It was raining when Zach and I hit the water on El Salto this morning. Maybe that's what changed our luck.
We started out fishing the same spot where we'd hooked big bass yesterday, and I was glad we did. A 9-pound, 7-ounce bass hit the El Grande Lures Gila Monster (a big soft-plastic lizard) I cast, and as luck would have it, I managed to get it in the boat. I encouraged Luis to fish now as well, and soon he landed a 9-pounder on a Yum Money Minnow swimbait.
That was it, though. Zach wasn't catching anything on topwaters, and I couldn't get another bite on the Gila Monster. With our last day of fishing well underway, I decided it was time to try a new fishing spot and different lures.
Luis moved the boat to a big flat adjacent the old Elota River channel, and Zach and I tied on citrus-colored Bomber Fat-Free Shad deep-diving crankbaits. We cast at the same time, and almost instantly, Zach set the hook in a big fish. When I turned to grab my camera, my rod took a nosedive, too.
It was our first double of the trip, and what a double it was. Zach tied his biggest bass ever with a 7-1/2-pounder, and I landed my biggest ever, a 9-pound, 12-ounce fish with a mouth big enough to swallow a football. We were ecstatic to say the least.
My next fish was as big as my first, but it managed to slip the net and get off right by the boat. Zach did a better job handling his next fish and boated a 6-1/2-pounder. I followed with a bass the same size. Every five or six casts, one of us would hook another nice fish, and it was only hunger (and Zach's third massage appointment!) that sent us back to camp at lunchtime.
When we got back out that afternoon, we worked the big crankbaits by the river channel again. The rain had abated. Clouds blanketed the mountaintops.
We made numerous casts without a bite, then finally, with only an hour of fishing left on our trip, I got a hit.
I had lost several big bass that threw the hook, so this time, I set the hook hard, not once, but three times. I was glad I did. When the fish made its first jump, it was obvious this was the biggest bass of the trip.
"You've got to land this one, Dad," Zach said. "It's a monster."
I've been dreaming about that 10-pounder for more than 40 years now. And when I finally caught it, I wished in a way I hadn't. At that moment, I wanted more than anything to trade places with Zach. I wanted him to catch this fish.
I couldn't change things, though. The fish hit my lure. I set the hook. Zach wouldn't have considered for a moment taking the pole if I had handed it to him.
When Luis slipped the net under that old girl and lifted her into the boat, there were high fives all around. Luis was smiling, proud that his hard work had paid off. And Zach was grinning ear to ear, obviously proud for me.
We fished another hour, hoping Zach might catch a 10-pounder, too. But it wasn't to be. My 10-pound, 8-ounce bass, the fish of a lifetime, the largemouth I had hoped for since I was Zach's age, was the last fish of the trip.
I'm done now. I've caught my 10-pounder. If I catch one bigger, great. But there will be no further quest.
During four days on El Salto, the greatest bass lake in the world, the torch was passed. A fire was lit in a new generation. Now Zach can pursue the fish of his dreams. I will rest well knowing that, during his quest, my son, like me, will make many new friends, see many wonderful places and enjoy many memorable adventures. And always, he will remember our days together in Mexico.
To contact Keith Sutton, email him at email@example.com. His book, "Out There Fishing," is available at www.catfishsutton.com. For additional information on bass fishing at Lake El Salto, phone 800-GOTA-FISH or visit www.anglersinn.com.