The 2017 Bisbee Black & Blue Phenomenon began October 23 and concluded five days later with an incredible charity auction and raffle. Topped off with a concert by six rock star legends whose 1970s and ‘80s hits shaped a generation’s lives!
The Black & Blue was created 37 years ago on a bet that has carved an impressive niche in Cabo San Lucas’ rich history, growing over the years to now include the East Cape Offshore and Los Cabos Offshore.
The tournament has become an opportunity for the hundreds of teams of anglers – newcomers and veterans alike – who arrive each year to be part of a fantasy world centered on Big Fish/Big Money … competing for amounts that simply stun the senses. Described as the richest tournament on the planet, this year, 120 teams competed for more than $3.2 million dollars.
The second annual Bisbee Sponsor’s Pub Crawl has become one of the most popular events. The festive atmosphere of the Pub Crawl is infectious and crowds are caught up in the Mardi Gras-like atmosphere.
Soon, the entire gang headed to the local fire truck borrowed for the night for the hour-long “Crawl,” departing from the Baja Cantina on the Marina and stopping along the way at the Cabo Cantina, Jungle Bar, the Giggling Marlin and Cabo Blue Bar, all arranged by AmazingCaboBarCrawl.com.
With his megaphone in hand and a Mad Hatter stovepipe hat atop his head, Wayne Bisbee beckoned as many as could fit on the double-decker fire truck to climb aboard where Cabo Max was already playing their unique style of music that has become a regular treat during Bisbee Tournaments. As they rolled down the street, eager pedestrians snatched beads out of the air as they flew by.
The hour passed quickly; dusk turned to dark and the fire truck returned to its starting point. Reluctant to have the night end, the entire gang posed for one final group photo.
Tuesday registration is the official beginning of the final Bisbee tournament of the season, the 37th Annual Bisbee Black & Blue. This event primarily targets Black & Blue marlin weighing a minimum of 300-pounds to qualify. All other species, including striped marlin, sailfish and spearfish, are released with special prizes for the top release teams.
This year’s across-the-board entry was $71,500, plus the winner-take-all “Chupacabra Challenge” of $60,000, which boosts the total entry to $131,500.
The event offers entrants the possibility of becoming a member of the exclusive Bisbee Millionaire Club.
“Because of the tragic earthquakes in Mexico, and the hurricanes in Baja as well in the United States — in Texas and Florida — our entries for the Black & Blue had started off slowly this year,” Tricia Bisbee began. “However we are delighted that our final total number of teams is higher than we expected, and the prize money has actually increased,” she continued.
By the time the final team had submitted their paper work and paid their entry fees, there were 120 teams registered and the cash prizes totaled: $3,211,825.
About 7 p.m., Wayne Bisbee and Clicerio Mercado climbed up on the stage as Cabo Max finished the set, beginning the Team Meeting with an introduction to the various sponsors whose booths dotted the Malecon, recognizing the Title Sponsors: Orca, IGY Marinas, Puerto Paraiso, Los Cabos Tourism Board, Medano Hotel and Suites, Gobierno de Baja California Sur, Hotel Buena Vista, Baja Cantina, Pelagic, Nature Nate’s, and Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund.
They introduced and welcomed the local, state and federal dignitaries, noting that the agencies and governmental departments represented the groups that are instrumental for the continued success of Bisbee tournaments over the past 37 years.
Mercado then welcomed a precision military color guard that led the local citizens and guests in the Mexican national anthem after presenting the colors. This was followed by the unusual Ballet Folklórico de México that assisted in the lighting of the flame in the large Marlin Torch centerpiece which dominated the center stage and burned during the entire six days of the event.
Wednesday morning two spectator boats were provided by Wild Cabo Tours to accommodate all of the local, state and national dignitaries, plus the teams, guests and spectators who were eager to watch the exciting start as 120 teams roared off toward the horizon. They were filled to capacity with guests.
All morning – until early afternoon – the steady bite produced released fish as well as three blue and two black marlin which were boated.
First to the scale was Captain Chris Anderson of Team Rising Sun with 2017 Black & Blue tournament’s first qualifying blue marlin landed by Scott Leonard. The 392-pounder placed the team at the top of the leader-board … but only briefly.
Team member Brian Pierce acknowledged their journey had been a 16-year team effort. The last time they had even brought a fish to the scale was in 2008, but it was topped by a larger one.
“This moment has been a long time coming,” Pierce sighed. “This is the larger of the two we have weighed in.”
“Scotty was one cool dude, the team hollered and screamed at him during the battle. He just sat in the fighting chair and calmly handled his business, bringing in the fish,” Pierce grinned.
Team Chinto Bonito arrived next. Their 442-pound blue marlin secured the team a top spot on the leader board. Angler David Ahn exclaimed, “Not only is it my first-time fishing in the Bisbee but it’s also the largest fish I’ve ever caught!”
Captain Evan Salvay and deckhands Zach Zorn and Sam Long – all in their 20s – were the youngest core crew to compete in the event.
Ahn, one of the new boat owners, had met Zach Zorn through Capt. Salvay. Zorn had fished on the C-Bandit Team in 2016, one of the winners that year; the 23-year-old is a yacht broker at Kusler Yachts on Shelter Island and had sold Ahn and his partners the 40-foot, 2005 Cabo Express allowing them to compete in the richest tournament on the planet.
After Ahn and his partners purchased the boat, he offered Salvay, Zorn and Long the opportunity to compete, volunteering to fund the team the full $71,500 across-the-board.
The young trio boated the qualifying 442-pound blue marlin just three hours into the first day of the three-day tournament. At this point, they on the leader board and could possibly win somewhere around $750,000 in the dailies if no larger fish was brought in.
Unfortunately, it was ultimately displaced on points by Team Ten Brothers.
The Team Chinto Bonito’s consolation was that they are the youngest team to place (fifth place overall), in the tournament competing against world-class anglers and earning them a check in excess of $7,000.
The first black marlin of the day was brought in by Team Porque No. Team members from both Southern California and Minnesota were animated as they told how their fish had jumped … and jumped … then jumped some more! Unsure of the weight, when the official scale rope came taut and Jack Teschel hollered out the weight of 344 pounds, the team was elated.
As it turned out, the final fish of the day belonged to Team Ten Brothers from Chicago: Anthony Boratto, John Boratto, Michael Boratto, Jeff Cornett, mate Eliazar Cortez, Joe Donatoni, Joseph Donatoni, Sr., Salar Gilly, James Miller, Capt. Hiram Montano, Dave Snobl, their resident Elvis impersonator, and Jeff Kleitz.
According to the team, Gilly hooked a blue marlin first and was fighting it when a second fish, a larger marlin, came up behind the transom of the Dream Weaver. It was feeding, so Kleitz dropped back a large bridled tuna; the feeding marlin whacked it, but the monster fish greyhounded away taking a handful of jumps before sounding. Kleitz was still suffering from the blisters he had from his winning fish in the LCO the prior week, so the mate Cortez boated it.
All 10 of the Ten Brothers cheered-on the Weigh Station crew as they struggled to hoist the second fish. “Hey, we want a new Ten Brothers’ record!” laughed one as the fish slowly settled on the rope, and the Weighmaster roared out the official weight of 485 pounds!
The Brothers’ and the crowd’s responses were instantaneous and loud as the cheers echoed around the Malecon. They cheered “One-two-three! DREAM WEAVER SPORTFISHING!” as they posed for photos for both the photo pool and for the spectators with cell phones. … one weighing in at 485 pounds and the other 2-pounds under the qualifying weight, costing them penalty points.
Team members later explained, “We are Chicago boys who began fishing the Bisbee in 2005 and in 2008 met Capt. Ramon; then everything changed. We won in ’09 with Capt. Ramon and Dream Weaver and are doing it again in 2017! We are grateful to this great crew!”
Bisbee summed up the first day, “… This is about the busiest Day One we’ve ever had.
Members of the Million Dollar Club, Team Ten Brothers aren’t screwing around this week; they have their eyes on the prize in this tournament.”
He concluded, “Thursday is another day and if it’s anything like today, it will be sensational! And just as a reminder, all of the fish caught today are going to the Hope for Los Cabos to feed the Cabo kids.”
On the second day
“Our morning was slow getting started, but when it began, it stayed pretty steady all day,” Jill Christiansen from Catch Stat Live Scoring observed. “The final hookup of the day was just before ‘lines-out’ at 5 p.m.”
Mark Hinkle, a long-time tournament participant, aboard his Pocket Aces, was first in line with a black marlin weighing 421-pounds. When asked where he caught his black, he laughed. “It’s no secret … in the middle of the fleet, where many were fishing.”
Next in was Go Deeper 60 with another black marlin — another “about an hour” fish. Ben Vincent, the angler with one point per pound, added 367 points to Team Go Deeper 60’s score. Looking at his watch, he decided that they were going back out for another hour’s fishing since the fish were within a 10-mile radius of the IGY Marina.
The qualifier parade continued as Team Liquid Assets arrived with the day’s first blue marlin.
Angler Benito Liera had hooked her 363-pounder late morning and boated it just before noon.
Team Galati, fishing on an 80-foot Viking with angler Carmine Galati, brought in the day’s second blue marlin. This one tipped the scales at 355-pounds and took 46 minutes to boat.
A teammate praised Galati saying he had done everything right in the chair and the fish had cooperated … well sort of. According to Carmine, they had it to the leader eight times before it was gaffed!
The Chupacabra team arrived well after sunset. Owner Blake Stamper of Scottsdale, Ariz., had landed a blue marlin early in the day that weighed 326-pounds.
Stamper laughed, “This one was boring. The second one was a blast! My 84-years young friend, Don Logue, from Payson, Ariz., hooked him seconds before lines-out was announced, and man, did he put the heat to it!”
Capt. Hensley boasted, “It was one hell of a day; the boss catches a fish along with his 84-year-old buddy who catches his own; it doesn’t get much better than that.”
“Seven qualifiers in one day alone is electrifying; two on one boat and two different species is unusual, plus a last-minute hookup sure made the hump day of the richest tournament on the planet one for the books!” Bisbee marveled.
On the final day, the first to arrive to the scale was angler Yuki Takagi who traveled all the way from Japan representing Team Takagi 72 aboard Go Deeper with the first black marlin, however, it failed to qualify as it was seven pounds light of the minimum weight! Although disappointed, he was pleased to hear the fish would be cleaned, filleted and distributed by Hope for Los Cabos.
Team Tiliches followed Takagi with the first blue marlin qualifier of the day.
Caught by a newcomer to the event, Vidal Garcia Luna, from Puerto Vallarta who was astonished at how close he was to the IGY Marina when he hooked his 325-pounder near Cabo Falso.
After lines-out, Bobby Patton of Team Fastball, submitted his team’s videos of their four releases to David Garcia of Catch Stat.
Patton, a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, acknowledged that he had missed fishing the tournament on Wednesday, arriving in Cabo mid-afternoon on Thursday because he was watching a World Series game; they lost 7-6 in extra innings.
Team member Chip Wagner had released a blue marlin on each of the first two days;
Patton released a black and Mike Jones released a blue on the final day to secure the top spot on the leader board, a team effort that Patton hoped his Dodgers would duplicate with a “come from behind” Series win … as we all know, it wasn’t meant to be.
Danny Hogan, from West Texas, and his entire Wild Hooker team arrived an hour after lines-out. When asked about the weight of the fish, Captain Shane O’Brien calmly smiled, “I just downplay things, 452 or 484, what’s it going to be? All I can say is the boat coming after us is the one we gotta’ beat, not anyone before us!” He finished speaking just as Jack Teschel roared, “It’s 462-pounds for the Wild Hooker.”
In the middle of the photo taking, Hogan stopped the photographers, went to the rail fence and motioned to a Mexican mother; and with her permission, lifted her young son over the rail. Smiling, he took the boy by the hand and walked him back to have his picture taken with the monster fish.
Later, Hogan volunteered that he had noticed the youngster in the group of spectators and felt compelled to invite the young boy to be in the photo.
“I told him that he might be up there someday with a fish that large of his own.”
C-Bandit angler Frank D’Anna, flanked by Bill McWethy, owner, and the rest of the team were the last to arrive at the scale with their black marlin. As the monster was hoisted, the Bisbee staff, along with the large crowd of onlookers, stared in awe.
Weigh master Teschel, for the final time this season, counted, “1-2-3” as the number on the IWS digital scale stopped at 569-pounds and Teschel called it out. The crowd howled with delight.
After an intense photo session which began with the team, then added the family and finally with many of the Bisbee clan, including the patriarch, Bob Bisbee. They were followed by local dignitaries who flocked in to enjoy the limelight of this last and largest fish of the Bisbee Black & Blue.
As for Bill McWethy, when asked about other bites, he answered with a quizzical look, “Hooking blacks on circle hooks is challenging and much different than hooking blues.”
Yes, lightning seems to have struck Team C Bandit for the second time in a row. Last year, they placed second with their 416-pound black. This year’s fish was the largest of the event.
Angler Frank D’anna confided, “I have been doing this for the past five years; last year was my first year to be part of the C Bandit Team and we took second place. Hopefully we are ‘upping’ that this year.”
Saturday night was the welcome finish line for the 120 teams that had fished their hearts out for the past three days, trying to get their heads around the “BIG FISH/BIG MONEY game that draws many like a moth to a flame. Sleepless nights, stressing about where to go, what to do; questions of whether to troll live bait or lures, what kind of either to use, all had dominated the past three days. Then the “woulda-coulda-shoulda” moments that plague the best and the brightest along with the first-timers.
That all was behind them now and before them was a night on the Cruise Ship Pier in the center of the IGY Marina. Baja Cantina’s wait staff, along with their chefs, had spent most of the day preparing for the gala affair: dinner beneath a patented Los Cabos star-filled sky at a venue crowded with a sea of white tables.
The evening promised to be as fast paced as the tournament itself with lots of moving parts. The dinner was memorable beginning with fresh sushi and ending with lavish dessert trays filled with goodies.
The night started with a charity auction and elaborate raffle program for Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund built and implemented by the Bisbee’s fundraising manager Natalie Radzwilla, co-owner of New World Public Relations with the auction conducted by Andy Dunning, Dallas Car Sharks show. The Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund partnered with the Green Scholarship Program and La Paz University, awards 4-year Marine Biology scholarships to selected local students to complete their education. Some of the recipients were introduced to the audience following the auction.
Next came the cash, trophies and plaque awards for the 2017 Black & Blue winners.
Bisbee began the awards portion of the evening with, “120 teams with 807 anglers, 14 black marlin, 54 blue marlin, 10 striped marlin, 1 sailfish for a total of 78 fish with a hookup conversion of 88%.”
He continued, “All of the fish brought to the scales, regardless of whether they were qualifiers, were donated to Hope for Los Cabos. Jen Limpert reported that the catch amounted to 11,249 pounds which equaled 33,747 total meals delivered to Cabos’ disadvantaged families.
After the overall winning team “Chupacabra” received their award, the sky was ablaze with fireworks celebrating the final night of the 2017 Bisbee Black & Blue Tournament, the richest fishing tournament on the planet, and Queen’s “We are the Champions” reverberated off the fleet of sportfishers in the marina.
The Bisbee Family has given much over the years to many.
First, to the anglers: at least 15 have walked away as millionaires. Others haven’t attained that goal, but could still be on their way. It may be on their list to achieve before their fishing days are over.
Los Cabos has certainly benefited from the hordes of people who arrive each year to compete, who bring their families and celebrate with their friends and competitors who have turned the area into a sportfishing Mecca, a place to relax, build memories and exchange stories, bringing income to the airports, restaurants and hotels, the captains and the fleets.
And they leave behind their fundraising efforts, benefiting charities and school children. Meals from the sea are donated to those who are disadvantaged and can use the extra food.
But best of all, they give back to the ocean, releasing most of the fish to be caught another day, and educating the youth so that they can learn how best to conserve their marine resources for the future.
2017 Bisbee Black and Blue Tournament Winners totals.
Ten Brothers $961,518.75
Go Deeper 60 $876,350.00
Wild Hooker $439,987.50
Pocket Aces $39,100.00
Sneak Attack $21,802.50
Chinto Bonito $7,020.00