Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot
In October and November 2015, 385 teams competed in four sport fishing tournaments in Los Cabos for $5,239,700 in prize money. Some targeted billfish only, one featured yellowfin tuna and the other two featured billfish with gamefish divisions.
The last of the four events, the 17th Annual WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, attracted the largest number of teams and paid the second highest Jackpot with its “Fish hard, party harder” motto as the cornerstone for the event.
As the teams assembled for check in, their “Team Spirit” wrapped in fervor and excitement was contagious. Veteran teams greeted each other and welcomed newcomers enthusiastically.
Recent reports of some medium-to-large tuna on the Pacific side fueled their optimism, plus the dorado, absent most of the summer, had been showing up in the catches and were rumored to be large enough to be contenders in the gamefish division set aside for dorado/wahoo.
Teams went from booth-to-booth collecting their gifts donated by sponsors – some whom had been involved for all of the 17 years as well as from several first-timers including Okuma and Moldcraft Lures; teams and sponsors, all fed from each other’s zeal as they discussed fishing and the upcoming fishing prospects.
By evening when Yo-Zuri hosted the Welcome Party at the Hotel Tesoro Convention Center, the electricity of anticipation was palatable. In the 600-capacity room, it was standing room only as Pat McDonell greeted the crowd; then he introduced Buddy Prause who welcomed the group on behalf of Yo-Zuri.
“I just returned from Japan,” he began excitedly, “and the lures piled on the table behind me are the latest in the Yo-Zuri line; they are for the lucky raffle winner to try out over the next few days.”
McDonell briefly recognized some of the teams and their outfits, before he launched into the first of many raffles to be held over the next four days: Cousin Custom Rods, Okuma Reels, Yo-Zuri Lures, Gift Certificates, Seaguar Leader Packs, along with many other items which were handed out to the lucky two-dozen ticket holders before the meeting concluded.
Thursday morning “Cabo Escape,” the official committee boat for the event, was on station near Lands End. Teams passed by the start boat prior to the 7a.m. start, showing their team number to the official observers on board in order to be checked off the master list — a procedure unique to this event.
The whooping and hollering could be heard over the music blaring aboard the start boat as teams strutted their stuff and the local dignitaries on board gathered to fire the flare signaling the start of the day’s fishing.
When the iridescent red flare streaked across the Baja sky, the thundering roar of 143 boats accelerating at full throttle throbbed throughout Los Cabos Bay.
Still spectators cheered as teams preened with their catches.
Some teams high-fived as their catch found a place on the leader board; while other teams vowed to return to the scale with a larger fish, clinging to their “Team Spirit.”
The next morning, Friday . . . another day another party! This time a special charity charter was hosted by Costa Sunglasses with Dave and Amy Bulthuis and their son Chet. The boat was packed to capacity with spectators, sponsors and staff.
However, before the festivities, there was the business of checking in the teams and conducting the “Show us your Costas” contest. Once again, the tournament boats paraded by, waving their team numbers and finding different ways to satisfy the demand to “Show us your Costas.”
As the flare was fired and the boats raced toward the horizon, the party began in earnest and the dance music was cranked up a few more decibels.
Later raffles were held for, what else Costa’s?
Teams elected to stay out later and continue to fish and it was a little after lines-out at 4p.m. before fish were brought to the scale.
The perfect way for teams to kick back and have some fun after two hard days on the water.
Festive, multi-colored flags surrounded the area, fluttering in the gentle breeze as tournament teams, guests and dignitaries began arriving. The evening was perfect and the crowd was ready to party!
Solomon Landing’s Restaurant staff prepared and served the delicious meal. The tournament staff, led by Dave, Amy and Chet Bulthuis, of Costa Sunglasses, fanned out to distribute Costa promotional items to the teams in attendance.
After dinner, Pat McDonell, Tournament Director, drew eight raffle tickets, which were sold throughout the event to raise money for the charity “Smiles International Foundation.” As the winners made their way to collect their prizes, a couple who were expert Salsa Instructors, Ulises Aznar and Tania Palma, joined McDonell on the stage to teach the eight lucky winners how to Salsa dance in order that they could compete in the contest following the drawing. In the end the winners were presented with Costa sunglasses of their choice.
A fascinating slide show presentation prepared by Danny Matthews and featuring candid photos taken during the event followed to the delight of the crowd. And the evening concluded with McDonell, with Staff member, Carla Packard‘s assistance, raffling items including; Cousins custom Tuna Jackpot Rods, Mold Craft Gift Packs, Baja Fish Gear $50 Gift Certificates, Seaguar Gift Pack, Rigging Kits, Eat Me Lures, Okuma Reels, 130# Spectra, plus many more items.
Saturday night on the Malecón, under a cloudless sky filled with stars, the “Mariachi San Lucas” group entertained the teams and their guests as they arrived for the awards ceremony and dinner finale.
A silent auction table filled with trips, jewelry, gift certificates and a Reactor Watch –with proceeds going to Smiles International — was strategically placed near the entrance.
Kicking off the banquet, McDonell recognized WON staff members, both back home and attending the event, as well as the “Cabo Escape” staff; plus the Baja Cantina staff who had prepared and served the night’s dinner and who were new sponsors this year; they had stepped up in a big way, donating bags and great prizes for the “Best Dressed Contest” — eight certificates for all meals at their restaurant during next year’s event.
Team #111 “Get Some” member, Lauren Fran, who McDonell met at last year’s tournament, caught an unusual (for this area) short-billed spearfish that deserved special recognition. McDonell presented Fran with a special Frank Johnson Moldcraft Lure Pack.
Marco Ehrenberg of Pisces Sport Fishing introduced Captain Del Angel, from the Navy Office at Cabo San Lucas, responsible for marine safety in the area, who welcomed the tournament while recognizing its importance to Cabo. His message, which was in Spanish, was interpreted by Tracy Ehrenberg.
Captain Del Angel was followed by Daniel Uribe, Los Cabos Director of Tourism, representing the Mayor of Los Cabos, Lic. Arturo de la Rosa Escalante.
Uribe emphasized the value of sportfishing to the area, adding that the WON Tuna Jackpot is the largest tournament in Los Cabos, while expressing his hope that the tournament would remain in the Los Cabos area for many years to come. “Tourism must take care of our sportfishing and insist that tuna be designated as a sportfish; it should not be designated for commercial use!”
The Hon. Patricia Hunter, Director of the “Smiles International Foundation,” was then introduced by Mr. Clicerio Mercado, Rotary Club of Los Cabos.
Hunter related how the “Smiles” volunteers visit Cabo twice a year to treat the children with medical needs. All proceeds from the WON Tournament Raffle go to the treatment of the children and will allow “Smiles” to purchase more equipment and supplies in order that they can continue their program.
Guess the weight of the winning fish in the tournament: Luis Liera from Team #139; Rick Laiwa, Team #86; Jorge Miguel Escamilla, Team #136. The winner was Jorge Miguel Escamilla, Team #136 from Vera Cruz, for the Sitka, Alaska Kingfisher Lodge Trip for two valued at $3,390. The other two prizewinners received a pair of Costa Sunglasses.
Best Dressed: Teams #8, #10 and #7 were awarded four of the eight certificates to split among themselves for all meals during next year’s tournament (2016) at Baja Cantina. Victor Locklin‘s team received the remaining four certificates.
“Show us your Costas was hotly contested this year,” Bulthuis commented as he named what he called the “slam dunk winner” demonstrating that you could spell tacos from the letters in COSTA with the same five letters — Team Jen Wren!
When Dave Bulthuis arrived on Sunday, a restaurant on the marina already had a “Bucky loves Costa’s” poster displayed on the Malecon winning them the Second Place award of two pair of sunglasses.
Gray Taxidermy, providing taxidermy services to local truly professional charter fleet for the past 30 years in Los Cabos, represented by Bill Dobbelear and Ashlee Fuller, raffled off $5,000 worth of gift certificates at the awards dinner.
“What happens in Florida stays in Florida,” special trip sponsored by Costa, WON, Yo-Zuri, Team Speedwell, Mustad, Gray’s Taxidermy, Picante, Okuma and Seaguar. This entire package was donated by the sponsors and the $21,000 winning bid by Dick Landfield and Brad Stevenson was added to the additional $17,000 raised during the event for a total of $38,000 went directly to Smiles International and will be matched by pharmaceutical companies. Each $1000 raised will pay for four facial-deformity surgeries for disadvantaged children in Cabo.
Team #73, Peter Godler, Vincenzo Tricoci, Steve Hachey, Pawel Ziajski, won the Grand Raffle and received: Cousins Rods, Okuma Makaira Reels, Plano Tackle Boxes, Yo-Zuri Lure Sets, Seaguar Threadlock Braid, Costa Sunglasses, (6 pair), AFW wire and terminal tackle assortments and a Hotel stay at Tesoro for next year’s tournament.
Every year team members and their fans arrive garbed in “wacky” but well thought out t-shirts designed with team names and logos and in some cases the number of years they had participated.
Over the years that I’ve attended the affair, the number of teams and sponsors has increased, including last year when “Odile” slammed into the area. And this year wasn’t any different. It was the largest number ever. When teams are asked why they were attending, they answer – because of the fun, camaraderie and competition. Spectators who don’t even fish return year after year.
Reviewing my photos and memories and it seems that everyone had a great trip to the fishing capital of Baja as a direct result of the efforts of Pat McDonell, Tournament Director, and his staff at the Los Cabos Jackpot Tournament. Veteran teams recharge their “Team Spirit” while newcomers perfect their own brand of “Team Spirit.”
This tournament is a phenomena that encourages team work which I’ve come to believe is a result of the “Fish hard, Party harder” atmosphere; it is designed to allow everyone to enjoy the event, whether they meet the challenge of big game fishing or are they are here only as a spectator or fan . . . the “Team Spirit” seems to thrive in the camaraderie created.
Prize Money for the Four Los Cabos 2015 Events
- Bisbee Black and Blue 121 teams, $3,515,100
- The 17th Annual WON/Yamaha
Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot 142 Teams, $649, 800
- Bisbee Los Cabos Offshore 95 teams, $629, 300
- Los Cabo Billfish 37 teams, $445,500
The total amount awarded to the teams in this year’s tournament was the largest ever — $649,800 second only to the Bisbee Black and Blue!
Team and Boat Winners
In It Tuna Win It aboard “Ruthless” with Mike King, Lincoln Neb.; Mike Magill, Broken Arrow, Okla.; Jimmy Klein, Lincoln, Neb.; and Mike Moser, Lincoln, Neb. with the largest wahoo weighing 36.9-pounds on the first day earning them $50,800.
Gladiator aboard “Gladiator” with David Crook, Ardmore Okla.; Vernon Ritter, Ardmore, Okla.; Chris Cagle, Marietta, Ga.; and Trey Westfall, Marietta, Ga. captured the second day’s Dorado/Wahoo Prize with a 41.9-pound wahoo for $50,800.
Team AMZ aboard “C-Rod” with Joe Zuccolotto, El Dorado Hills, Calif.; Robert Ellenwood, La Selva Beach, Calif.; Chiara Zuccolotto, El Dorado Hills, Calif.; and Ariana Zuccolotto, El Dorado Hills, Calif. with their 210-pound tuna caught on Day One $500 $18,200, and 1st Place Overall $60,350 for a total of $78,550.
Team Maybe Manana aboard “Maybe Manana” with Brad Stevenson, Glenview, Ill.; William Lewis, Eugene, Ore.; Scott Lewis, Cottage Grove, Ore.; and Jesus Trejo, Cabo San Lucas, BCS, landed the second largest tuna weighing198-pounds for 2nd Place Overall $7,100, Day One $1,000, $32,000, Day One $2,000, $40,000, Day One $3,000, $56,400. Day One $5,000, $48,000 and Day One $10,000, $44,000, for a total of $227,500
Team Picante aboard the 33 Magnum with Eduardo Martinez, Chino Hills, Calif.; Pedro Lieras, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jesus Anas received for their 181-pound tuna. 3rd Place Overall $3,550, Day Two $500, $18,200, Day Two $1,000, $32,000, Day Two $2000, $40,000, Day Two $3000, $56,400, Day Two $5000, $48,000 and Day Two $10,000, $44,000 for a total of $242,150