Ascension Bay, Mexico | Fly Fishing Lodge Shootout
We’ve been doing tackle shootouts for years. They are among the most visited pages on our website and we take pride in having helped thousands of anglers find the right tackle for their needs. As our business has grown, we asked ourselves: Which area of fly fishing had the least amount of information? The answer amongst our team was travel.
Have you ever booked a lodge and wondered if it was the best lodge? Who has the best food? Most comfortable? Best guides? It’s almost impossible to find anyone who’s visited multiple lodges in a given area, let alone any sort of comparison amongst them. With this shootout, we aim to change that.
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Read this first
Before we dive into this shootout, it’s important to note that this is going to be a little different from our tackle shootouts. In fact, it’s really more of a buyer’s guide than a shootout. Each lodge has its own unique pros and cons – some subtle, some less so – that makes it more well-suited for certain anglers than for others. There is no lodge that does everything universally better than all the rest for the same price.
So, while we’ve given lodges “points” for certain things, you should really spend time reading the pros and cons of each before you book – and perhaps more importantly – understand your own needs as an angler. Do you want all the comforts of home? Is great food going to make or break your trip? Or do you just want the most core fishing lodge you can find? As you read this, I ask you to be introspective and think about what it takes for you to have a great trip.
About Ascension Bay
Ascension Bay has long been known for its incredible populations of Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, and more. Many anglers travel from all over the world to target tropical saltwater flats species on the fly on the famed sandy flats of the Yucatan. Diverse fish species thrive here because of the high numbers of crabs, shrimp, and baitfish that call this region home. Most fishing here is done in shallow water where fish can be seen in the high sun. From tailing Permit to schooling Bonefish, this is a destination for the avid flats angler.
Punta Allen sits at the northeastern tip of the Bay and offers anglers easy access to the flats by boat. PA is a fishy town with lodges ranging from bare-bones fishing operations to luxurious resort-like getaways. We’re here to give you the pros and cons of the lodges we’ve been to.
Food – 10 points. MREs or Michelin stars? Here we give our opinion on the food at the lodge. If you’ve been to a lodge with bad food, you know, it matters.
Rooms – 10 points. We all need a good night’s sleep to enjoy our fishing trip. Here we evaluate the size, comfort, and style of the rooms and anything else we think might help you sleep better.
Common Areas/Amenities/Non-Anglers – 10 points. Sure, you’ll be spending most of the day fishing, but at the end of each day, you’ll be at the lodge. No one wants to be eating in a run-down dining room or hanging out with their buddies on a sofa full of holes. Here we’re going to take a look at the quality of the common areas of each lodge plus the amenities offered. We also included our wildly subjective rating of how much fun a non-angling spouse might have at a lodge.
Fishing – 20 points. This is the meat and potatoes of the shootout. Here we evaluate the quality of the fishery, the guiding, and the fishing program in general.
In Ascension Bay, all of the lodges generally fish the same areas. So the fishery portion of this category is the same (sure, Pesca Maya fishes a little further north, but for all intents and purposes there’s not a lot of differences). It really comes down to your individual guide. During our visit, we were only able to fish with 1-2 guides from each of the lodges. While we can definitely tell you which guide was best amongst the guides we fished with, we *can’t* really tell you about the guides we didn’t fish with, so please understand that we have a limited sample size.
Price & Inclusions – Last but not least is the price. But the price isn’t the whole story as some lodges include transportation, drinks, and other extras while others don’t. To compare apples to apples, we calculated the cost of 7 nights, 6 days of fishing (based on double occupancy), including transfers, and including 12 margaritas (not including tips) to determine the complete cost of a week of fishing.
La Pescadora is one of the newer and lesser-known operations in Punta Allen. It’s run by husband and wife team of Lily Bertram and Jose Briceno. Lily, who is from North Carolina, provides top-notch service and easy communication while Jose is largely regarded as Punta Allen’s top angler and guide and he’s got the credentials to prove it. Together, they’ve built a simple, professionally run lodge that’s centered on one thing: providing the best fishing possible.
Food: The food at La Pescadora is fantastic. They serve very high-quality local fare. It’s like an upscale version of your favorite Mexican restaurant. In my opinion, it’s the best of all of the lodges, but I’m an adventurous eater. If you’re the meat and potatoes type, you might want to look for a lodge with a ‘closer to home’ option. Meals are served family-style in the dining room. 10 out of 10 points.
Rooms: There are four single-level double occupancy cabins that surround the two-story main lodge. The rooms are simple, yet well-appointed. In the style of the lodge, they are built from local hardwoods and they have a beautiful, modern, log-cabin type feel. They are roomy and comfortable.
How do they compare? They are probably a slight step up from Palometa Club, but definitely not as nice as either Grand Slam or the nice rooms at Pesca Maya. There was one additional negative, which is that they don’t have 24hr air conditioning. What does that mean? Your room will be warm when you get back from fishing (at least in the summer). Not hot, and by no means unbearable, but definitely warm. It cools down throughout the night and sleeping is quite comfortable. 8 out of 10 points.
Common Areas/Amenities: La Pescadora is just south of Punta Allen down the beach road (which is really more of a jungle road). It’s situated on a private stretch of beach with an end of the world feel. It’s a great place to forget about everything go fishing.
Keeping with the hardcore fishing theme, you won’t find any hot tubs or lavish amenities and while it’s on the ‘beach’, the way the reef wraps around means that you’re not going to see waves breaking. La Pescadora sticks to the basics. Everything is nice and well kept, but aside from a few hammocks, there are really no extras, and unless you’ve got a few good novels to read, you probably aren’t going to want to spend time here unless you’re fishing. And that’s kind of the point. 7 out of 10 points.
Fishing: As we mentioned in the intro, La Pescadora is all about fishing. It’s a lodge built by anglers, for anglers. While we didn’t have a chance to fish with *every* guide, we believe that this is one of the finest places to catch a Permit in Mexico (at least among the lodges that we’ve been to). This is where Mexico’s top fly anglers, like Sandflea, come to fish for Permit and they run farther and fish harder than any of the other lodges. In calm seas, they’ll even go down to Espiritu Santu Bay. 20 out of 20 points.
Price & Inclusions:
Founded in 2005, the Palometa Club is known for its heightened focus on the single most elusive species in saltwater: the Permit. Industry authorities have speculated that this is one of the finest Permit lodges anywhere in the world, and if you have your sights set on the most sought-after fish in saltwater, you’ll have as good a chance here as anywhere.
Food: Palometa Club serves a mix of continental and local cuisine and it’s very good. You can expect things like fresh-caught ceviche and empanadas at happy hour and local moja de ajo, pollo con mole, or chili rellenos for dinner. Where some of the lodges felt like restaurants, Palometa feels like a great home-cooked meal every time. Meals are served family-style in the dining room. 8.5 out of 10 points.
Rooms: The rooms are sparse but comfortable. They are also the coldest in Punta Allen, which is a huge plus. Each room has two double beds, comfortable pillows and linens, and individual air control. They’ve done their best to make them feel like home, but, if you’re expecting the Ritz, you won’t find it here. 8 out of 10 points.
Common Areas/Amenities: Palometa Club is situated in the heart of the village of Punta Allen. While it’s far from tourist meccas like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas, you’re not going to find solitude and serenity. What it lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for in pure fun. From cornhole to included alcoholic beverages to a tying room, there’s plenty to keep you busy after a day of fishing. It’s the perfect place to hang out with old friends or make new ones. 8 out of 10 points.
Fishing: Unlike other lodges in PA, Palometa runs on a strict rotating guide schedule. This is either a great thing or a bad thing depending on whether or not you get a great guide. What it definitely is, is fair, and we like that. Again, we didn’t fish with every guide, but we fished with a few and some were great and others were just good. 19 out of 20 points.
Price & Inclusions:
This is a lodge that caters to the upscale angler, the angler who wants luxurious accommodations to match the incredible fishing. From your beachfront villa to wading the flats, every day is an adventure and Grand Slam offers the nicest home base in the area.
Food: Grand Slam takes a totally different approach to the other lodges. They serve a largely continental menu with things like pasta and chicken cordon bleu. They also serve multiple courses and have a great presentation. If 5-star cuisine exists in Punta Allen, this is it. It lost a point, not for the quality of food, but because it’s just not really what I personally look for when I take a trip to Mexico, but it’s fantastic. 9 out of 10 points.
Rooms: The rooms are another highlight of the lodge. They are huge, cold, and full of amenities. Our room had two king-size beds, a jacuzzi tub, and a rain shower. Like the food, they are simply as good as you’re going to find in Ascension Bay. 10 out of 10 points.
Common Areas/Amenities: Grand Slam is located on a nice stretch of beach just outside of town. Like La Pescadora, the reef keeps waves from breaking and guests have access to a sandy beach in front of the lodge. It’s got sort of a mix of in-town and beach vibe. It’s great! But what’s even better are the common areas. Not only is everything is really well kept, but they have everything including a pool. It’s a perfect place to relax after your day on the water. 8 out of 10 points.
Fishing: Like all of the lodges, the quality of the fishing is largely dependent on the guide that you get. Luckily, Grand Slam has some really good ones. 18 out of 20 points.
Price & Inclusions:
Last but not least is Pesca Maya. Pesca Maya is an operation that offers a diverse range of activities, fishing opportunities, and lodge packages. If you’d prefer a day trip, Pesca Maya offers day trip fishing, transportation and more. This is a solid value-based package for anglers who want to fish Mexico but don’t want to stay at the nicest lodge in the region.
Food: Our meal at Pesca Maya consisted of local favorites like Pescado a la Veracruzana (Fish with Peppers and Onions). The food was decent, but nothing spectacular. You could probably find similar and/or better fare at any of the local restaurants in Punta Allen. We were there in the deep off-season, so maybe it’s better at other times of the year. 7 out of 10 points.
Rooms: The rooms were a highlight of Pesca Maya. While they do have a range of accommodations, our room in Robinson House (which was newly renovated), was massive. Easily the biggest we stayed in. It was also cold and comfortable with a hammock out front. 9.5 out of 10 points.
Common Areas/Amenities: My favorite part about Pesca Maya is the property. It’s situated on a private stretch of beach that’s absolutely spectacular. Crashing waves, sandy beach – it’s a paradise. Sure, they don’t have a hot tub, or a pool, but who needs it? It’s one of the best spots in the region. The dining room/fly shop was a little dated, so it lost a few points because of that. 8.5 out of 10 points.
Fishing: Let me start by saying that we had unbelievable fishing at every lodge. The nature of Punta Allen and Ascension Bay is that, above all, your guide is going to decide whether you’re catching permit or not… and every lodge has guides that are good. I’m just not sure Pesca Maya has guides that are great. 17 out of 20 points.
Price & Inclusions:
The Charts and Champion(s)
After reading the shootout, you probably could've guessed which lodge(s) came out on top. Truth is, Grand Slam and La Pescadora are the best all-around operations on Ascension Bay. That being said, if you're someone who wants a value-packed package with a fishing-first, Permit-at-all-costs mentality, the Palometa Club is a better fit. Happy traveling! And don't forget to book your next trip to Mexico with Trident Travel.
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