Six Proven Backup Baits for Mexico Bass Fishing

When tried-and-true baits don't work or the weather gets wonky at Lake El Salto in Mexico, try these six backup baits and tactics to put more bass in the boat.

Six Proven Backup Baits for Mexico Bass Fishing

Ray Kawabata often catches Mexico bass with a supersized drop shot rig and 8-inch lizard when they get finicky. (Photo: Pete Robbins)

In my last column I advised you on my list of “must have” lures any time you’re chasing big bass on Mexico lakes. I’ve fished there enough to know that while the staples almost always work in some combination, these fish, however aggressive, can occasionally be picky.

Part of that stems from misconceptions. First-timers assume these "undereducated" fish will jump on just about any oversized lure they throw out there. They fill their limited luggage space with the biggest, gaudiest swimbaits and topwaters and commit to “fishing for just the right bites.” That can get tiring, physically and mentally, when it doesn’t produce and everyone around you is whacking bass and toasting with Pacificos.

Most Mexico lakes have tilapia, but that’s not the only forage. I’ve caught schooling bass that were feasting on shad less than half the size of your pinky, spitting up mouthfuls of them as we reeled them in. Sometime that profile makes a difference. Other times it’s a change in color that turns the tide.

Whether you’re headed down or advising someone on his or her first trip, I’d suggest to bring plenty of the staples. But also take a few “In case of emergency, break glass,” options, as well. Remember, you likely won’t be able to FedEx anything, and there’s no Wal-Mart or Bass Pro Shops close by. You're limited to 50 pounds of luggage all told — perhaps less if they’re headed in on a charter flight — so decisions must be made with Solomonic precision.

Here are a few choices that don’t take up a lot of space and have saved my butt on an occasion or two:

Square Bill Crankbait

When a spinnerbait or a Chatterbait should be garnering bites but isn’t, this is a solid choice. It comes through cover almost as well as those single-hooked options, but with a totally different vibration and a deflection quality that triggers strikes. They don’t go deep, so you’ll get most of the snagged ones back – bring a couple in the 1.5 or 2.5 size, black/chartreuse and shad, and don’t hesitate to burn them back to the boat.

Swim Jig    

Much like the square bill, the swim jig is a more subtle approach to heavy shallow cover that comes in a wide variety of colors and can handle a variety of retrieves. A few years ago at El Salto we had to get more subtle each day to keep the bite going, changing from spinnerbaits to Chatterbaits and finally to swim jigs.

Suspending Jerkbait

These are Florida-strain fish, and while they’re not quite as crazy as their Sunshine State ancestors, they still get in a funk when an early season cold front rolls through. That’s when a smartly-twitched Megabass Vision 110 works best in the clearest water. You’ll know you’re working it right when you feel the strike on a slack line and they come back with it sideways like a dog bone in their mouths.


Aaron Martens made these little cone-affiliated jigheads famous, and Mexican bass love them if there’s not too much cover around or if they’re suspended. Put a Super Fluke on the back and just retrieve steadily. Make sure, however, that you buy the ones with stout hooks because these spastic fish will bend out the light wire versions.


It took my Seattle friend Ray Kawabata to convince me of this one, but he proved the point during an October trip where we could catch a few jumbos in limited spaces early in each session on Whopper Ploppers and swimbaits, but then had to let the area rest and reload. We knew there were some fish on a few upriver points, and we’d catch a few small ones on Carolina Rigs, jigs and small swimbaits, but nothing of any size.

Then he pulled out a beefed-up version of this noted finesse technique — 17-pound fluorocarbon and an 8-inch lizard — and proceeded to crush them. In fact, he had me down six to none when he offered to tie one on for me. As he did so, I made a cast with his rod and was rewarded with a bass of nearly 8 pounds. Again, be sure to use a fairly stout dropshot hook, or even a 3/0 or 4/0 wacky worm hook.

Swing Head Jig

When Mexican bass are confined on offshore structure in small spaces, a Texas Rig will often catch them one after another. When you need to hunt for them, a Carolina Rig can cover water. The Swing Head jig is the best of both worlds, easy to fish even for a beginner, and it allows you to cover nearly as much ground. During a trip last January, Forrest Wood Cup winner Brent Ehrler rigged one with a swimbait and burned it for three or four turns of the handle before letting it fall to the bottom, a retrieve he’d learned on the Tennessee River chain of lakes. It caught big ones in Mexico, too.


I’ve fished in Mexico often enough that I know I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, but I still adhere to an 80/20 rule. I spend at least 80 percent of the time throwing lures that I know work down there, and up to 20 percent trying out new stuff. I’m dying to go with someone who can show me the ropes with a big flutter spoon, and I intend to try a big Ned Rig on my next trip, in the hopes of expanding my arsenal and keeping the good times rolling. 

For more advice on fishing for bass in Mexico, feel free to email me at


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