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Tuesday, April 8, 2003
Updated: April 28, 1:42 AM ET
Destination Mexico and Lake Huites bass

By Mark Fisher
Fishing and Hunting News

View Map Two sets of bad news greeted me upon arrival in northern Mexico:

  • My luggage didn't make the connection during the transfer in Tucson.

    More tackle than clothing was packed into my oversized bag containing reels, lures, line and other essentials like sunscreen and sunglasses.

    My tube stuffed with rods was missing, as well.

  • Lake Huites — where I would be using all that bass gear — had received three days of hard rain just prior to my arrival, raising the lake's level an incredible 15 feet.

    The finicky prespawn largemouth had scattered, disrupting any predictable fishing pattern — especially for larger females.

    Bass
    Expect to pull out a a few bass typical of Lake Huites.
    Challenging water conditions aside, I wasn't completely out of luck on the gear front.

    I was joined at Huites (pronounced Wee-tez) by writers from eight fishing magazines and product managers from three fishing-gear manafacturers.

    We were there to put Pflueger's rods and reels through the paces.

    Contributing their fishing expertise and tackle insights, veteran Bassmaster tournament pros and Pflueger team members Ray Sedgwick and Mark Menendez also were present.

    After a three-hour drive from the airport through the Mexican state of Sinaloa, including a twisting, bumpy stretch of dirt road that challenged the tenacity of tooth fillings, we arrived at Campo Buena Vista on Lake Huites.

    The lodge's fair seņoritas greeted us with a bottomless margarita pitcher, which buoyed our optimism despite Mother Nature's (and the baggage handling god's) obstacles.

    Experienced guides intimate with the lake's hot spots plus bass moods and preferences also fueled our enthusiasm the next morning.

      Lake Huite's essentials

    Limited in tackle due to lost luggage, I managed to catch fish with a scaled-down arsenal contributed by generous compadres.

    I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a half-dozen lures and other essentials were enough to make my Lake Huites experience successful:

    Excalibur Spit'n Image and Excalibur Zara Spook: Good for a half-dozen bass in the morning and again in the evening.

    Leverage spinnerbait: The reliable choice whether retrieved at a medium pace through timber or slow-rolled deep.

    Excalibur Fat-Free Shad: An efficient seek-and-hook lure covering water quickly near visible structure or underwater features.

    YUM 10-inch Ribbontail worms: Versatile and thorough whether fished off points, ledges, reefs or timber.

    YUM Garrett Mega Tubes: My favorite for flipping, although YUM Wooly Hawgtails and Craw Bugs were also very effective, as were weedless rattling jigs with trailers.

    Cap, Sunscreen and 30+ SPF lip balm: it's Mexico, after all.

    We started our product testing before dawn the next day, fishing topwater baits through flooded shoreline stands of trees and cacti, getting explosive strikes from the Florida-strain largemouths.

    As the sun rose, we switched to spinnerbaits to continue the action.

    In late-morning, crankbaits retrieved through channels amidst timber and along points were also effective.

    Tasty lunches served at an open-air dining table overlooking the lake provided the opportunity to share notes and spin fish tales.

    The welcome tradition of an hour-long siesta re-energized us for the afternoon.

    Cranking underwater humps, reefs and islands with Fat Free Shads was a steady producer.

    For a change of pace, pitching worms, tubes, jigs and craws to flooded trees — either on the shoreline or offshore — put more Mexican bass in the boat.

    As the sun eased behind the grand Sierra Madres range, the topwater bite resumed with aggressive largemouth hammering Zara Spook, Lucky 13, Spit'n Image and Pop'n Image lures.

    When darkness settled over the lake, our thoughts turned to the blender churning margaritas and cheese melting over tortilla chips for appetizers.

    Catching plentiful bass in the 2- to 3-pound range is a relatively easy task at Lake Huites by employing a wide range of methods.

    Yet the main justification for traveling well south of the border is the rare yet prized trophy-sized largemouth — double-digit bass more prevalent here than typical U.S. reservoirs.

    Ray Sedgwick, a 10-year bass tournament pro with three Bassmasters Classic appearances and top-11 finishes in all, suggested how to target monster bass.

    Although this list of techniques proves especially rewarding in Mexican bass lakes, they also apply to U.S. fisheries.

    Alive and kicking

      If you're going …
    The lake: Formed by the 1995 damming of the El Fuerte and Chinipas rivers 6,000 feet up in the Sierra Madres of Sinaloa, Mexico, Lake Huites stretches approximately 30,000 surface acres at full pool.

    The fish: Lake Huites teems with introduced Florida-strain largemouth bass.

    Three and 4-pound fish are average with a good chance of hooking a 10-pound-plus fish.

    Major spawning periods at Lake Huites range between January to March and May to July.

    Accommodations: Campo Buena Vista overlooks the lake and houses 22 guests in private double rooms.

    Each room has air-conditioning, a ceiling fan and a private bath.

    Getting there: Fly to Phoenix or Tucson and then fly Aero California or Aero Mexico to Los Mochis International Airport.

    Hotel Buena Vista provides free transportation to the lodge.

    Price: A four-night trip with three days of guided fishing costs $1,195; a seven-night trip with six days of fishing costs $1,890.

    Prices include three meals per day, accommodations, guides and ground transportation. October 1 to June 30.

    Booking: Contact Wet-a-line Tours (888-295-4665; info@wetaline.com).

    Spinnerbaits: Cast a 1-ounce spinnerbait with No. 6 or 7 willow leaf blades and ripple-tail trailer to sheer bluff banks and let flutter to the bottom.

    Target rock-strewn 20 to 25-foot-deep areas, and slow-roll retrieve the bait, bouncing it against structure.

    Try this tactic in the morning, especially when it's windy and sunny.

    Use a 7-foot-6 rod with medium-heavy action, 4.3:1 gear-ratio reel, and 14- to 17-pound-test line.

    Crankbaiting

    Seek long, flat points that originate from a rocky shoreline, ideally with humps that rise to 10 to 12 feet from the surface.

    Cast a diving crankbait like a Fat Free Shad (suspending model in rocky areas, floating model around wood) parallel to the point, toward shore.

    Retrieve steadily with a reel that has a low gear ratio (4.3:1). Then work across the point at 45-degree angles.

    Finally, switch the retrieve by sweeping the rod (7-foot, medium action) toward you, then wind in line, pausing the bait momentarily.

    Flip or pitch 1-ounce rattling jigs into heavy standing timber.

    Initially aim to pockets within branches, then work the biggest feature, whether the trunk or thickest branch.

    Let the jig free-fall, keeping line tight enough to detect a strike yet not so tight that the lure swings back to you.

    The best presentation occurs when the jig bounces off many limbs on the way down.

    Depending on the bottom depth, bass will hold from 5 to 15 feet deep. Fish will be deeper early when the water is cooler and then ease up as the sun gets higher and warmer.

    As bass ascend, change to a lighter jig for a slower fall to extend its time in the shallower target zone.

    Sedgwick recommends a medium-heavy rod paired with a 6.3:1 low-profile baitcast reel spooled with 17- to 20-pound-test line.

    Big fish, big bait

    A high-percentage lure for low-percentage giant bass is a jumbo swimbait.

    Scenery
    The scenery in northern Mexico appears something like this.
    Pflueger Fishing Tackle spokesman Mark Davis has more than 15 trips to Lake Huites under his belt.

    He explains how and why this unique approach can deliver exceptional results:

    "The Optimum swimbait gives you about the largest profile (6, 7, 8 and 10 inches) of any bass bait you can throw. Simply throw it out, let it sink to the bottom, and use a slow steady retrieve — following the bottom's contour," Davis said.

    "I targeted humps, points and ledges in 20 to 40 feet of water. Vertical structure such as creek channel bluffs also held suspended fish.

    "The bite will be exactly like a worm bite and the fish will hang onto it. Braided line helps greatly in getting the hook into a big fish through all the plastic."



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