El Salto Tips

Oct 28 2021

Joshua Massoud


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El Salto Tips

I’m sure a number of you have been to El Salto/Picachos – but for those that haven’t and are going on either of the upcoming two trips, here is some general tackle and travel tips to prepare.  This list is by no means exhaustive or definitive.  It would be cool if some people could chime in and add to it:

  1. All in One Resource: I’ve met Pete while at El Salto and you can message him on FB.  He has compiled a lot of info here: https://www.halfpastfirstcast.com/el-salto-and-picachos
  2. Conditions: you can reach out to where you are staying to get the most recent reports – I would encourage you to do so to focus in on what to bring.  Lake levels will be full as they’ve had a couple of hurricanes. Not sure how this will affect the fishing.  Bass should just about be prespawn but it isn’t like prespawn here. 
  3. Tilapia Nets: There will be a number of tilapia nets everywhere.  They are marked and you can ask your guide.  They pull them down in April I think.  You will still hang up on them occassionally but they can be cut.  It is the only agravating thing about fishing there in fall/winter. 
  4. Temp – it is cool in the morning, especially when running to the first spot. You will want a jacket/sweats to pull off by midday when it hits the 80’s and sunny.  Bring glasses and sunscreen and a hat, etc.
  5. Water color: El Salto - stained, watermelon green (think Salt lick/Double AA) – clarity varies but is generally 2 feet or so.
  6. Forage: Shad, Tilapia, Frogs, Lizards, Birds.  That said, you might think tilapia look a likes work well down there and they haven’t really in my trips for whatever reason.  
  7. Partner: Talk to your partner and figure out what they are good at too.  You want to match styles with fishing locations before you talk to your guide to optimize the trip for the both of you.  Agree beforehand on a rotation of front and back of the boat etc. 
  8. Guides: Talk to your guide the night before to acquaint yourself and tell them what you are good at and what you aren’t, and what you want to catch. If you want to target big fish only, then that is one thing. If you want numbers, that is another. If you want a number of good but not massive fish, that is another.  My last trip, I wanted numbers for my daughter.  We didn’t try for big fish till the last morning.
  9. Guides redux:  I consider myself a great jerk bait fisherman – my guide didn’t like jerk baits last time (he was a pretty salty older guide).  Once I showed him that my daughter and I were proficient, he put us on places where it could be successful (the other groups were running deep worm and crank patterns with good success but I thought we could find mid depth fish that they weren’t and I was proven correct).  
  10. Guides finally: That said, trust your guides, the timing of the spots is critical for the feeding windows for those spots, and they know them.  When they say it is time to move – they have a feeding window in mind on a particular spot.  I missed a good spot last time because I wanted to rerun an area that was good and we missed the next two windows on spots (and I missed out on a 100+ fish day for myself as a result).  Your guide will work very hard the whole time and will do whatever you need done (last time my guide climbed a tree and some rocks to get a lure from an errant cast).
  11. Tackle: My first time I went, I bought an entire Bass Pro shop – don’t do that – it isn’t necessary. https://www.tacklewarehouse.com/catpage-BUALEL17.html?from=bassuni Has a list of proven stuff.  https://www.halfpastfirstcast.com/blog-gear/hek4cayvruvs55uhbqzorx0e9q2zbh has a good overview of lure selection.
  12. Tackle cont.: Pick a few from each category and bring a few from each that you are confident in.  My fly-fishing friend used green fly frog poppers, I used a prop bait and spook.  All three worked. We were pretty much relegated to near the bank.  I was able to catch them on top pretty much all day, though it did slow down midday considerably.
  13. Rods/Reels – you can bring your own rods, but you have to bring your own reels.  I stuff mine in socks and put them in the middle of my checked tackle bag.  I really don’t think you need more than 4 reels.  I bring 2 with braid, 2 with heavy flouro.  Your guide can switch you in and out of stuff you want to use while you fish with the other 3.
  14. Line size: I wouldn’t go lower than 20lb flouro – 17 is pushing it.  There are some thick trees and nasty cover.  Bring plenty of line so if you break off, your guide can reline the reel.  I back my rods with braid halfway that way you don’t have to redo the whole thing.
  15. Line cont: You can fish just braid the whole time.  I put my daughter on braid last June and she was only about 20 fish behind me.  I caught my biggest bass there on braid (10lbs 7ozs) on a jig.  I cranked with 65lb braid and caught just as many and lost fewer lures that way.
  16. Lure color: You can go basic with color selection for plastics.  I bring greens, black and blue, and white.  My most successful plastic has been basspro brand senko in the 50 pack.  Sometimes creature baits are better, big fish really like the 10inch black and blue power worm from Berkley.
  17. Swimbaits – underspin with an open hook is generally best, but my first time a standard weighted type worked fine.  Bring superglue so you don’t run through them.  Shad colors worked best for me.   I would consider swimbaits a must.  You don’t need to go large here – 3.8/4.3” worked best.  The trick to catching bigger ones is to get underneath the depth of the smaller ones -  The cheap storm weighted swimbaits work really well for that.
  18. Timber: If you like to flip and pitch – this is a great place to do it, but if you aren’t good at it – you might ignore this pattern altogether.
  19. New Stuff: Bring one thing you haven’t used much or aren’t good at.  My first time it was a big spoon.  My second time it was a glide bait. If you haven’t tried a powershot, this is the place to do it.  If you don’t CRIG, this is the place to do it.  There is no place on earth like El Salto to try something new and gaining confidence in it.  BUT one thing, not 10 things or you are wasting time.
  20. Lure Size: Big, massive baits don’t work particularly well in my experience, except for 10 in worms  and 10xd cranks.  The normal sized stuff works just fine.  It is more about getting to the bigger fish in an area and presenting it to them than lure size IMO. 
  21. Cranks: If you are going to crank, you want stuff that runs 15 feet, 20 feet, and 25 feet.  It is a whipping though unless you have a lower speed reel.  (5 or 6) that can power them.  6-10xd and the Berkley dredger stuff works well.  Bomber fat free is a staple there. I hate spinnerbaits for the most part, but you can bring some heavier ones to sub out for big cranks as it will be easier on you.  Or you can go with a CRIG.  Everyone thinks they can crank till they have to do it for more than an hour and they tire out.
  22. Chart Markers/Dip-it – bring it and use it on nearly everything. 
  23. Lure Loss: be prepared to lose lures and have backups. 
  24. Lures continued: If I had to pick my most productive lures it would be (outside of jerkbaits as that is a special case) in order: swimbaits, Pop-R, cranks, senkos, 10in power worm. 

Curious to see if anyone else has some helpful tips or areas that should be covered that I didn’t.