The plans were made, the flights were booked, the Yo-Zuri fishing lures, bass fishing rods, extra Hybrid fishing line and Fluorocarbon Leaders were all packed, the table was set and now the guests had arrived for the 1st Annual Duel/Yo-Zuri Bass Shootout. This bass fishing contest was being held at the world famous Anglers Inn resort on beautiful Lake El Salto.
The premise for this fishing challenge was for the Yo-Zuri America Team to fish against the R & D Team from the Duel Company in Japan. So we invited several of the prominent fishermen from Duel and a Japanese Bass Fishing celebrity, appropriately named, Bass Ninja!
The rules were simple; go Catch Big Bass!
Oh, yes, there was one more rule; the Yo-Zuri Team could only use Yo-Zuri Bass fishing lures and the Duel Team could only use Duel Bass fishing lures.
So, we set out to have some fun and use some of the most innovative bass fishing lures on the planet. The fishermen who were with us had helped in the development of these designs, which are not only creative, but extremely productive, as we were to find out.
After our arrival we took a short and uneventful 90-minute drive from the airport in Mazatlan, Mexico to the gates where a bass fisherman’s dream lodge awaited us. A cool, authentic Mexican Margarita, smiles and a welcomed helping hand greeted us.
This idyllic lake is situated between two large mountains that hover above the lake like sleeping giants. The owner and good friend of ours is Billy Chapman Jr., a famous fishing enthusiast who has fished around the world. He has fished North American waters as well as South American Rivers extensively for the past 35 years. Billy is responsible for the introduction of Florida strain Largemouth Bass that were stocked in the lake back in the 80’s. He certainly has done a yeoman’s job of creating a world-class sustainable bass fishery.
Lake El Salto was flooded many years ago and there are many interesting sites along the shoreline and below the surface. The features that we fished were very diverse indeed and included flooded tress, rip rap, deep boulders, below a dam, over weed beds, on top of hyacinth, over weed humps in the middle of coves, around telephone poles, along barbed wire fence lines and most interesting of all the cemetery area that was under water. Needless to say we caught and released so many bass in these spots we all lost count.
Lake El Salto is that productive. However, when we did concentrate on what we call “The Spot on the Spot”, this is when the Bigger Bass were caught. It takes time and understanding to find these spots, which hold large concentrations of fish as well as the giants, we were all attempting to coax with our artificial offerings.
The fish were tempted with a variety of fishing lures and fishing techniques: Topwater baits, Jerk baits, Crank baits, Rattlin’ Vibe Lipless baits, Minnow baits, Suspending Shad baits and Jointed Swim baits.
Okay, so now your thinking that the fish we’re after will strike anything we could cast at them. While at times this is true, the devil is in the details when it comes to catching the largest bass on the spot you are fishing, which is what El Salto is known for. Imagine, the lake record is 16 Pounds!
Each of the techniques were presented in a very specific way depending on the environmental factors at that moment, such as time of year, wind, water temperature, PH, Barometric Pressure Readings and all the rest of what makes a bass feed or not — you get the idea. In addition to all of the conditions that we faced, which can change at any moment, each of us needed to rely on our own knowledge of which lure to use, when to use it and what color or pattern to use as well as where and how we intended to present them to our quarry. These were intimidating conditions for the fisherman from Japan, as at home they do not have many lakes with this type of diverse cover. Yet, they all managed to catch fish throughout their stay and each of us learned something new from each other by fishing together.
Within the group we had decades of bass fishing experience from both hemispheres yet each contestant had their own specific idea of how to catch the trophy fish we were all after.
For each of us that milestone varied. Some of us had never caught a bass over 5 pounds, some of us had never caught one over 8 pounds and many of us had never caught that magic10 pounder! By the time we were finished with our contest most of us would reach a new personal “best” for the biggest bass we have ever caught in our fishing lives.
The food sources that the bass feed upon varies from season to season, and location to location on the lake. Crayfish that roam the bottom, and leeches, snakes, frogs, small minnows, gizzard or threadfin shad and larger Tilapia or Bluegills all help make the big fish belly heavy and their eyes bulge out of their head.
So the fishing lures we tied onto the end of our Yo-Zuri Powercarbon Leader needed to imitate the size, color and swimming action of these major food sources.
As we took a slow ride around the islands close to the camp we saw some of the best cover and structure in any lake on the planet. There are so many places for the fish to hide, spawn, feed and just live carefree lives to a ripe old age that we could spend years fishing here and not fish the same spot twice. We saw tell tale signs of bass all around us. Fish were breaking on the surface. There were boils around small schools of baitfish and locals bringing in their days catch of Tilapia sported a small bass or two in their nets now and then.
During the days we were on the water there were times that the beauty and serenity overtook us and our concentration slipped to admiration of the nature all around us and then . . . suddenly . . . we were brought back to reality when schools of 3 to 6 pound fish would come up to the surface boiling in a feeding frenzy chasing baitfish in all directions.
We found out quickly that if you do not “match the hatch” you will be left behind and miss out on the action. They can be some of the most finicky bass anywhere in any body of water where they live. This is hard to fathom since the population of bass in this lake is ridiculously dense. Every class of fish is represented in the lake from small fingerlings to schools of marauding 3 pound fish, not to mention the multiple 6, 7, 8 & 9 pound fish that we were catching.
At times, the schoolie bass were eating everything in their path. They swam in open water chasing shad or worked a ball of baitfish down the bank of a cove pinning them against the shoreline. Sometimes a larger female bass would come in and break up the frenzy. Of course, these were the fish we targeted; all the while the smaller bass were aggressively feeding on the shad with no escape.
A typical start of our day before we took to the water would go something like this:
A half-hour before sunrise, an inviting knock at your door was a wakeup call. Then you were greeted in bed with your choice of hot coffee or tea and then off to breakfast. Once we completed receiving our nourishment to begin our day on the water, we would gather our gear and jump into the trailer for a short ride, well within walking distance, which brought us to the lake shoreline where our guides and boats waited. While most guides did not speak very good English they did have a great working knowledge of the lake and the types of fishing lures that are the most productive for each of the spots they would take you to. So they knew the difference between crankbaits and topwater lures and would help you use the correct fishing lure in any situation. They especially understood color selection for the area they were fishing in and would communicate that to you if you asked.
We were at the first spot of the day as the sun slowly made its way over the mountain-scape. As the water birds took to the sky and the resident cattle began to stir, we choose our favorite topwater fishing lures to get us started on our day. The lures that made up our morning arsenal were the Sashimi Popper and the Sashimi Pencil, which are a “walk-the-dog” style topwater lure.
These two topwater style of fishing lures create a commotion on the surface of the water which fish perceive to be baitfish. To a wary big bass this means breakfast and an opportunity to feed on something substantial. The thrilling strike of a topwater lure brings back childhood memories of nighttime fishing in the summertime on a frog filled lake with a fly rod popper. There is something about largemouth bass attacking topwater baits that is timeless and gets your adrenalin going.
Each fisherman from the US or Japan had their own way of rigging these phenomenal topwater fishing lures made by both Yo-Zuri & Duel. No matter the type of knot, loop or otherwise, everyone would be tied up to Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon Leader material. Some of us used the H.D. Carbon in Disappearing Pink and others would use the newer clear Powercarbon, which has a lower light re-fraction index to the color of water than most other fluorocarbon leader material on the market. To say that the surface fishing was as fun as it gets just would not do it justice. Cast after cast, your heart would be in your throat, waiting with anticipation for bass to explode on your Sashimi lure with reckless abandon. Just as it did, seconds earlier, on your partners lure, which he is fighting as you look on him with one eye and your own lure with the other, to be sure not to miss your own strike.
We would work in tandem, one of us with a Sashimi Pencil, which is a “walk-the-dog” style lure and the other with the Sashimi Popper.
These lures have two International Patents issued to them, one for their color changing feature known as Chameleon and the other for their Wave Motion Ribs which send out vibrations into the water column. Big bass sense the lure with their Lateral Line and then come in for a closer look to investigate the baitfish in distress vibrations being sent out from the ribs. The bass’s Lateral Line is one of the major ways that they find prey to feed upon. Additionally, they use their sight and sense of smell depending on water clarity, light and other conditions.
The back & forth action of the Sashimi Pencil showed the full range in which the colors changed each time the lure abruptly switched directions. You could see how realistic looking the fishing lure appeared. All the while we collectively held our breath just waiting for, the sure to come, vicious strike from those large, aggressive bass.
They would explode from under logjams way in the back of those idyllic coves practically giving you a heart attack from scaring you half to death! When a big ole lunker wants to eat a topwater lure, you best get out of her way as she comes fast & hard and usually inhales your lure deep down her maw. We had no fear of hurting them as we were using the Sashimi Pencil rigged with Circle Hooks so each fish was perfectly hooked in the corner of the mouth and released safely back into the water. Yo-Zuri is the only lure company that offers pre-rigged hardbaits for bass that come with Circle Hooks right out of the package.
El Salto practices a catch and release policy. However, you can always get a replica of that Trophy Bass you caught and let her swim free to spawn another day and provide the thrill of a lifetime for another angler.
The lake offers a place to fish & style of fishing for anyone, amateur or pro. If you prefer to fish with Crawfish patterned crankbaits along the dam, they have it; cast Rattlin’ Vibes in standing trees, of course; Jerkbaits over stumps fields, awesome; twitch a minnow bait over a weedbed, heart stopping; or “walk” your way to an 8 pound bass on the surface, the choices are endless and up to you.
Different techniques would define how the larger fish in a particular area preferred to feed. With a constant back and forth movement of the Sashimi Pencil or a pop-n-stop-n-pause technique of the Sashimi Popper the topwater fishing was just awesome. All of this pre and post sunrise action took place along the shorelines and around the tress. There are several types of wood cover that we fished; tall standing ones, in log jams or over the tops of the submerged trees which were full of bass suspending in the limbs and branches.
As you can see, one way or the other we were assured of a fish — small, medium or large.
The morning bite ends way too soon for us, so we reluctantly transition into some shallow running fishing lures like the Sashimi Minnow, Sashimi Jerkbait Sashimi Shallow Crank and Sashimi Jointed Swimbait.
We would sometimes be forced to downsize our fishing lures to match the small shad they were feeding on. Our Sashimi Jerkbait did the trick for us, as it is almost an exact replica of these bite-sized morsels they were gorging themselves on. It is amazing just how big a fish you can catch on small lure as time and again we switched out to smaller baitfish imitations. Yet, at other times the bigger bass hit the larger profiled fishing lures like the Yo-Zuri Sashimi Jointed Swimbait. This lure suspends. Therefore we were able to keep it in the strike zone for a longer period of time to allow the larger bass to hone in on a bigger profiled fishing lure and inhale it.
From what we observed and Bass Ninja told us over dinner (this was through the use of an interpreter since he did not speak English), the Duel Team were fishing with Hardcore Poppers and Noi-Z Propbait, which is jointed, in the AM and like us switched over to subsurface lures like the Hardcore Crankbaits, Hardcore XX Flat Minnows and Hardcore XX Shads as the sun increased its angle in the sky and the fish began to feed below the surface.
Bass Ninja has fished for bass in all regions and prefectures in Japan, he also fishes for saltwater species when time allows. He has a great sense of humor and when he felt that he did not have a good day on the water he would come back into shore and get on his knees and bow down in his own disgrace. Then he would get up and say “tomorrow revenge” we will get them, let’s have a “margarita”. He learned that word fast during our stay.
At this point you’ll have fished three or four different spots with a diverse assortment of techniques and lure selection, so you head back to the lodge for some refreshments and a well prepared lunch, which changes every day. Most times lunch is traditional Mexican fare such as Tacos or Burritos; with an all you can eat policy. You will then sleep like a baby during your three-hour fishing hiatus. Of course this is in your air-conditioned room with TV and your own private bathroom.
After your relaxing siesta you’re off to the lake again for the afternoon fishing session. This time the fishing lures that we were rigged with were the Sashimi Deep Diving Crankbaits, Sashimi Flat Cranks, Sashimi Suspending Jointed Swimbait and the Sashimi Rattlin’ Vibe. This selection of lures, which we carefully chose, all go down deeper to the cooler water temperature, otherwise known as the Thermocline in the summertime. This zone in the water column is represented on your graph or temperature meter by a line that is well below the surface yet above the bottom of the lake. This contains the highest oxygen level and cooler water temperature that bass seek out in the summertime. The Salmon & Trout fishermen in the Great Lakes live by this area in order to put fish in the boat during the hot summer days.
The color changing attributes and wave motion vibration from the ribs of the Sashimi Bass series really made a difference in the size of the fish we caught. Standard lures, which are smooth on the body and cannot change colors, caught smaller bass over the four-day trip. With the Sashimi lures we were able to catch several fish over ten pounds with numerous fish in the 6 to 8 pound range. It was not about the size of these bass it was their attitude. They are just downright mean, and built to survive.
We varied our color selection depending on the water depth we were fishing in. For our Crankbait fishing in deeper water we used the Chameleon Parrot. In the timber we used the Metallic Tennessee Shad and along the rocks we used the Chameleon Copper Craw color.
For the lipless Sashimi Rattln’ Vibe we used more flashy attractive colors and patterns such as the Chameleon Pearl Blue or the Chameleon Shad or Bleeding Shad with red hooks. These colors served us well during our mid afternoon foray into the Mexican wilderness that this is lake surrounded by.
Over the years we’ve come to intimately know Lake El Salto and enjoy each time we come back to fish a favorite spot. Even if you do not catch that fish of a lifetime, which you caught here many years ago, you know that you will have another chance at her again tomorrow. As we cast countless times along this magnificent shoreline I was reminded just how lucky we are as citizens of America to be able to come and experience the beauty of another country.
At the end of the trip the tally was calculated and by a slim margin Team Yo-Zuri USA, with the help of Komatsu San, outlasted Team Duel from Japan. Many big bass were caught on a variety of fishing lures with light fishing equipment and heavy fishing gear, in open water or from deep cover, at dawn or high noon. At the right time it did not matter as long as we were prepared to switch techniques as required by the fish. Now we are planning the “Revenge” trip on another body of water for yet another species of fish somewhere around the world.
Stay tuned for our next Fishing Challenge……………………………….<:”}}}><