Teams fished all summer long in the El Cajon Ford Night Tournament Series for the chance to win a fishing vacation at the famed Lake El Salto in Mainland Mexico. The top three teams in the year-end points standings qualified, supplemented with three raffle winning teams from the series. Tournament Director Jim Sleight scheduled the trip for November 12th through the 16th, providing the teams time to secure travel documents and make arrangements for the time-off to make the trip.
Top 3 teams in year-end points standings
1. Kellen Ellis & Garrett Mercer
2. Art Bailey & Mike Walsh
3. Scott Wingo & Pat Walden
Through the raffle
Tournament director Jim Sleight, along with assistant director Woody Olson and tournament sponsor Paul Leader of El Cajon Ford joined the twelve qualifying anglers for the amazing trip to one of Mexico’s premier bass fisheries at El Salto.
We met at Jim’s Jamul home at 4:00 AM and loaded our tackle and luggage aboard two vans who took us across the border, dropping us off at the airport in Tijuana for our 1 hr. 45 min. flight to Culiacan MX. The friendly staff from the Cardon Resort picked us up from there, and took us to our resort home for the next four nights located about an hour between both Culiacan and Mazatlan. Not to take anything away from the lake itself, but the experience at the resort was the highlight of my trip. Cardon Resort is located on a secluded stretch of beach, giving us a wonderful tropical backdrop for our stay. The service at Cardon was top notch, a staff of over 12 friendly locals made our stay pleasant. Our group occupied the entire resort, with the exception of two surfers who crashed in the laundry room. The food was incredible, with three meals per day served including lunches on the lake shore.
With a 4:00 AM wake-up each morning we were greeted with a fantastic breakfast, fresh fruit, eggs and pancakes got us off on the right foot. The resort was approximately an hour from the lake, so were fishing at around 6:00 AM each morning. The first morning we were assigned guides who were eagerly awaiting our arrival, completely prepared for us already on the lake shore. We unloaded our tackle, introduced ourselves and set sail on the surprisingly massive sized El Salto.
The fishing each day would probably be considered fair by El Salto standards, certainly not quite as good as it could be though. All of us caught fish, more fish than we could count. Most of the fish were of good quality, although not giants. Woody Olson caught the day’s largest bass at 7 lbs 4 oz on a carolina rigged 10″ Yamamoto Cut-Tail. Fishing in the same area, I caught 5 fish over 6 pounds with dozens of four and 5 pound fish. Most anglers in our group reported catching one or two 6 pound class fish with similar numbers of four and 5 pounders. The majority of my fish on the first day were caught on Super Spooks, but my Mattlures Talapia (hardbait Bluegill series) also produced quality fish.
We started day two in the same spot that yielded the majority of our good fish on the first day, but the fish were slightly more reluctant to bite the Super Spook and swimbait. The fish that did were considerably smaller than the day prior, so I decided to fish the jig for the first time of the trip. I was rewarded with a 7 lb 7 oz fish, immediately followed by a 7 lb 12 oz, 7 lb 6 oz and 6 lb 15 oz fish. Dozens of other quality fish were caught, it was 5 and 6 pounders a’plenty for the morning on the jig. We returned after lunch to the same spot and I caught another good fish, this time 7 lb 3 oz. My day two total for my biggest 5 would have been 36 lbs 11 ounces. The other anglers reported similar counts for overall fish, a few other anglers also had fish over 7 pounds including the two biggest for the group an 8 lb 8 oz fish caught by Jim Sleight and an 8 lb 5 oz fish caught by Todd Holverson.
The third day of fishing introduced another nuance as the commercial fisherman were allowed to again set their gill nets for Tilapia around the lake. The lake employs a 5 day off, 10 day on schedule for the nets. Our best area from the previous two days was completely choked off with nets, fishing there was next to impossible. With the nets out, the third day was by far the worst for me, but other anglers in the group were able to land some of the biggest fish of the week on the last day, although overall numbers were down for the group. Jim Sleight had the best day of the week, boating a 10 lb 12 oz and 10 lb 4 oz fish to lead the group and cap the fishing week.
My overall impression of the lake was that it is slightly over-rated for the fishing, probably in due part to the fishing pressure that its endured throughout the years as the secret escaped about how good the fishing was there. However, if you’re looking for quality fish in the 5 to 8 pound range, this is probably one of the premier places on the planet for numbers of those fish. The guides that were arranged for our group were awesome, our guide Victor was a magician at getting baits unstuck. I had my jig stuck probably 30 times throughout the three days and he got it out all but one time. He worked his tail off all trip, constantly moving us from spot to spot if it wasn’t producing, netting or lipping our fish, retying our line, fixing our hooks and everything else. The only thing I had to do was fish, he did the rest quickly and efficiently.
The real enjoyment of the trip was the Cardon Resort, which I thought was amazing. The rooms are clean, well kept, and had appropriate character. The food was absolutely incredible, the service was impeccable, and the open bar was refreshing. All this taking place in one of the most beautiful strips of land on the planet made the trip an incredible experience. While there are several lodges operating a lot closer to the lake, I wouldn’t consider a trip anywhere other than at Cardon Adventure Resort.