Well not literally. Mexico has one of the best world-class bass fisheries known to man within its boundaries known as El Salto Lake. I know this because I have visited Billy Chapman's Angler's Inn Lodge located directly on the lake three times. But figuratively speaking, my mind was light years away from lakes south of the border, and I totally forgot about the rugged desert plains and cacti that surround them, when I crossed the California border heading for a lodge called Big K Guest Ranch in southern Oregon. Seizing the opportunity provided by the mid-season break in the Future Pro Tour's schedule, I decided to take a much-needed rest from the tournament preparation grind, and simply get away.
My objective was simple. Find a place that was far away from familiar surroundings that would provide solitude, produce lots of fish, and have enough "big ones" mixed in to keep it exciting. After all, after my experiences in the desolate Sierra Madre mountains surrounding El Salto Lake, had set the standard for outdoor adventures and I knew it would be literally impossible for me to settle for anything less.
About a six-hour drive from Sacramento, the Big-K Guest Ranch is locate about 50 miles northwest of Medford, just west of the town of Sutherlin, and occupies what could possibly be the most beautiful river valley I've ever seen. Nestled among 2500-forested acres featuring more than 8 miles of unspoiled river frontage. It is actually a working ranch owned and operated by the Kesterson family. The main lodge is a gorgeous 12,000 square foot log structure that was completed in 1993. There is a large dining hall and veranda, 250-person event room and a recreation/game room. Guests of the Big K stay in one of twenty spacious individual cabins.
When we arrived at the lodge just before dark, it became apparent to me that this was what I had been looking for. Solitude, absolutely fantastic accommodations, 5-star dining, and a staff that was obsessed with ensuring that we had everything we needed to make us comfortable. Greeted with blackberry margaritas (I know..sounds strange, but they were the great) we feasted on a dinner consisting of fresh grilled salmon, prime rib, fried fish fillets, roast duck, rice, fresh vegetables and of course, blackberry cobbler for dessert. Being somewhat of a cook myself, the personal effort taken in the preparation and presentation of our meals was clearly evident, and we retired to our spacious cabin fully satisfied and ready for the next day's fishing adventure.
The next morning brought low-lying costal fog which chilled the morning air, but provided us with great topwater fishing. Rico/buzzbait fishing was hit and miss, but these Umqua smallmouth would absolutely crush a Zoom Fluke or floating worm rigged "wacky" style. Fishing in drift boats with knowledgeable local river guides, we floated at a snail's pace over every pool and eddy the rivers slow-moving current provided, viewing LITERALLY hundreds of smallmouth bass in the 13-18" range. In the deeper pools, clusters of HUGE smallies in the 4 to 7 pound class could be seen posted in groups of three or four in and around the huge boulders scattered throughout the river.
These bigger fish could be caught - but the challenge was getting the bait past the smaller fish as quickly as possible. Big Senkos were the answer, and the 7" variety (any color) was the key to hooking up to some of the biggest smallmouth I'd ever seen. We caught many in the 4+ pound range, but a few of the bigger ones made mind boggling runs, dug into the labyrinth of boulders, and simply broke us off. But no matter virtually every cast produced keeper smallmouth's full of the fighting energy that only comes from living in a thriving river system. In fact, our guide told us that the Oregon DFG studies showed that the Umqua on that stretch of the river has between 5,000 to 9,000 smallmouth bass per mile! To make a long story short we each caught over 150 smallmouth bass per day on every type of bait you can think of. What a blast!
For any of you that want to experience the vacation get away of a lifetime, you simply have to visit the folks at the Big-K guest ranch, and find out what the word "get-away" fishing vacation REALLY means. Wives, significant others, and those that want more than just fishing as part of their vacation experience will be thoroughly impressed from top to bottom, and will want to make this trip part of your annual vacation plans. Cost of the trip for a weekend (Fri-Sunday) is right around $550 per person, which includes all meals, lodging, and professional guide services. Not having to "spring" for the cost of airfare (you can drive) makes for a vacation that is affordable for many.
For more information about the Big-K guest ranch, please visit their website at: www.big-k.com or phone them at: 1-800-390-BIGK
And tell the crew Vince sent you!
See you on the water!
Source: big-K.com (2004-09-21)