log onto elsaltolodge.com or give Siguis a call or e-mail him so he can answer

Our advice can be summed up in one word: Vamanos!

Siguis Benitez, Don Glass (aka Gringo Don)