The 2019 Los Cabos Offshore (LCO) Tournament provided an exciting preamble to the 39th Bisbee’s Black and Blue, which presented a change in the concept of Baja sportfishing. The B & B Tournament’s phenomenal historic rise from a mere $10K event with six boats competing, to the 2019 extravaganza hosting 126 teams with 862 anglers from the United States and other countries competing for an astounding $4,584,450 – the largest payout in the history of the sportfishing event.
Puerto Paraiso’s Malecón was a beehive of activity early Tuesday morning as workers and staff put the finishing touches on the huge scale to accommodate monster-sized fish at the weigh station, while technicians hooked up Wi-Fi and others carefully positioned and adjusted TV cameras so they could livestream the action during the 2- to 9-p.m. excitement to millions of viewers around the world.
In the Los Cabos Yacht Club, the registration area was located inside. Outside, Pelagic, Explorer Satellite Communications, Marine Art, trophies, Pacifico, Seakeeper, Cabo Unico, along with many others, set up their displays.
Los Cabos Yacht Club was a welcome addition this year; it allowed the teams to relax in the air-conditioned converted room as they were processed quickly.
Natalie Radzwilla of Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund was on hand with a table displaying 11 live auction items ranging from a Free Entry to 2020’s 40th Black and Blue Tournament to the Wide Open Baja Racing experience that would be offered during the gala awards banquet held Saturday at the Cruise Ship Pier; raffle items were also displayed on her table along with the evening entertainment, Cabo Max’s Benefit concert, hosted by Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund. The concert, raffle, and silent auction benefited the Green Scholarship Program and BF&WCF Revolutionary RFID Tagging Program.
Throughout the afternoon, the veteran competitors mingled, discussing their LCO days on the water as well as their results. Prior veterans and big money winners Larry Warlaumont and Martha Macnab, who scored two releases in the last tournament, were optimistic that they would hook a qualifier or two over the next three days.
The afternoon passed quickly as the Cabo Max’s Band entertained, and as the crowd grew, there was even impromptu dancing as everyone eagerly waited for the Captains Meeting to get underway. Finally, the meeting occurred, followed by entertainment provided by CoCo Bongo, then by the lighting of the torch that burst throughout the event before a dazzling array of fireworks.
Day 1 began with two spectator boats accommodating the families, guests, and observers who were eager to get up early to watch the flare gun start of the event on the lead boats. Cabo Wave, loaded with dignitaries, staff, press, and others, was followed by the second boat, also filled with those excited to watch the start of the competition for $4.5 million – the largest sportfishing tournament purse in Cabo.
Soon the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown echoed from the marine VHF radio signaling the start as the flare propelled skyward.
Spectators whistled and cheered, boats roared, and 126 teams sped toward their favorite fishing spot. Most of them headed up into the Sea of Cortez as opposed to the Pacific side that appeared to be the choice of about 30% of the teams.
Chupacabra angler Augustine Jimenez boated his blue marlin at 1:28 p.m. Then Sneak Attack reported that it had taken angler Chip Wagner 43 minutes to land a black marlin rounding out the mid-day bite at 1:52 p.m.
The last fish of the day was caught after a remarkable 13-minute fight by Paul Beaullieu aboard the Wild Hooker and boated at 4:38 p.m.
The first qualifying fish of the tournament to reach the scales was Team Chupacabra from California and Las Vegas with a 354-pound blue marlin. Much to the delight of the team, they were in across the board – meaning that if their fish remained the heaviest, they would win about $1.3 million.
The next fish to the scale was Chip Wagner’s black marlin caught aboard the Sneak Attack. His team was also in across the board, and his black marlin needed to weigh more than 354-pounds to be in line for the $1+ million jackpot. As the fish was hoisted, their captain, Vicente Bojorquez, a local boy born and raised in Cabo, held his breath and closed his eyes. Jack Teschel, the Weigh Master, waited for the scale to settle before barking out the discouraging news for one team and joyful news for the other … 332 pounds!
The final fish of the evening was a black marlin caught by Paul Beaullieu aboard the Wild Hooker. It was easy to see that the monster black was going to be the fish of the day and win the dailies for Day 1.
Their black marlin weighed 466-pounds. Once Teschel confirmed the weight, Bisbee announced that Wild Hooker’s was the final fish of the day, worth $1.36 million. Amid loud cheering and high-fives, the team needed no coaxing for smiles for their photo.
They were a team of skilled captains and anglers: Paul Beaullieu, Lafayette, Louisiana; Danny Hogan, Houston, Texas; Mark Schubert, Kona, Hawaii; Shane O’Brian, Kona, Hawaii; Charlie Bowman, Terre Haute, Indiana; Randy Baker, Destin, Florida; Guy Harrington, Houston, Texas; and owner Allen Stuart, Lafayette, Louisiana.
Day Two began for Team Stella June and angler Jazz Moorhead. First thing, after a productive bait-catching morning, they put one of the baits on a downrigger. While Moorhead still held the line, it was snatched out of his hand and came taut on the rod tip. Fish on!
Frantically, the captain hailed Tournament Control to report hookup; before there was a response, a 100-pound giant grouper floated to the surface. Whatta start!
Several hours later, line sizzled off the reel, and when the black marlin surfaced and leaped across the water, the team was sure it was a qualifier, and they had it on board about an hour later.
The tricked-out, four outboard-powered skiff sped to the weigh station, and the crowd grew as the black marlin was hoisted to the scales; Teschel did a double-take when the scale settled at 466-pounds. That was the exact weight of Marlin Hooker’s fish on the first day. And, when the crew measured it, the dimensions were identical to the one the previous day. No one could remember this ever happening before in any of the Bisbee Tournaments.
“We really had a good feeling this morning; we put 110% into this fish. It was one of the most exciting days of fishing in my entire life,” team member Ryan Griffen chuckled.
Throughout the day, the staff climbed atop the scale frame – flinging Mardi Gras beads to the spectators assembled below, doing their best to keep the crowd happy until each fish arrived.
It was followed by Team Travesia aboard Knot Working, a 35-foot Cabo Express with a 370-pound blue marlin that Juan Antonio Torreblanca had landed in 35 minutes.
Guadalajara-based team Los Tapatios arrived with a larger black marlin that tipped the scale at 387-pounds; it had taken Francisco Loeza two hours and one minute to land.
Hooray, a 68-foot Viking owned by Erik Dunn, arrived representing both North and South Carolina. Carmine Galati, of Galati Yacht Sales, recently opened an office in Cabo San Lucas with Tracy Ehrenberg. Breathlessly, team members, family, and friends watched as Teschel paused, then shouted, “309-POUNDS,” confirming that the fish was a qualifier … “Hooray for Hooray.”
When asked, Dunn bellowed, “You bet we are excited! I’ve been a lot of places and caught a lot of fish, but nowhere compares to Baja! How awesome it was today to be fighting this great fish while we sipped tequila and were close enough to look at the sandy beach.”
He continued, “Watching how we worked and how calm we were. It’s all teamwork from Captain Pancho on down – everybody doing the right thing. Everybody was trying hard. Our team is an extended family, and I can’t say enough about Galati and their help building us world-class fishing machines!”
Smiling, Dunn continued, “They are a big part of our success. I’m telling you, when you get involved in something like boating and sportfishing, you must go through the process to achieve greatness. They help us get the boats, win the tournaments, and then he fishes with me as part of my family.”
“Good things happen to good people …”
Also riding along was Captain Steve Lassley of Bad Company fame, who is now a representative of Galati Yachts in Los Cabos.
The final visitor to the scales was Team True Grit, a 68-foot Hatteras owned by Jim Putman, skippered by Captain Tommy Neikirk and other team members from Hawaii and California. Putnam was also the angler who caught the 498-pound black marlin, taking nearly 2-1/2 hours to subdue.
When asked, Putman credited Captain Neikirk with introducing him to the world of sportfishing tournaments during the past three years. He added that he was amazed at the progress they had made during those years.
The largest black of the Black & Blue thus far was pulled up to be weighed, and the crowd erupted when the final weight was announced – 498-POUNDS. Tournament Director Wayne Bisbee announced that the team was in across the board, assuring them a payout of approximately $1.3 million.
The sun rose on the third and final day. Excitement filled the air as anglers waited for their last opportunity to beat the odds and become the third team to collect a winning check that would exceed the bewitching $1 million mark.
Conditions looked better than they had in the preceding days, and Bisbee gave the final update before the flare gun start. He confirmed that the last day’s jackpot was approximately $1.3 million.
Over the past two days, there had been enough billfish to keep things interesting; however, there had been a problem of finding qualifiers (fish weighing a minimum of 300-pounds) to bring to the scale.
Once again, the bulk of the fleet headed north up into the Sea of Cortez, where most of the action had taken place. Less than an hour after the flare streaked across the sky, the first billfish of the day was released. That seemed to be a good omen.
Aboard Tranquilo, owner Ken Cofer started the team’s day off with a sailfish release. Although not the right kind of fish, it was an encouraging sign of things to come.
On they, trolled for the next hour or so in search of the “big one.” And then they had a “be careful what you wish for” moment – a double hookup for anglers Amanda Cofer and Bill Pino. This time it was the right kind!
Pino’s blue marlin was huge; it greyhounded across the calm Sea of Cortez as Amanda’s smaller marlin thrashed about closer to the boat. Pino later recalled, “It was a double-header! My heart was pumping, and the adrenaline was coursing through my body. Should we back off on the big one and release the small one as quickly as possible? Or should we fight both equally? Maybe we should horse Amanda’s in, while mine was out there jumping around? I was getting nervous, but Captain Victor Julio knew what he was doing and was calm throughout the fight.”
Amanda released her fish in a mere five minutes allowing the entire team’s attention to turn to Pino and his enormous blue marlin. Superior boat handling, along with a skilled angler, was too much for the monster blue that was boated in 44-minutes.
The Tranquilo team, from Costa Rica, was a loud, raucous bunch as they escorted their fish to the scale and presented their catch to the astonished Bisbee.
“If we are going to have a first fish of the day, this is a good one to have,” Bisbee observed. “As I recall, you had the biggest fish a few years back in 2015 when you won $2.5 million for a Third Place finish!”
When the mammoth blue was hoisted high enough to be weighed, Teschel confirmed the weight: “577-POUNDS — the heaviest fish of the tournament so far!”
Pino commented, “We have fished the Bisbee’s, the LCB, LCO, and BB – three Tournaments. Captain Victor said we had a shot at the big one yesterday, and we caught this one right where we had ‘the shot!’”
Team Pocket Aces angler Mark Hinkle brought in the last fish of the day – actually, the last fish of the tournament – to the scale. Unfortunately for them, the fish failed to qualify by a mere 13-pounds. “A real heartbreaker,” Bisbee observed. “You can’t eyeball that small of a difference.”
Team member Steve Hasashi added dejectedly, “We had one a couple of years ago at East Cape Offshore that was only two pounds short – 298-pounds.” Continuing, “We will be back!
Then with a smile, he added, “The Bisbee family does a great job! These tournaments are the best.”
And they have, though it’s not always just about the tournament; the Bisbee family and staff have done an excellent job of making sure that the fish that make it to the scale are not wasted.
Although many marlin were caught and released, only 20 were weighed and harvested. Thankfully, thousands of people will be fed from those marlin – calculations are 17,500 meals! The team of volunteers who helped process, package, and deliver the fish to those in need was praised for their efforts.
“Hope for Los Cabos would like to thank Wayne and Tricia Bisbee for giving us the honor of delivering the entire tournament fish to so many in our city in need! Everyone is grateful to receive the fish!” –Jen Limpert
A Hurricane Odile Film crew was working on a story about a team of local orphans and their caregiver – none of whom had ever fished before – who caught a 385-pound blue marlin on Oct. 26, 2014 and won the Bisbee’s Black & Blue Fishing Tournament in Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S., Mexico.
Although Team Casa Hogar was awarded $258,325 in prize money for the accomplishment, the team did not split up the cash for each member to enjoy. According to a news release, the entire sum went to Casa Hogar to provide shelter, food, and educational opportunities to the underprivileged in Cabo San Lucas. The complete story here
So, $1.3+ million in three consecutive days to three anglers – a new record for Bisbee Tournament and an astounding $4,584,450 – the largest payout in the history of the Black & Blue. More than 1,000 people are celebrating Bob Bisbee’s family and extended family’s success story this year, all of whom are counting the days until they come together again in 2020 to continue his legacy on the 40th Anniversary of the Black & Blue!
There was a remarkable demonstration of support by 855 anglers and their guests for the Bisbee Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund’s third annual charity event, Oct. 26, 2019.
Established nearly eight years ago to benefit projects that were the heart of the organization, the charity affair preceded the awards ceremony for the 39th Bisbee Black & Blue Tournament.
The epic happening was held on the cruise ship pier in the IGY Marina, where Baja Cantina, the main sponsor, provided dinner. The Bisbee Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund’s program, a unique mix of the raffle, live auction, entertainment, and a top-tier firework show, was included in the distribution of $4,584,450 along with custom-designed Marine Art and Trophies to various category winners of the three-day fishing tournament.
The charity auction and raffle program was created and implemented by Bisbee’s fundraising manager, Natalie Radzwilla, who is also the co-owner of New World Public Relations, and her executive assistant, Crystal LaFosse. With the help of auctioneering veteran Andy Dunning of Dallas Car Sharks, they raised close to $200,000, bringing the three-year total attained by the annual event to more than $500,000 for the Bisbee’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund and its beneficiaries.
The live auction items included:
Eleven auction items ranging from a 1/5 Cabo Unico Tequila chance for a free entry into the 40th Black & Blue to Wide-Open Baja Racing Experience, plus many more from donors listed below:
East Cape & Hotel Buena Vista, DaggaBoy Safaris, Larry Rackley Art, Wide Open Baja, Kona Hawaii package donated by the Wild Hooker Team, Chupacabra Charters, Los Gringos Charters, Montage Los Cabos, Hilton Los Cabos, Posada Real Hotel, Luxury Avenue, Breathless Hotel, Release Marine, Reliable Fishing Products, Hook & Barrel Magazine, Burgos Transportation, Pelagic, Stetson, Sportsman Box, Mold Craft Lures, and Baja Cantina.
Attendees bid generously and aggressively in addition to purchasing raffle ticket booklets galore for a chance to win over $50,000 worth of donated items.
The Bisbee’s Conservation Fund, partners with the Green Scholarship Program and La Paz University, awards four-year marine biology scholarships to selected students who are financially challenged, yet have excelled in their studies and have demonstrated a passion for higher education.
Wayne Bisbee stated, in part, “… We are thrilled about this great opportunity to financially assist students who, due to their economic circumstances, had virtually no chance for obtaining a higher education degree, launching careers that will allow them to protect the marine resources, which are part of the sport fishing fabric of Baja. We are gratified with the results thus far and want to continue to substantially increase the number of scholarships awarded to cover tuition expenses in the future.” He added that the current class of 12 would graduate in 2020.
Three top teams in the Costa Release Division received their awards and checks:
El Suertudo 1500 pts $69,615
Chupacabra 1500 pts $24,097.50
Quiteña 1500 pts $13,387.50
Then, local dignitaries who assisted with the distribution of Marine Art and Trophies along with the winning checks were introduced.
Wild Hooker 466-pound black marlin $1,751,462.50
Tranquilo 577-pound blue marlin $1,411,375
True Grit 498-pound black marlin $1,296,062.50
Stella June 466-pound black marlin $11,070
Los Tapatios 387-pound black marlin $7,380
With the distribution of the winnings, Bisbee closed the evening’s festivities by congratulating all the winners and thanking all the teams for participating in the 2019 Bisbee Tournaments.
He reminded everyone that the 40th Black and Blue Anniversary Tournament will be a special celebration – which should not be missed.