Chasing Baja

An Adventure of a Lifetime

Baja Mexico fishing road trip adventure camp aerialEveryone has their own idea of what Baja means to them. Some think of the iconic desert race The Baja 1000. Others think of the world renowned beach camping. Some simply think of the myriad of surf destinations. Jacque Cousteau publicized and romanticized the splendor of the Sea of Cortez for the world to see. John Steinbeck immortalized Baja through the written word. For us, after traveling thousands of kilometers, rumbling down seemingly endless desert roads and camping at a myriad of amazing beaches I can safely say Baja represents all of those things and so much more! The local people are kind, gracious and humble. The food is incredibly delicious. And, as compared to the overfished waters up north, the fishing in Baja is fantastic.

A One-of-a-Kind Peninsula

Baja Mexico fishing road trip adventure mapBaja stretches 760 miles from Mexicali to Cabo and has over 2000 miles of coastline. It’s a peninsula unlike any other! If the extent of your knowledge of this place is from stepping off a cruise ship and into a Señior Frogs gringo bar, then you’re missing out big time! There is a super rich culture and heritage unique by its isolated geographic location and harsh environment. The people live off the land and the sea here (and what comes in by truck or by barge). Made up of two Mexican states (Baja California and Baja California Sur), it is approximately 760 miles long ( from Mexicali in the north to Cabo San Lucas in the South. It spans 143 miles wide at its widest point and just over 28 miles wide at its narrowest (near La Paz). Its coastline is approx. 2,038 miles long, taking into consideration all of the bays, inlets, islands, and lagoons. And, the desert terrain is powerful and imposing!

An abundance of wildlife calls this unique place “home”. There are coyotes, whales, rattlesnakes, bobcats, sea lions, mountain lions and ospreys, just to name a few. However, the myriad of fish are what we came for…

Traversing Baja

If you’ve ever driven down through mainland Mexico, you know what “white-knuckle driving” is all about! It’s a cornucopia of baches or pot holes (they’ll swallow your car), oversized topes or speed bumps (that’ll destroy your suspension), commercial trucks (they’re a dime a dozen), road closures, unexpected detours, mid-road fruit vendors, dogs that love to sleep in the middle of the road, etc, etc. Baja is not that! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how nice the main thoroughfares are. To truly understand this current infrastructure, we must harken back to the early days… and I mean early.

Beginning in the late 1600s, missions were established throughout the peninsula. Don’t get me started on the horrors the Spanish brought upon the native people of Baja. That’s a whole other discussion. These missions extended up to San Diego and beyond. To connect them, a very rudimentary overland corridor was established. These cumbersome mule trails were strategic for the movement of not only people, but livestock, plant propagating materials, tools, and church furniture, etc. Those who have truly experienced Baja know how strong the north winds can be. The ocean currents can be severe as well. Hence, this overland route was regarded as a better option than the one by sea.

The Gold Rush of the mid 1800s upped the anti. As gold, silver and copper mines were established, a better infrastructure in the form of wagon roads was developed. The early 1900s saw more and more ranches and farms. The infrastructure continued to grow, but was still perilous to traverse.

Paved road construction began around 1921 in the Southern Territory of Baja. A few years later, General and ex-President Abelardo Rodriguez constructed the first paved road from Tijuana to Ensenada. Eventually a completed, yet irregular and mostly unpaved, route from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas was in place for trucks or well equipped field vehicles. It wasn’t until after WWII that tourists started to attempt the journey. By 1973, the unpaved portions were graded and paved. Except for some minor realignments and adjustments, this became the highway that we know and love today. Keep in mind, this is the quick, down and dirty version fo the history. For a more detailed history click here.

From our experience, yes the highways are well maintained as compared to their mainland Mexico counterparts. But, once you stray off the beaten path, make sure you have, at the very least, all wheel drive and some decent clearance. Side roads can be very rocky and irregular. Arroyos wash out portions annually. Soft sand can bury your wheels. Releasing air from your tires helps. Here’s a short list of essential recovery gear that we brought:


Baja Mexico Fish Bum Guide to Road Tripping Baja

If you’re looking for a much more comprehensive and detailed list of info on Baja road trip essentials, check out our article A Fish Bum Gear Guide for Road Tripping Baja Mexico. We talk about how to keep your devices charged, how to stay safe on the road, what supplemental gear you’ll want at your campsite, etc.

Baja Camping

The idyllic gringo image of Baja camping: pristine beaches, perfect weather, fish everywhere, rainbows, unicorns… and no other humans. You may find this, but only if you choose to grind out 40 miles on a gnarly road far from any town… while on hallucinogenics. Don’t get me wrong, camping in Baja is incredible. Just be ready for potential crowds at the easier-to-get-to spots. For example, the coast just north of Loreto and south of Mulegé in BCS is gorgeous. Reminds me of the Mediterranean coast with winding roads, cliffs, calm water, cove after cove, tiny islands off shore, etc. Problem is, the camp spots are right off the main thoroughfare running through Baja. That means loud trucks, lots of RV’s and nasty outhouses. But, you’ll meet some amazing folks getting after it in life! Now, if you prefer the quieter option, be ready to head off-the-beaten path. One of the beauties of Baja is that there’s lots of coastline and lots of beaches. And, most of the time no one will bother you.

Baja Mexico fishing road trip adventure camping aerialCampgrounds: As you’re driving you’ll see the tattered signs pointing you to the camping. They definitely cater to the gringos down there. Simply show up, park and someone may or may not come by to collect pesos (no cc’s). Expect to pay around $10USD per night. Some sites charge that amount per person, some per vehicle. The amenities you might find at one of these sites are: hot shower, bathroom, palapa, table, fire pit.

Wild camping: this is our preferred method. It’s not only free, it’s your best bet for finding that camping Shangri-La. As long as you’re not on private property, it’s acceptable to camp most places. If you’re not sure if it’s private and you’re near someone’s home, it’s a good idea to just ask them if it’s ok to camp there. You’ll probably get the “thumbs up” either way. The wild camping option is really only doable if you’re ready to put your rig to the test. The highways in Baja are in fairly good condition, surprisingly. Probably because they’re relatively new as compared to the highways running down mainland Mexico. When you’re off the highways, it’s a different story. Be ready to get stuck in soft sand and puncture a tire on sharp rocks. Click here for more information on what to bring for a true road trip in Baja.

Bottom line: be ready to get stuck and expect lots of flies, high winds and coyotes. Oh, and don’t forget to introduce yourself to your neighbors if you have them. You’d be surprised at how cool people are down in Baja!

The Fishing

Baja Mexico fishing road trip adventure huge broomtail grouperYou’re probably wondering about the fishing. This is a fishing website, sort of. In terms of fishing potential, the biggest reason we chose Baja for our big 2022 trip was the great variety up and down the peninsula from Pacific coast to Sea of Cortez. There are a ton of different species. Among the fish we caught were grouper, sierra, jacks, corvina, bass, triggerfish, snapper and halibut. It’s amazing to go out on the water on any given day and not know what you’re going to get into. We did have high hopes of encountering snook and roosterfish and, in general, our seasonal timing was pretty good for getting a chance at landing one of these prize fighters. Problem is if you only have a limited time at the hot spots (we were on a road trip), the odds of getting some decent casts to these fish are very low. We didn’t find the snook. The challenge is that they basically only make a brief stop during the month of November in Baja and they’re pretty specific as far as location. They tend to target protected estuaries with mangroves along the Pacific coast. We did land a couple juvenile roosterfish, but never saw the BIG boys. Again, our odds would’ve increased dramatically if we had had more time along the accessible Sea of Cortez coastlines where they buzz the shore for baitfish. The best times for big roosters are March through May and September through October.

Baja Mexico fishing road trip adventure corvinaIf you’re doing a fishing road trip down the Baja peninsula, you’re going to want to be prepared for the wide variety of environments, conditions and fish. We brought fly fishing gear as well as spin fishing gear. Fly fishing has been our bread and butter over the years. It’s truly a passion. But, there are many locations in Baja where fly casts aren’t the best option. The winds can be fierce and fish hidden. Rare is the opportunity to sight cast to fish in Baja. Hucking a massive lure is often your best bet.

*Note: fishing supplies are only available in the larger towns in Baja, and there aren’t many of those. When you do find a Mexican tackle shop, it’ll more than likely be more expensive than you anticipated. Generally, prices are akin to Bass Pro Shops in the US. Bottom line: do your do-diligence and gear up prior to your trip… then double it. Trust me, nothing is more aggravating than being on the bite of your life and running out of the gear you need. For Baja, it’s best to bring a variety of rods and tackle for a variety of conditions, depths, fisheries and species. Here are a few specifics on what worked for us:

In order of appearance: corvina, broomtail grouper, spotted bay bass, sierra, gray trigger fish, jack crevalle, California halibut

Fly Fishing

We brought 10, 11 and 12 weight rods with corresponding salt water reels and 15, 20 and 25 lb leader. A couple of our go-to flies in order of success

  • Clouser Minnow (#2 in white, chartreuse+white, red+white)
  • EP Baitfish (white, olive+white)
  • Pearl Popper (green, yellow)

Spin Fishing

Baja requires a full arsenal when it comes to fishing. Along with fly gear, we brought salt water rigs with beefy spin reels and 25-40 lb test depending on the specific waters. Spin fishing is a fairly new addition to our adventures. It became our go-to for many of the locations. A few of our go-to lures:

  • weighted paddle tail swim baits (5″ – white, pink)
  • Swim Shad soft baits (5″ – pearl/spot, chartreuse/clear)
  • Diving Minnow (2 oz – light colors, stripes)
  • Crocodile Spoon (3 oz)
  • Kastmaster Spoon (2 oz – chrome/neon blue)

Essential Gear

Gear for the Water and the Campsite

Our Baja rigs: A Toyota Highlander AWD and a Ford F150 FWD with popup cab-over camper. Each was crammed with emergency gear, inflatable kayaks, packrafts, SUP boards, 12V batteries, solar panels, cookware, camp gear, etc, etc. Details below:

Outboard Motors & Camp Gear

by Bixpy

We can’t say enough about Bixpy’s products. To harness power in these remote locations via their solar panels and battery kits makes filming our multi-day trips actually possible! Their adapters are perfect for our variety of boats, ie. stand up paddle boards and kayaks. And, to be able to easily inflate our boats with their 12V outdoor power bank is huge!

Kayaks, SUP Boards and Packrafts

Packlite+ Packraft (left)

Designed using Drop-stitch Technology for enhanced rigidity, performance, and stand-up capability; the modular Packlite+ features loads of d-rings plus Tizip air-tight cargo access for gear stowage, a comfortable seat, a backpack carry bag, and a pump.

StraitEdge Angler Pro (right)

With a wide beam and Drop-stitch floor technology, you can feel confident standing up or bringing in big catches. Multi-layer material and multiple air chambers provide maximum durability for aggressive conditions. Its revolutionary Accessory Frame System offers a variety of easy access options. By adding aftermarket 1” rail-mounts you can customize your kayak with rod holders, a fish finder, or other equipment. Its AirFrame PRO™ seat with mesh paneling provides real support and comfort on long days.

Summer Shower

To have a hot, fresh water shower waiting for you after a salty day on the water is epic! Nuff said!

Advanced Elements kayaks are the toughest inflatable kayaks we’ve ever used! And, we put our kayaks to the test on every remote trip we take. There’s a reason we’ve been collaborating with them through the years on just about every trip we take. Their boats take a major beating on our adventures. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’ve never had to patch any of my Advanced Elements inflatable kayaks! Check out the ones we took on our trip down to Baja:


Product Details

Heron Inflatable Pontoon Paddle Board

by Bird Island Outfitters

With durable supplemental pontoons complimenting the ultra sturdy drop stitch floor, the Heron Inflatable Pontoon Paddle Board is the most stable SUP board on the market today. Its sturdiness really makes it easy for us to stand and sight cast to surfacing fish. Game changer! Also, it’s a 2-in-1 board. When the wind picks up, have a seat, adjust the paddle and voila – you’re kayaking! This feature has been a blessing many times on extended expeditions for us.

The HERON measures in at under 10 feet long making it less cumbersome than other boards out there. And, it has a weight capacity of 350 lb. That means we can maximize gear and maybe bring a furry friend along! Bottom line, this paddle board is rad and absolutely perfect for our expeditions!

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Includes these accessories:

Road Trip Essentials

“A Fish Bum’s Gear Guide for Road Tripping in Baja”

Read about essential travel gear on our blog, The Drift

Read the Article

Baja T-Shirt Designs

Heck Yeah!

Useful Resources

Our Fishing Bible

This was our Bible! Sure, lots of the information is out-dated. Fisheries change for a variety of reasons. But, it really gave us a head start at spots all around the peninsula which is nice when you don’t have a ton of time to fully scope out a fishery before you need to be on to the next one. The Baja Catch is remarkably comprehensive. The amount of time and dedication it must’ve taken to gain the intricate knowledge of each region is absolutely impressive. We’ve been to a lot of fishing destinations around the world and have never come across a book with this much info about one region. Kudos to Neil Kelly and Gene Kira for writing an amazing fishing book!

Online Travel Resource

Baja Mexico Fish Bum Guide to Road Tripping Baja Discover Baja Travel Club

If you’re traveling the length of the Baja peninsula, is a fantastic tool for you prior to your trip. They’re sort of a one-stop-shop. They offer Mexican auto insurance at reasonable prices. If you’re a member (recommended) you’ll receive discounts on hotels, restaurants, camping sites and RV parks. They also have great info on fishing licenses, boat insurance, maps, books, etc.. Plus, they are the only source in the U.S. for pre-paid FMM tourist permits which is mandatory upon entry to Mexico.

Our Latin American Spanish Bible

This book is a must on your road trip. It’s well written, easy to understand and super relevant for your experience in Baja! To be honest, we’ve been traveling to destinations in Latin America for over 10 years now. This book has helped us everywhere. Like many of you out there, you learned traditional Spanish, ie. “Spain” Spanish. You’d be surprised at how different the language is south of the border as opposed to in Spain. This will be your Bible. Peace be with you. Click here to check it out.

Connect to the World

Starlink is glorious. This is the first trip we’ve been able to get online while being in remote locations. We were able update our social media and website while out in the middle of nowhere. We use the term “game changer” quite a bit. It might not be more relevant than right here with Starlink. Basically, it works like this: the solar panels charge the 12V batteries… the 12V batteries charge the laptops/camera equipment… and power up the Starlink router and dish. Click the logo for more info.

Regional History

For you history buffs out there, the Library of Congress has a great online collection of the history of California and Baja. Click here to check it out.

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