Some had traveled many miles to enter the tournament season in Baja; some hopped on boats and traveled short distances up or down the Southern California/Baja Coasts; others were local. Yet, all were gathered for a single purpose – to compete for huge sums of money by catching and/or releasing the largest black or blue marlin or other gamefish including yellowfin tuna and dorado.
The initial attraction is the first of the Bisbee trifecta: the East Cape Offshore or ECO. That is followed by the Los Cabos Offshore (LCO) before moving onto the largest sportfishing event of its kind, the Bisbee Black and Blue.
Each of these Bisbee events has its own claim to uniqueness and fame.
ECO, the smallest of the three, is the perfect event for freshmen participants to figuratively “get their feet wet” – an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the top teams as well as some of the most consistent as well as largest money winners who not only participate in the entire sportfishing series annually, but who have also earned both the respect of their peers and, in some cases, big bucks.
The first tournament began with registration on Aug. 6. Held on the lush grounds surrounded by blooming and fragrant tropical plants personally selected by Imelda Valdez, a Valdez family member, owners of Buena Vista Beach Resort Hotel, this paradise rests on the banks of the Sea of Cortez.
Display tables of fishing-related items, clothing, tackle, and lures of every description fill the outside area allowing sponsors to introduce their products to the many teams signed up for the tournament. Anglers, crews and spectators crowd the tables as they peppered those standing behind the tables with comments and questions.
Ken Matney, High-5 Lures, proudly pointed to his Hi-5 Lure XXL Cabo Shaker with abalone shell insert and red eyes located in a place of honor on one of his overflowing tables.
“A lure just like that won the 2012 Bisbee Black and Blue,” he declared. “And it was the only qualifying fish caught during the tournament!”
The actual registration was taking place in the resort dining room. Eager teams crowded in front of the table as David Garcia and his wife assisted Trish Bisbee as she collected the final payments from each team captain, and then sent them on to the next table where they were given their bags filled with swag.
Past winners chatted with Wayne Bisbee. Chucky Van Wormer, Van Wormer Resorts, a past winner, waved as he waited his turn in line. Martha McNabb and her husband, Larry Warlaumont, veteran six-time winners of the Bisbee Black and Blue, loaded down with ECO swag paused to greet Bisbee with a grin. “Hope the fishing is as hot as the weather.”
Throughout the afternoon, old friendships were renewed while new ones were fashioned as small groups of anglers sought information and tips they could use during the next three days. Meanwhile, the anchorage in front of the resort became busier as more and more tournament boats arrived and anchored. The hotel’s panga played “shore boat” as it darted back and forth delivering teams to the portable pier that jutted into the sea.
Wayne, with Clicerio Mercado to translate, called the Captains’ Meeting to order. After reviewing the basic requirements … blue and black marlin must weigh more than 300-pounds and would be scored at a point per pound; minimum sizes for tuna and dorado would be 40 and 30-pounds, respectively… 63 teams had entered and would compete for $554,925.
After a quick review of the rules, and a brief Q & A, fishing rods, lures, hats and T-shirt were raffled as everyone wandered off … either to the pool, bar or dinner to continue their discussions and debates: what direction, what fish to target, and whether local knowledge would prevail. Friendly chatter echoed throughout Hotel Buenavista Beach Resort as the night settled like a warm blanket over East Cape. One conclusion was definite: the recent hot striper bite as well as the number of blue marlin reported, boded well for the outcome of event!
Optimism on Wednesday morning was contagious as the 63 boats and their crews gathered behind the starting line, jockeying for position in the final seconds before the start. As the glowing flare arched across the morning sky, the roar of boats, from mega-sportfishers to outboards, shattered the morning. “Even though I couldn’t see the water,” one local resident complained, “I knew when the start happened by the sounds.”
Patricia Morrison, owner of Los Pescadores Hotel north of Los Barriles, aboard the panga Sayrita, was the first to the scales with her 31.4-pound dorado, hoping to repeat her recent triumph in the Van Wormer Dorado Shootout where she won the 2014 Toyota Tacoma plus the $200 and $300 Jackpots worth just over $31,000 dollars. She had landed her fish on live bait about six miles offshore by Los Frailes.
While there were no black or blue marlin that first day, the parade of dorado and tuna continued well after “lines out” at 4:00 p.m.
In the yellowfin tuna category, the spread between the top three was a mere 5.2 pounds. Erick Esteves, aboard the Gaviota, had a tuna at 46.6 pounds. Antonio Guluarte scored the second biggest at 44.4 pounds aboard Dos Piratas, while Gonzalo Castillo weighed a 41.4-pounder. Castillo was competing aboard Zhao, an outboard-powered center console. Rodulfo Lugue on Oso Loco landed the only other dorado in the tournament which was weighed on Wednesday. His fish registered 39.2 pounds.
That night, stories of qualifying fish seen, hooked and lost (although somewhat discouraging to some), fueled other teams’ excitement for the next day’s fishing! Gotcha had fought a marlin on 130-pound tackle for over two hours that afternoon before pulling the hook.
As the boats sped past the committee boat, it was clear that the favored direction had been to the south. Thursday was deja vu as the same four teams arrived at the scales on Hotel Buena Vista Resort’s beach. Patricia Morrison, aboard Sayrita, had a 46.6-pound yellowfin; Erick Esteves (Gaviota) came in with a 47-pounder followed by Joe Haid (Dos Piratas) with a 51.9-pound tuna; but all were overshadowed by a 61.8-pounder caught by Roberto Beltran on Zhao, a 23-foot Parker center console captained by Don Whittier, who commented that finding fish was tough in the grumpy sea conditions. “This one ate a ballyhoo that we brought along with some small sardina from a local bait boat – something we haven’t seen much of this year,” he commented.
Since no marlin were weighed-in during the first two days of the competition, a single qualifying fish (300 pounds-plus) the final day would be worth $383,254 to a team entered across the board, along with the gamefish category. Since no dorado were caught on Thursday, the fish was potentially worth $57,010, including the rolled-over cash.
Big bucks, final day, spiked the excitement of the weigh-station crew as they gathered next to the scales beneath the canopies on the beach, grateful for the shade.
The VHF radio had crackled throughout the day with hook-ups and releases reported. Right time, right place seemed to sum up Hector Guilarro‘s catch of his first blue marlin aboard Nautahorse, a 40-foot Cabo Express, the only qualifying billfish of the event landed at the Gordo Bank after a 10-minute battle on 80-pound tackle and a Pakula lure, a Mick Special; it was worth $396,705, sweeping all three daily jackpots as well as the top tournament marlin prize. Guilarro lives in Guadalajara, Mexico and the boat is based in Puerto Los Cabos.
Another big winner that day was Manual Cadena, fishing aboard Pocoyos, a 28-foot Pursuit. Cadena used a bait, skirted with a pink and blue squid which attracted a 45.7-pound dorado. That turned out to be the largest dorado of the tournament and earned a substantial payout since no dorado were weighed on Thursday.
Tony Talamantes on Borracho recorded the only other qualifying fish on Friday. Talamantes’ dorado weighed 38.5 pounds. It turned out to be the third largest fish in that gamefish category.
“Last year, we moved the dates into Aug. and expected to land more fish,” shrugged Tournament Director Wayne Bisbee. “Unfortunately, this was a year when the weather and sea temps went sideways here in Baja. I’m delighted that Nautahorse skippered by Capt. Mick Thompson found Hector Guilarro a winner.”
With the Sea of Cortez as a backdrop, the awards and checks were presented Sat. night in front of the Hotel Buena Vista Resort where everyone enjoyed a special traditional Mexican buffet.
Team Nautahorse, led by angler Hector Guijarro Tomayo of Guadalajara, swept the event with the 323-pound blue marlin and received $396,705 for their efforts. This set a new record for a single boat payout for Bisbee’s East Cape Offshore, underscoring ECO’s reputation as a wonderful way for a team to get their feet wet in big money tournaments. Just ask Hector Guijarro Tomayo …
Nautahorse Angler: Hector Guijarro Tomayo of Guadalajara, 323-pound blue marlin $396,705.
Pocoyos Angler: Manel Cadena, 45.7-pound dorado $57,010.
Angler: Rodolfo Luque, 39.2 dorado $22,100.
Angler: Roberto Beltran (landed the heaviest tuna overall and claimed two daily jackpots) 61.8 pounds yellowfin $57,100.
Angler: Erick Esteves Durante 46.6-pound tuna $22,100 for the top daily tuna.
K Sea was named the Top Catch-and-Release Boat for the week. The team accrued 1,100 points aboard the Ocean 48 by releasing three blue marlin and two sailfish.
Dream Weaver was the Second-Best Team after letting two blue and one striped marlin go.
Team Brothers was a strong challenger, but came up short based on time. Team Brothers released a blue and striped marlin and three sailfish during the three days of fishing.
Fleet-wise, 31 blue marlin, 32 striped marlin, 16 sailfish and one black marlin were released. Two blues were boated (with only one qualifier), for an overall 97.5 percent release ratio.
A total of 63 boats were vying for $554,925 in overall prize money in this year’s contest.
Next on the schedule is the Los Cabos Offshore in Cabo San Lucas, Oct. 17-19. Like the ECO, its format also includes categories for tuna and dorado.
The Black & Blue, the richest sport-fishing contest in the world, also held in Cabo, Oct. 21-25. Anglers competing in the B&B only fish for blue and black marlin, plus billfish release points.