By Billy Chapman Jr.

For the past 20 years, Lake El Salto reigned among bass lakes as the best place to catch a double-digit largemouth in Mexico. For really big bass, those in the 8- to 12-pound range, Lake El Salto is still the place to go, but Lake Mateos is coming on strong -- not only for numbers, but big fish.

The Rapala lure company frequently visits Lake Mateos to test new baits and entertain customers. In a recent trip, the group averaged about 120 bass a day. White Terminator spinnerbaits produced the most action, followed by an X-Rap 10 Shallow in mossback shiner.

“This is the best place that we’ve ever gone to entertain our customers,” said Gregg Wollner, Rapala executive vice president. “We’ve been here four years in a row and the average size increased each time. This time, the average size was about 3 pounds. During the last three years, we’d catch two or three over 6 pounds. This year, we had a bunch of 6-pounders, several in the 7- to 8-pound range and one 10-pounder. We travel all over the world. Of all the places we go, there is nothing that compares to Anglers Inn Mateos.”

Officially named Presa Adolfo Lopez Mateos Reservoir after a former president of Mexico, Lake Mateos stretches 55,000 acres through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Sierra Madre Mountains 55 miles northeast of Culiacan, Mexico. The ninth largest freshwater lake in Mexico, Lake Mateos sits in a very isolated wilderness where jaguars still roam the canyons. The lake runs 50 miles along the Humaya and Tamazula rivers in the state of Sinaloa.

The hydroelectric power and irrigation lake drops to more than 230 feet deep in places. Opened in the 1960s, the lake produced excellent fishing for 30 years before severely low water levels hurt fishing in the 1990s. About five years ago, the lake refilled, flooding thousands of acres of brush that grew up on the once-dry bottom. Now, almost like in a new lake situation, the bass population boomed as fish moved into those newly inundated acres. After five years of growth, some bass now crack the double-digit barrier with the lake record exceeding 14 pounds.

Rocks, canyon walls, points and flats full of partially submerged trees dominate the bass-holding structure. The lake also contains numerous islands, submerged humps and creek channels that offer bass additional places to hunt. Shorelines and flats make great places to throw topwaters, while the humps and flooded brush offer good spots for spinnerbaits and soft plastics. Off the points and parallel to the channel edges, run crankbaits or swimbaits.

Although it still doesn’t produce as many double-digit bass as Lake El Salto, Lake Mateos consistently produces 100- to 150-fish days, with most of the fish falling in the 2- to 8-pound range. Many of them weigh between 5 and 9 pounds. Occasionally, someone like Sam Anderson catches a 10-pounder.

On a recent trip to Lake Mateos, Anderson, a Rapala pro from Inver Grove Heights, Minn., fashioned a mega-bait by rigging a whole Trigger X Lizard to a 1/2-ounce white Terminator spinnerbait. The ploy worked, with Anderson landing a 10-pounder.

“We had some really good luck with the Rapala Skitter Pop for fish with some fish topping 8 pounds early in the morning,” Anderson said. “After the sun came up, I switched to the Terminator 4.5 spinnerbait with a Trigger X Lizard as a trailer. We also caught fish on white or white and olive X-Raps.”

Many anglers, like Mike Marrone with Big 5 Sporting Goods of California, fish both Lake El Salto and Lake Mateos on an Anglers Inn International combo trip. Marrone recently fished Lake Mateos and came away impressed.

“We went to Lake Mateos for the first time and I can only say WOW, what a place! We experienced the usual level of exceptional service that Anglers Inn provides its clients and the fishing was spectacular,” Marrone said. “On the first day, my friend and I caught about 68 bass with the largest ones in the 5- to 7- pound range, which turned out to be the lowest count of our trip. Our most productive baits were Yum Dingers or Zoom Magnum Lizards in watermelon and red flake and Rapala DT10 crankbaits in hot mustard and parrot patterns. We caught several fish early and late on Excalibur Zell Roland Signature Pop-Rs in blue and white, foxy shad and Z-shad patterns.”

On the final morning, the group could only fish half a day before heading to Lake El Salto. In just four hours, Marrone and his partner landed about 100 fish. The largest tipped the scales at 8.5 pounds.

“The final half day at Mateos was nothing less than epic,” Marrone said. “It was the hottest topwater action I’ve ever experienced in my life! In just over 4-hours, we boated a minimum of 80 bass on topwater poppers. At least 20 went over 5 pounds with several in the 7-pound range and one 8.5-pounder. Once the topwater action backed off, we fished Dingers and lizards, catching another 20 fish. Anyone who hasn’t been to Mateos yet is missing out on something truly special.”

New to bass fishing, Steve Maestas of Albuquerque, N.M., started right, landed an 8-pounder on his first morning at Mateos. He caught it on a blue Skitter Pop topwater bait. Later, he added several fish up to 6 pounds on lizards, worms and spinnerbaits.

So more people can take advantage of this kind of fishing at Mateos, I’m offering a special introductory rate of $1,595 per person, a savings of about $500. Just below the dam overlooking the Humaya River and less than a five-minute drive from the lake, Anglers Inn lodge can accommodate up to 18 guests in six private, air-conditioned chalet-style cottages with modern amenities -- each decorated in a traditional Mexican motif. The cottages come complete with stone showers, cathedral ceilings, TVs and DVD players, private baths plus daily maid and laundry service. Guests can also visit the restaurant and bar with wireless Internet service, stock up on tackle in the pro shop or enjoy the spa.

Besides the bass lodges at Lake Mateos and Lake El Salto, Anglers Inn International Saltwater Division operates a fleet of boats out of Marina Mazatlan for every type of angling experience from kayak and surf fishing to bluewater trolling for marlin. In addition, Anglers Inn International serves as the exclusive sportsmen’s outfitter for Pueblo Bonito Resorts in Mexico, conducts duck and dove hunting trip near Mazatlan and fishing adventures to the Amazon Basin in Brazil.

For more information on the special introductory discount at Mateos or to book a trip to any other Anglers Inn International destination, call 1 800-GOTA-FISH, (468-2347) or send an e-mail to