For the past two years, my friend, Stephen Jansen (Jansen’s Inshore Tackle) elected not to hold his Sierra Tournament, Baja Beach Blast. He and Monica, his wife of 20 years, had held it for the previous five, but for the last two years, the sierra took a dive with few fish to be caught.
This year, sierra fishing improved, so Stephen and Monica hosted the Stephen Jansen’s 6th Annual Sierra Tournament at Migriño Beach on March 11, with the help of Jenny Medina, wife of the president of the local beach fishing association.
Although I had heard glowing reports about the event, I had never attended the affair. The date of the tournament always conflicted with “Fred Hall Sport Show” in Long Beach, an annual ritual that I had always attend for the full five days. I wanted to observe the tournament, so I attended the Fred Hall Show on Wednesday only and flew to Cabo on Friday.
I stayed in San Jose del Cabo at the Posada Real in the Hotel Zone about 25 miles as the crow flies from the beach. As this was my first visit to the hotel, I was quite surprised to find it so charming and in such a beautiful location. The staff was courteous and welcoming; the beach was only 50-feet or so from my room and the drinks and breakfast were included … very different from most in the Hotel Zone.
On Sunday morning, I was on the road around 4 a.m. As I neared the turn-off on Mex 19, it became clear I was headed in the right direction as there was a steady stream of pick-ups, some pulling trailers with ATVs or side-by-sides, and out of the bed of many trucks there were long surf-casting outfits.
Many tourists are familiar with Migriño Beach or Playa Migriño, roughly 16 miles north of Land’s End on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula. It is easily located by a sign at Km. 97. It’s a great ATV haven or whale-watching beach in the winter months and, according to most of the tour guides, it is one of the most popular beaches for ATV tours or horseback riding.
However, when the surf is up the pounding waves make this beach extremely dangerous for swimming or fishing.
I followed the parade of cars and trucks onto the dirt road, and clouds of dust roiled up as everyone made a beeline for the beach a few miles farther. The dirt road turned to a sandy beach which was easy to spot by all the passenger cars that dared not go farther in the soft sand.
Jansen and his crew were scurrying about setting up the stage, while others unloaded bags with custom T-shirts and wrist bands for every entrant and guests. Generators hummed over the booming surf providing much needed electricity for the lighting and sound system. After the tables were set up a food truck – Mexican-style – arrived, loaded down with food and drinks. The sound system came to life, blasting contemporary rock cranked up loud enough to be heard over the thundering roar as the surf crashed along the shore.
In both directions the beaches were dotted with camp sites surrounded by many vehicles of different shapes and sizes; some of the eager participants had arrived the night before in order to secure a favored spot. Headlights, torches and flashlights twinkled like distant stars in the fading darkness and as the early morning gloom dimmed, dawn arrived.
The pile of team bags diminished on the stage … and Jansen grasped the microphone and bellowed,
“Start fishing, start fishing and good luck!”
This was the signal for the beginning of the largest beach tournament in Baja, a unique, one-of-a-kind event that targets one single species – sierra!
It was only minutes later when the first angler arrived to weigh in the first fish of the day. That first hour there was a steady parade of anglers racing to the scales to weigh their catches, and though it was understood that sierra were the targeted species, that fact didn’t prevent some excited anglers from arriving at scale with other species hoping to receive some recognition for their efforts.
Underscoring the importance of the entire family to the event, Jansen took time to introduce his son, two-year-old Cody, to a fat sierra before beginning the awards.
Families, friends and spectators scattered along the berm rooting for their favorites with cheers for catches and groans for missed bites.
In some cases, catches were met with standing ovations.
Every angler, regardless of the species he had caught, was graciously greeted by Jansen as though the participants were all old friends. He congratulated them on their catches as he posed for a quick fish photo with the lucky anglers, and even took time to pose for photos with them and their children.
When the 3-hour time limit arrived and the Baja Beach Blast was over, 409 participants – an eclectic group of locals and anglers from around the world along with family and friends – crowded the stage where rod racks were filled with special Jansen Inshore surf-fishing combos that would be awarded to the top three winners. In addition, there was other fishing tackle piled high for the remaining top 17 anglers … 20 awards overall.
Winning the coveted “Sierra Killer” award was Juan Torres of Cabo with the largest fish of the tournament, a 6-pounder.
When the three top contestants were recognized, Jansen doused the three winners with champagne – a tradition that began with the first event.
After the awards presentation, a huge raffle continued until every item of fishing tackle was given out to the lucky winners.
In closing, Jansen observed, “Today, March 11, is my 44th birthday and I can’t imagine a better way to spend the day.”
Just being there to observe the happiness and excitement of this family event was well worth my trip. I’m still smiling at the eager faces of the young anglers and the pride of the parents who participated.
Hats off to the Jansen’s, who took the time from their busy lives to give back to the community. What an event and what an example they are for Cody.
The top 20 Baja Beach Blast winners are listed above