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Are those bass lakes in western Mexico, like Baccarac and El Salto, safe to visit? We have raised that question before and feel compelled to raise it again, this time with some urgency. Seems two different parties of anglers in the region have been held up recently and robbed at gunpoint. Both parties were fishing at Lake El Salto this past May, one with outfitter Billy Chapman (*) and one with outfitter Ron Speed (*).
The robbery at Speed’s camp was little more than that – a garden-variety robbery in the camp itself that resulted in two clients being relieved of something less than $1,000. The other confrontation was bit scarier as it involved an armed stick-up in the dark as a bus carrying some 20 anglers crawled up from the lake at the end of a long day of fishing. According to Charles Jerald, who had his watch and about $200 in cash taken, two of the three bandits were armed with assault rifles. The third bandit was packing a .45 caliber handgun. All three had their heads wrapped in cloth, Jerald says, "…like terrorists." He says the bandits got a total of $4,000 to $6,000 worth of cash and valuables, at which point they fled into the mesquite on foot.
Jerald says he is not upset with Chapman and doesn’t want to hurt his business. However, he does feel some steps need to be taken. Adding to Jerald’s concern is the fact that his uncle was robbed at gunpoint in this area about four years ago, also while on a bass-fishing trip.
At press time, Chapman had not returned our calls, but we did speak with Ron Speed, who said he was confident the robberies were the work of a single group of bandits. "We know who did it, and the police are looking for them," he said, adding that all three bandits have reportedly fled north, across the border into the US as illegal aliens. Speed said he has already hired a small security force for his El Salto camp and plans to keep it in place "indefinitely."
We aren’t sure where this leaves the would-be bass angler with a yen to fish western Mexico. The banditry problems seem to be emerging as a result of a protracted drought in the area, which has cut into the revenue of local marijuana growers. The ongoing recession in Mexico is probably playing a role as well. We are convinced that the chances of a given party being robbed in this region are quite small. Just don’t ask us to calculate the odds. Do that yourself and decide whether this part of the world is where you want to wet a line.