Thursday, December 20, 2007

Travel Report: Lake Mateos Top-Water Bass

Please take a moment to view the opening image above... this image embodies what fly fishing at Lake Mateos is all about. The scenery is breathtaking. Nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains, Lake Mateos is adorned with a most incredible backdrop of towering rock cliffs, flowering jungles, and gin-clear water. For most anglers, explaining a fishery such as this does not bring visions of the trophy Largemouth Bass fishing to mind.

Well, welcome to Largemouth paradise... In December of 2007, I ventured to Lake Mateos with my good friend and Bass fanatic, Leo Gutterres (the “Popper-Guy”) of Stockton, CA. Lake Mateos is located 55 miles NE of Culiacan, Mexico (State of Sinaloa) and is an immense lake at 55,000 surface acres. It is fed by the San Lorenzo and Tamazula Rivers which flow out of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

During this trip, Leo and I fished topwater flies exclusively. What we discovered was a fishery that offered the best topwater Bass fishing of our life... period! The sheer numbers of hungry Bass amazed us as we literally wore ourselves out by days end.

The habitat of Lake Mateos is prime for Bass. There is an immense amount of structure for the Bass to dwell. There are vast areas of floating vegetation which provides cover for the fish. In addition, there is excellent submerge structure such as brush and rip-rap rock that serve as ambush areas during the feed. Amidst this environment lives Bass food - shad and tilapia. These are the primary food sources that keep Mateos Bass full of power and fight.

What I found to be most special is the clear water of Lake Mateos. This quality made for a Bass angling experience that was VERY visual. To see a trophy Largemouth suspend a foot or two below your fly just before it blows up on it is an intense visual experience that will be etched in your lifelong angling memoirs. The anticipation and suspense of this topwater game is what I enjoy the most.

On this trip, we fished a variety of topwater flies from deer-hair bugs by Umpqua to Leo’s custom made balsa wood poppers. Although Bass were caught on a variety of flies, Leo’s poppers reigned in the “poundage” category. Most of the trophy fish on this trip (and on our Lake El Salto trip) were caught on Leo’s creations. The erratic lateral movement and amazing sound producing ability of his poppers really call up the Bass and entice some explosive grabs. Leo’s #2 yellow popper was the lead player on this trip and produced Largemouth to almost 7 pounds.

Not to be overlook by the incredible f
ishing is the amazing service and accommodations provided by Anglers Inn - Lake Mateos. Anglers Inn provides their guests with cabin style accommodations that are spacious and complete with full amenities (SAT TV, DVD players, dual A/C units, etc...) Also, each cabin has a veranda that overlooks the Humaya River. Next, the food and service are top-notch. From succulent jumbo shrimp to mouth-watering beef ribs, you will quickly recover the calories spent while battling Bass all day.

On a final note, the entire experience at Anglers Inn - Lake Mateos is very special. Spending a week here fishing may very well redefine your thoughts and visions of fly fishing for Largemouth Bass. Welcome to the game! FISH ON!

-Keith Kaneko

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Travel Report: El Salto Trophy Largemouth Bass

Wow! Where to begin?... before my rendition of this incredible trip, it is best to refer to a couple of testimonials from the group!...

“Our stay at Anglers Inn - El Salto was nothing short of superb. The plentiful bass are big, mean, aggressive and hard-fighting. The blow-ups on poppers are amazing—an audio-visual dream. My personal best for the trip was two seven-pound specimens, one taken on top and the other taken subsurface with a 3/0 Clouser Minnow. The accommodations, food, and facilities were top-notch, and the service beyond the call of duty. The guides and boats are well suited to fly fishing. Here’s a picture of one nice fat specimen taken in shallow water with a black Leo Gutterres popper (above).”
Bill Carnazzo Foresthill, CA

“I wanted to thank all of you for showing that it is possible to go on a fishing trip with your husband and have a good time! I have to admit I was pretty skeptical when Jim told me he had found the perfect birthday AND Christmas gift for me this year—and that gift was a 5-day fishing trip to Mexico. We had tried a fishing trip together only one other time, with disastrous results. I thought we were heading for a similar disaster this year as the van from the Mazatlan airport took us further and further into the “wilds” of Mexico, where nothing we passed looked remotely like something that could be called a “resort”. Imagine my surprise when we drove through the gates of the Anglers Inn. We were greeted by the friendly smile of Jose, who also happened to be carrying a tray of wonderful margaritas—the first of many during our stay, I might add. From the wonderfully comfortable rooms, complete with color TV and a DVD player, to the rocking chairs outside our door, to the surprise birthday cake that I was presented with after dinner our first evening, I had a vacation I will never forget.

Although I did not go out on the morning fishing trips (a little too early for me, I must admit), I did venture out every afternoon and on one afternoon, caught over 20 bass—the largest weighing in at just a little over 5 pounds! That one was caught on a yellow “popper”. I even won a ribbon that night for the most fish caught that afternoon. Pretty heady stuff for one who considers herself a “novice” when it comes to fishing. Many thanks to the wonderful staff—Jose, Sammy, and all the others to took such good care of Jim and me. We are already making plans to come back next December!”
Paula Butler Sacramento, CA

Trip Details Summary
Fishing Dates: December 8 – 13, 2007
Number of Anglers: 10
Target Species: Largemouth Bass (LMB)
Fishery Profile: Lake El Salto – submerged trees, rocky shorelines, and semi-stained/turbid water (about 3 feet visibility); food source – tilapia and shad (dense concentrations)

Daily Weather Profile:
  • Early morning low temps were 60 – 65 degrees F
  • Daytime high temps were 75 – 85 degrees F
  • Clear and sunny on all days of fishing
  • Calm mornings, moderate winds midday, calm late-afternoon/dusk
Summary Fishing Report
Most LMB were caught on topwater flies
Average Catch: 30 – 40+ LMB per day (per boat) at Lake El Salto
Largest LMB Landed: 10 pound LMB on topwater fly (angler – Jim Christensen) / Leo’s Popper (#2 – silver) Top Producing Flies:
  • Pike Fly
  • Swimming Baitfish
  • Swimming Frog
  • Leo’s Poppers
  • Clouser Minnow
  • Blanton’s Whistler
  • Whitlock’s Hare Grub
  • Gummy Minnow
Detailed Trip Report

Now, for my version of our experience at Lake El Salto… we arrived on time at Mazatlan International Airport where we were greeted by the transportation staff for Anglers Inn - Lake El Salto. Our group was briskly loaded into the private lodge van and driven northward. The drive is comfortable as all roads traveled are paved and smooth. It was interesting to view the intensive agricultural industry that is flourishing in this region of Mexico (artichokes, tobacco, flowers, etc.) Along the drive we also ventured through a few traditional Mexican towns as we headed eastward with the Sierra Madres in our sights. After 1.5 hours of driving, our group arrived at the base of the Sierra Madres where Anglers Inn resides on Lake El Salto. Upon arriving at the lodge, the van door slung open and we were greeted with the genuine smiles of the Anglers Inn staff and a tray of welcome margaritas… what a fine start to a trip!

We were then given a brief orientation to Anglers Inn and shown to our rooms to settle in. Scheduled in our itinerary was an extra ½ day of fishing. Therefore, our group quickly dropped our luggage, rigged rods, and head out to the boats for a warm-up session. For the next 4 days, anglers in our group were treated to phenomenal fishing for trophy Largemouth Bass. We booked this timeframe due to the prime conditions for topwater fly fishing – bass heavily surface feeding on the abundant baitfish, tilapia and shad. The mayhem of big Bass busting bait along the shorelines created quite a spectacle for us fly anglers. It was not uncommon to see baby tilapia being chased right up along the shoreline, only to “beach” themselves and then become easy prey for the many herons and buzzards that awaited. This is truly a lake where Bass dominate the food chain and show no reservations in displaying it. Lake El Salto is a tough world for small fish.

This Largemouth Bass game is most fun with a floating line and topwater flies. One of the benefits of fishing flies is that they continue to “fish” even when not stripping the fly. Throughout the week, we experimented with different retrieves – on some days, the Bass were recklessly aggressive and chased fast retrieved flies (fleeing bait). On other days (and most often with trophy fish), the Bass were in a “calculated” ambush mood and desired bait that were unaware of their presence and/or injured. In these situations, a methodical retrieve of “pop-pop,... paaauuussse,... pop-pop-pop,…. paaauuussse…. etc. was the ticket to enticing the Bass. For those anglers that could withstand the painfully long pauses (sometimes 10 seconds!), the reward was a heart-pounding blow-up grab from a trophy Largemouth Bass!

During our week, the biggest Largemouth Bass landed on a fly was a behemoth 10 pounds – this trophy was landed by Jim Christensen of Sacramento, CA. He fooled this giant with a #2 Leo Popper in silver. And, other anglers in the group can share their stories about missed opportunities at double digit Bass. Granted, I have had my share of giant “mystery Bass” that have beaten me at this game… break-offs on submerged structure, “defective/weak” hooks, “bad” leader material, etc… yeah, I have my share of excuses. But, the reality is that these fish are powerful brutes that are tough on tackle. A frequent comment that I heard from our group is how even the 3 – 4 pound Bass at El Salto can double-over an 8 weight rod. The prime habitat here keeps the Bass in top shape and with supercharged power and strength.

Throughout our trip, there were other trophies landed – a 9#, a couple of 8#s, a few 7#s, and numbers of 5#s and 6#s. To add, there are good numbers of 2 – 4 pound Largemouth that fill in the time gaps between trophies. Most of the group’s trophy Bass were landed with topwater flies such as deer hair bugs and Leo’s balsawood poppers. The topwater game was much of our focus on this trip and most played it with Sage’s New Bass rod and fly line (Largemouth model – 330 grain). This rod was the best tool for accurately delivering large wind-resistant flies into tight cover. And, when a trophy Bass was hooked up the power in this rod enable anglers to battle these brutes amongst heavy submerged structure. It is a pure joy to fish this rod.

In addition to the world-class fishing, the non-fishing hours are wonderful while relaxing and dining at Anglers Inn’s beautiful lodge. After a long day of pulling on big Bass, you are once again greeted with a tray of margaritas and signature nachos! Our group enjoyed telling fish stories while relaxing in the veranda rocking chairs that overlook the lake. The Anglers Inn staff is top-notch and truly does their most to make your trip relaxing and fun.

For more detailed trip information, please visit our Anglers Inn - Lake El Salto information page. Thank you for taking the time to read our report and FISH ON!

Best Wishes,
Keith Kaneko