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Sponsors and Parties

Mercury/WON Tuna Jackpot anglers and sponsors enjoy
Cabo's fishing and parties

WON Staff Writer

CABO SAN LUCAS - The Mercury/Western Outdoor News Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot started off giving away $60,000 in prizes at a party and ended giving away $60,000 in prizes at a party, with another party in between resulting in another $60,000.

WON Editorial Director Pat McDonell, emcee for the event, stands behind prizes before the awards ceremony at the mall.

"The level of support we receive from our sponsors for this tournament is incredible," said WON Publisher Joe Higgins. "That's because many of them have come to Cabo and seen what a great event it is."

Sponsors attending the 2004 Tuna Jackpot included folks from Mercury, AIM Marine, Berkley, Crocodile Bay Lodge, Costa Del Mar, Fred Hall and Associates, Fishworks, Furuno, G. Loomis, Hi-5 Lures, Melton International, Owner, Peter J., Puerto Los Cabos/Pisces Real Estate, Seaguar, Shimano, Solomon's Landing, Southern California Ford Dealers, Waterfall Resort and Yo-Zuri.

The event kicked off with a check-in/captain's meeting at the fabulous Puerto Paraiso Mall with its great lineup of restaurants and ever increasing number of shops. Sponsors took over the entrance to the mall on the marina side with booths displaying and touting (and even giving away) product.

Every team member received a goodie bag stuffed with great stuff like the official Leatherman hats besides all the paraphenalia necessary to the tournament, like the Mercury flag for the boat and party wristbands.

Having everything ready to go required a lot of work on the part of the WON staff, which met the night before at Solomon's Landing for an incredible meal and to coordinate their efforts for the four-day event.

More than 1000 people attended the award ceremony.

Of course, the sponsors pitch in and help, too, and Gary Schaffer of G. Loomis, Marc Mills of Shimano and Fred Hall's Mike Battistoni could be seen carrying the massive amounts of prizes from lockup to the stage.

The weather was perfect in Cabo, but it's a long time between 2 p.m. when check in starts until they start giving away prizes about 7 p.m. There was a big difference in the photos of the crowd taken while Kit McNear gave out the rules and the photos of the crowd when they listened to find out whether they won the Burch Ford trip for two to Palmas de Cortez, a Baja Fishing Resort 4 day/3 night fishing trip or a trip on the Smith River with Phil's Smiling Salmon Guide Service.

The list of prizes is literally too long to print, but the highlight of the evening was when Mills of Shimano stepped up to explain a mistake in shipping resulted in single-speed TLD 20s being sent to Cabo instead of two-speeds.

"We decided that we're going to give away an additional 8 two-speed reels," announced Mills. "I'll give you my card and all you have to do is give me a call."

When the prizes are gone at these parties, the crowd vanishes an instant later - but then there's plenty to do in Cabo and some of the participants may have even decided to get some sleep.

The strain and demands of competition caused tournament staff to drop the party after the first day's fishing, but that didn't mean the partying stopped. Many of the sponsors joined WON for dinner at the new Puerta Vieja restaurant out by Misiones.

Wahoo winner was Don Giotionini, seen here clutching the G. Loomis Rods that were part of the prize for his 55.4-pound 'hoo.

The sponsors had already had a full day, with Mills lining up the Gambler for a wide open shot at the dorado for the Shimano and G. Loomis gang, while John DeVries of Seaguar nailed his first dodo ever while fishing with Richard Hightower, Mike Bohn and this writer. Battistoni led the charge on the local golf courses.

Some of the sponsor fishing boats went out a little late the next day, but just about everyone was there to watch as Don Presley and his team sweated out the last 10 minutes of their big money victory on the beach in front of the Hacienda Beach Resort. Owner's Dennis Yamamoto was there for every weigh-in and was gratified when every single money fish was caught on an Owner hook.

Then the center of activity moved just a little ways down Medano Beach to the traditional Mercury party, where all tournament anglers received the official Tuna Jackpot t-shirt. The Hacienda Beach provided a no-host bar and sold food like hamburgers and carne asada.

But the big draw was the second $60,000 installment of prizes. Phil Desautels, who provided two Smiling Salmon trips, was an angler in the event and lucked out in the night's drawing with a Cannon downrigger. Some have characterized the fishing in the Tuna Jackpot as slow, but Desautels said it was only slow for big fish.

"We were the second boat to the Finger every day and we caught lots of tuna, they were just all small fish," said Desautels. "And the dorado were everywhere."

Seaguar's John Devries made a speech that was short and to the point.

The big winners during the second party were members of the same team, Team 111. Larry McCormick won the $8,000 trip for two to Waterfall Resort, while Phil Cowan was the first beneficiary of a Joe Higgins brainchild.

Party time is all the time in Cabo and for the entire family, especially when its time for the Tuna Jackpot awards. WON photos by Rich Holland

With the evening getting on and the stack of prizes on the dais dwindling, Higgins decided to award everything remaining - an incredible mix of everything from Plano rod tubes to Zeiss binoculars, Yo-Zuri lures to Angler's Center gift certificates - to a single angler. Cowan was the lucky recipient.

Saturday night at the Awards Banquet, tournament anglers and their guests were treated to a sumptious spread put together by the restaurants of Puerto Paraiso and $554,000 in checks were handed out to deserving winners.

Then it was time for more swag. The big prize of the evening was the $20,000 trip for four to Crocodile Bay Lodge and lodge owner Robin Williams drew the name of Fred Friday of Henderson, Nev.

An $8,000 trip to Sitka Sportfishing's Dove Island resort for 4, a $7,000 trip to Waterfall Resort, a trip to RW's Alaska Fishing, a Picante Fleet charter for four, a panga trip courtesy of the Jig Stop, spools and spools of Berkley Big Game, a Samy's Cameras digital camera, Costa del Mar sunglasses, $100 Melton Internation gift certificates, G. Loomis rods to the wahoo winners and more, and $100 shopping sprees to the Fred Hall Show in Long Beach were all part of the long parade of prizes. The shining moment of the evening, however, came when Minerva Smith of Cabo's Minerva's Tackle provided a gold tuna pendant to be auctioned for the local charity she is involved with.

Pat McDonell was the auctioneer and soon had a full scale bidding war on his hands as Don Presley and Marty Burch made it clear they wanted the bauble. The bidding seemed to slow around $4000 (the value of the pendant was $1200), when Jeremy Steward of San Diego jumped in and not long after Presley bid $7000. Burch countered with $7200.

Presley strode toward the podium from his table and thrust his arm in the air.

"Pat, I bid $8,000!"

Burch got another chance when Crocodile Bay's Robin Williams donated a $20,000 trip right on the spot for another auction. Burch had the winning bid and $11,000 went to the Cabo charity.

The Mercury/WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot owes much of its success to Enrique Fernandez de Castillo of Marina Cabo San Lucas. He was presented a plaque in appreciation by Tournament Director Kit McNear. Then he had to be happy to see his favorite charity receive $4,300 courtesy of Don Presley, who had the top bid for the original painting donated by Peter J. (While it happened to be the only bid, it equalled the amount paid by last year's winner, Lloyd Collyer.)

The rest of the Trinidads, Tiagras and trips (Buena Vista Beach Resort for two) were handed out, including another massive last gasp grab bag drawing.

Of course, with 631 anglers on hand, not everyone won. But there's always next year. Mercury, WON and all our great sponsors will be on hand. See you there.