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Baja Sur Tournament Series Celebrates Sportfishing

The Copa Campeones Calisureños Baja Tournaments – a grande mouthful for sure – are the catalyst that encourages sportfishing at a grass roots level by hosting a series of local Baja Sur tournaments in five municipalities annually: Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, La Paz, Loreto, El Cardonal, Buena Vista, Punta Chivato, Bahia Ascension, Punta Abreojos, Todos Santos, and others.

Baja Sur Tournament Series are community affairs, they involve most of the local and state government officials as well as resident anglers and their families. Visiting anglers who choose to participate are welcomed as well. Entry fees are either small or non-existent; visitors and locals are encouraged to fish in these government-sponsored events,

which seem more like fiestas than tournaments.

Each August, the winners of each of these separate events, is invited to compete in the GRAND FINAL held in the picturesque town of Loreto.

Gonzalo Alamea Camacho, coordinator of the SEPADA series; Luis Andrés Córdova Urrutia, State Secretary of SEPADA; Luis Antonio Garcia Rodríguez, director of FONMAR; along with Cesar Angulo and an army of volunteers are constantly fine-tuning the tournaments.

Over the past few years, the popular series has established itself as a “must-attend” family tournament series in Baja – not only drawing residents of communities where they are held, but also drawing a growing number of anglers from mainland Mexico and beyond.

While most tournaments in Baja have a “cause”, these simply celebrate sportfishing in the individual communities – people of all ages who share a common passion for the sport – of course, merged with the challenge and rewards of winning a variety of prizes which include outboard motors, tackle and cash; in addition, the “Grand Champion Team” for the entire series is awarded an entry in one of the Bisbee Tournaments in East Cape or Cabo San Lucas to compete for large sums of money.

The Bisbee Black and Blue was spawned decades ago, earning Baja Sur and Cabo San Lucas the recognition and admiration of the international sportfishing community.

“One of last year’s similar events Baja Norte’s La Pesca Baja teams, which won an entry to Los Cabos Offshore Tournament, actually won $121,830,” Wayne Bisbee noted recently. “We are delighted to have Baja Sur’s remarkable series supporting sportfishing throughout the region.”

The numbers of participants and spectators has grown each year as has the enthusiasm for the event. It manages to blend local and visiting anglers into a unique celebration of sportfishing in towns and villages throughout Baja Sur where the “Cup of Champions” thrive.

Total immersion comes in many shapes. I’ve spoken with fishermen from outside Baja over the years who delight in the chance to share their passion for fishing with local anglers – in many cases creating lasting bonds of friendship during these events that have allowed them an introduction to Baja’s rich family and fishing culture.

What’s not to like? A competitive event wrapped in a fiesta is a proven formula attractive to anglers.

All the scheduled events are organized affairs with enough expected components mixed with local flair. The rules, schedules, places of registration of participants, meetings of captains, time of departure and arrival of boats, weighing of species and awards of the tournaments are established by local conditions and facilities.

Teams often arrive to see a huge cerveza (beer) inflatable; their arrival is equally entertaining as many display their own custom t-shirts, looking a lot like the competitors on a Bass-Pro circuit.

Laughter serves as the universal language when Spanish collides with English as the steady stream of participants line up to register. Veterans call out greetings to one another and welcome newcomers as they size up the competition, while music blares from the loudspeakers with the performance of local talents throughout the afternoon as more and more teams filter in.

The festive atmosphere is enhanced as friends and family serve lunch and snacks that they have brought from home or purchased from local entrepreneurs. Local students often provide entertainment, as do local musicians.

Boats are as varied as the hometowns of the teams … trailer boats, traditional pangas, tricked-out center consoles, as well as a few with three huge outboards adorning the transoms.

Participating teams gather for the traditional flare gun start, possibly replaced by a portable air horn, or a yell if all else fails.

The fishing day ends with the weigh-in, as a large crowd of spectators cheer on their favorite teams and kibitz about the size and variety of the catches.

Afterward, there follows an awards ceremony and usually a dinner ranging from pot luck including the day’s catch, which is donated by the teams, to an over-the-top buffet, depending on the size and location of the event.

For a fun and inexpensive way to participate in sportfishing competition in Baja, look no further. Open to everyone, these grass roots affairs are a hoot and are worth looking into! Often, it takes a long time “to know what you don’t know” when traveling into a different country, but in this case, with these festive and memorable events, you can find out in a few days.

I attended the registration at Puertos Los Cabos Marina for the “Torneo de Pesca Deportiva Fiestas Tradicionales” held March10-11 – a qualifying event for CONAPESCA’s Gran Final held every August in Loreto. It was one-day of fishing, targeting wahoo, yellowfin tuna and dorado.

Registrations at 2 p.m. with a steady stream of teams arriving to sign-up and look at the different sponsors’ products on display until the 8 p.m. close. By then, there were 39 teams, according to my good friend Clicerio Mercado, tournament coordinator.

Next morning at 7 a.m., in order to accommodate teams departing from both Puertos Los Cabos and IGY Marina at Cabo San Lucas, there were simultaneous flare-gun starts from both locations coordinated by VHF radios.

All fish were weighed at Puerto Los Cabos where the scales were opened from noon until 4 p.m. Throughout the afternoon, rumors abounded of fish landed and teams raced in to weigh their catches before the close of the scale.

Although many of the teams’ families enjoyed an opportunity to frolic on the beach in the warm Baja sun as they waited for their team to return, others couldn’t resist the chance to fish from the jetty rocks.

Saving the best for the last in the yellowfin tuna division was the weigh-in of the largest fish caught in the “Torneo de Pesca Deportiva Fiestas Tradicionales”, a 44.9-pounder by Captain Carlos Beltran Colzessus aboard the Feeling Azul.

The two heaviest fish in the other two categories were a dorado at 19.7-pounds and a wahoo at 21.3-pounds.

List of Winners
70 Torneo de Pesca Deportiva
Fiestas Tradicionales San José, 2018

Yellowfin Tuna 
1st Place $49,000 pesos
Team Name: Feeling Azul Weight: 44.2 pounds
2nd Place Pass to the Grand Final
Team Name: Alejandra
3rd Place Pass to the Grand Final
Team Name: El Anzuelo

1st Place $48,000 pesos
Team Name: Los Indecisos Weight: 19.7 pounds
2nd Place Pass to the Grand Final
Team Name: Casa Panga
3rd Place Pass to the Grand Final
Team Name: Jaqueline

1st Place $48,000 pesos
Team Name: Hook Up
Weight: 21.3 pounds

After the closing of the weigh station, a specially-prepared fish buffet of ceviche and fish tacos made from the teams’ catches was served to the anglers and their families.

Cash prizes went to the top catches in the three categories along with invitations to compete in the Gran Final next August in Loreto, BCS.
The remaining qualifying events for this season are listed below.
If you are looking for an opportunity to participate in a genuine “grassroots-style,” no frills Mexican sportfishing tournament, participate in one of the Baja Sur Tournament Series events listed. I promise you will make new friends; plus, you never know, you may win an invitation to participate in the “Gran Final” held in Loreto next August. Hope to see your team there!

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Gary Graham, the BD Outdoors Baja Editor, has more than five decades fishing experience off of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula. From light tackle and fly up to offshore marlin fishing, Gary has experienced all facets of this fishery. He's set several fly-fishing world records and in his first year as a member of the Tuna Club of Avalon, he received more angling awards than any other first-year member in the club's 109-year history. He's been involved with many California angling clubs and is the Baja California Representative for the International Game Fish Association. 
Gary's a conservationist as well as a writer and photographer. In addition to two books on saltwater fly-fishing, hundreds of his articles and photographs have appeared in publications around the world. Graham has devoted his life to finding new fisheries and developing new techniques — all of which he shares through his guiding, speaking, photography and writing.