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Seven teams share the $519,000 awarded at the Nov. 7-10 event

Record number of teams hit jackpot

WON Staff Writer

The buzz of a helicopter as it zoomed low overhead added to the tension as multi-engined skiff jockeyed for position with shining white yachts between the start boat and Land's End. Flare guns held by Mexican dignitaries extended high and twin trails of phosphorescent red and smoke signalled the start of the 2007 WON/Mercury Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot as 126 boats split up into three distinct groups that left only wakes and a diesel haze.

The champions, Team Katiusha with the 189

Confidence was high among anglers during check-in the day before -- they were pretty sure they weren't going to catch fish or win any money and absolutely positive they were going to have a good time. Not that there weren't plenty of fish around. Several excellent temperature breaks surrounded the Cape and bait and tuna were abundant.

It's just that when 126 boats head out with the same thing in mind, catching a money-winning tuna is as much luck as skill. With no shortage of skilled anglers in the field, it turned out there would be a good dose of luck, too, as 20 boats brought qualifying tuna (over 40 pounds) to the scales, including 5 over 100 pounds.

Luck comes in many forms. Would you feel lucky if you were the angler who was still fighting a tuna when the scales opened at 2 p.m. after hooking up at 11:15? Or would you rather be the anglers on the Renegademike, who were safely at the dock with a 135-pound yellowfin tuna during the early going of the day one weigh-in?

Mike Tumbeiro and teammates Evan Brown, Jim Mitchell and Fernando Castro Valle now had hours to wait to see if their 135 pounder would hold up in the $500 jackpot or was just another quality tuna.

Richard Barth's team was actually the first to weigh a fish when the Gaviota X came in with a 52.7-pound tuna that gave them an even more precarious hold on the $3000 daily.

The SolMar IX team captained by Bob Sope came in with an 86.7-pound yellowfin that didn't threaten Renegademike's money, but did set a benchmark for the $1000 daily.

Team Tonofu with its 127.1

Meanwhile, where were the wahoo and dorado? A first-ever $1000 daily seemed to have scared those species away from Cabo, at least the fish that met the 40-pound minimum size for day one. Only a few dorado barely big enough for blue marlin baits came to the scales.

But the tuna were really flowing to the scales now and the rowdy crew of the Rehab came in with a tuna that was only 79.6 pounds, but easily big enough to take over the $3000 daily pot and fill in the empty $2000 pot.

Right behind them was Bill Patton -- who won $95,000 two years ago -- and son Greg with another yellowfin taken on the Minerva's Tackle charter boat Minerva II.

"I thought it was bigger," said Bill Patton when Mike Packard announced the fish weighed 79 pounds. Still, it was good enough to fill the vacant $5000 daily slot, if not enough to bump out the fish in the $500, $1000, $2000 and $3000, all of which the Patton's entered.

"I fished with my dad the year before he won the money and there was no way I was going to miss out this year," said Greg Patton.

"How did we do?" said Rehab team captain Josh Josephs as he headed back to the scales from the boat.

He was nearly floored by the news his team held onto the $3000 jackpot by six-tenths of a pound.

Kevin Campbell's Rum Runner team was entered only in the wahoo/dorado pot, but the 76.3-pound fish they weighed looked suspiciously like a tuna, a fact confirmed by the weighmasters.

Bottomline 57.9 worth $80,000

During a short lull that allowed the competitors to get comfortable with the fact they might have won, a noise swelled towards the weigh station as the Dreammaker Charters/Smokehouse dock staff wheeled a giant tuna through the people crowding the boardwalk.

All bets were off.

It took every available hand to get the beast up on the scale and when the fish settled Rod Halperin read off the weight of 189 pounds for the fish caught by John Schue and Robert McIntyre aboard the Katiusha.

"We fought it for 4 hours and 15 minutes on 50-pound test," said Schue. "We caught it on a live caballito with a 6/0 Owner hook."

With the Katiusha team in the $500, $1000 and $2000 jackpots, dashed were the hopes of the Renegademike and SolMar IX teams, but Rehab still held onto its $3000 pot ($34,800), as did Minerva II with the $5000 ($38,000).

But the day looked far from over when the Picanta Salsa team made up of Alaska residents Wayne Wilson, Chris White, Dick White and Mitch Faulk brought a 139.9-pound yellowfin to the scales. Only they were in exactly the same jackpots as the Katiusha, meaning they had no share in that $87,000.

The day ended with three happy teams and rollovers in the $10,000 daily and the wahoo/dorado pot, bringing the respective potential single-day payouts to $80,000 and $70,400.

Of course, you have to catch a fish to win a jackpot and for the longest time only the reassurances of Rico, who handled the Spanish-speaking radio control duties, that there were fish on boats headed to the docks made everyone keep the faith.

32.1 dorado worth $70,400

As it was, it was well past 4 in the afternoon when the first fish came to the docks, but let's just say this tuna made a solid statement. The local team of La Paz and Los Barrilles residents Lionel Tamayo, Dax Morgan, Oscar Verdugo and Oscar Verdugo Jr. on the Borrachos Y Amigos brought a whopping 142.2-pound yellowfin tuna to the scales and locked down the first five jackpot spots.

"We're a finely tuned team," said team captain Dax Morgan of the catch. "We used a Z-Wing to get a small skipjack on a 10/0 Owner hook down to the big fish."

The combined winnings from $500, $1000, $2000, $3000 and $5000 and the second place overall jackpot money would make the Borrachos Y Amigos $167,180 richer, the biggest payout of the 2007 Tuna Jackpot.

The Tonofu team from Los Angeles of Moises Hendeles, Zev Hendeles, Ben Mandelbaum and Hiram Montana gave the locals a run for the money, but their 127.1-pound tuna fell short.

The only drama remaining in the tournament was whether there would be a qualifying fish in the dorado and wahoo category and whether, after three complete zero days dating back to last year, there would finally be a fish weighed in for the $10,000 jackpot.

Tournament Director Pat McDonell noted the $70,000-plus on the line had turned the event into a wahoo/dorado tournament for many boats the final day. There were certainly quite a few dorado and wahoo brought to the scales, but both species weighed early fell just short of the second day minimum of 25 pounds.

Then Bob Soper's SolMar IX team returned to the dock, this time with a dorado tail sticking out well above the rim of the fish cart. The 32.1-pound dorado established Soper, Joseph Butken (who caught the fish), Richard Gervasini and Ed Ott as the leaders.

Second biggest of tourney...

"We were on the lookout for dorado and our skipper said we should fish the edges of the porpoise schools with live bait for our best chance," said Soper. "We did that, but we were actually flylining for tuna when the dorado bit."

They really only got challenged once when Dale Cote's Fortuna with the team of Richard Gruner, Ben Gruner, Gary Frank and John Tetley weighed in a 28.9 pound wahoo late in the day.

That was the only other qualifying fish in the category, but several more tuna that exceeded the 40-pound minimum were brought to the scales for the fun of photos and acknowledgement. For instance, last year's winner Ed Tschernova of Baja Fish Gear said he wished he could glue together the 71 and 68 pounders he brought to the scale.

In the middle of one such weigh-in, Tuna Jackpot staff member Judy Passarello announced the 57.9-pound tuna caught on a Hawaiian Jet fished on the inside short line by the Bottom Line team of Michael Menas, Bryan Clemente, T. J. Dobson and Brad Damasco was in the $10,000 jackpot.

"We didn't really think we would win anything with a 57-pound tuna, but we were in the same jackpot last year and knew nobody weighed anything," said team member T. J. Dobson. "We were like, ‘Hell, it happened last year, it could happen this year.' We didn't even know that the jackpot had rolled over, so we were really surprised when they told us we just won $80,000."

Not to mention happy. Heck, the team from Alaska on the Picante Salsa was happy with the $2,460 they won for third biggest tuna overall.

"We'll use the money to sign up for next year," said team captain Wayne Wilson.

General stats: Held Nov. 7-10: 125 Teams, 469 anglers

$519,200 in cash payouts, plus prizes estimated value at $200,000 for a total of $675,000 cash/prizes. See more results on Next year's 10th annual event is slated for Nov. 5-8/2008


1st Place Overall -- 189-0 yellowfin (Overall Big Tuna money, plus $500, $1000 and $2,000 jackpots of day 1) Team 84: John Schue, Robert Mclntyre, Eligio Baron; Total winnings: $126,360

2nd Place Overall -- 142.2-pound yellowfin Overall Big Tuna 2nd place plus $500, $1000, $2000, $3000, $5,000 jackpots of Day 2) Team 113 Lionel Tamayo, Oscar Verdugo, Oscar Verdugo Jr., Dax Morgan; Total winnings: $167,180

3rd Place Overall -- 139-pound yellowfin tuna (Overall Big Tuna 3rd place) Team 79 (Alaska) Wayne Wilson, Chris White, Dick White, Mitch Faulk; Total winnings: $2,460


Dorado/Wahoo -- 32.1-pound dorado; Team 40 Robert Soper, Joseph Butken, Richard Gervasini, Edward Ott; Total winnings: $70,400 (rollover money from first day when 40-pound minimum weight produced no fish; second day’s minimum was reduced to 25 pounds)

Day 1 Tuna -- 79.6 pounds ($3,000 pot for Day 1) Team #64 (Montana) Josh Joseph, Matt Buckmaster, Kirk Scoggins, John Stonecipher; Total $34,800

Day 1 Tuna -- 79.0 pounds ($5,000 pot for Day 1) Team 95 Bill Patton, Greg Patton; Total winnings: $38,000

Day 2 Tuna -- 57.9 pounds $10,000 rollover with no qualifying fish the first day; Team 13 Michael Menus, Brian Clement, T. J. Dobbens, Brad Damasco; Total winnings: $80,000

Five yellowfin tuna over 100 pounds were weighed in.

Team# Team Weight Day
84 Katiusha 189.0 pounds 1
113 Borrachos y Amigos 142.2 pounds 2
79 Picante Salsa 139.9 pounds 1
115 Renegade Mike 135.7 pounds 1
1 Tonofu 127.1 pounds 2
40 Solmar IX 86.7 pounds 1
64 Rehab 79.6 pounds 1
95 Minerva II 79 pounds 1
58 Halcon 78 pounds 2
24 Rum Runner 76.3 pounds 1
*Qualifying Wahoo/Dorado
40 Solmar IX 32.1-pound dorado 2
122 Fortuna 28.9-pound wahoo 2

First day's qualifying minimum dorado/wahoo weight was 40 pounds, and was dropped to 25 pounds the second day after no fish qualified the first day.