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Running a tournament: Never a dull moment in Cabo San Lucas

Record highs and lows


It's not easy putting on a road show of any kind. Nine days in Cabo as the director of the four-day Tuna Jackpot reminded me that no amount of preparation can ensure a perfect event. A year of planning and prep just ensures you'll have an event, which will unfold with great surprises as well as obstacles.

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IT WAS TOUGH DUTY, but someone had to do it. The Corona girls attended, of course, and Corona also kicked in $3,000 to a local charity, Los Ninos Del Capitan.

Staging such a tournament in Cabo over four days with a schedule of two days of high stakes fishing, a casting contest, four nightly parties and a captains meeting for 400 anglers, staff and sponsors and you have one daunting (but incredibly fun) task.

But it's also a helluva lot of fun. We must have done something right in the big picture because several teams called and e-mailed and said they've been to several of the tournaments and this one was the best. Thanks for the kind words. It also could have been the worst. For me, personally, it was by the most enjoyable because we did the unthinkable: We pulled it off and it has become a true multi-national fishing tournament.

The highs and lows in no particular order.

Low: For 11½ months we had no title sponsor. It takes serious money to stage this event, and we strive to make it better each year for everyone, whether they enter at $700 a team or go across the board at $23,000.

High: Yamaha, bless their souls, came in at the last minute and sponsored a fantastic awards dinner at Ruth's Chris at the Puerto Paraiso Mall by the marina that was elegant, fun and emotional. We handed out more than $400,000 in cash to four teams, $100,000 in drawing prizes from sponsors, raised $27,000 for two Cabo Children's charities and formally paid $63,000 in Mexican taxes.

Low: David Wirth, my good friend and our featured artist for the fourth year, couldn't make it this year. He had to make a choice: Business or fun. He attended the Ft. Lauderdale boat show and did well, he said. He needed a good show.

High: I happily called him at LAX when I arrived and told him his bronze sculpture brought $7,500 at auction Saturday night, the winning bid by Bottom Line owner and team captain Mike Menas after a spirited bidding war with Judy Ostberg, an avid collector of Wirth's beautiful art. It set an auction record for the 10-year-old tourney.

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DAVID WIRTH'S bronze sculpture captured a $7,500 bid from Mike Menas of Bottom Line. It was a record bid in the event’s 10-year history.

High: Dignitaries also passed the hat and $10,000 was eventually raised for the Nuevo Creation, an orphanage in Cabo where 18 children affected by drugs are being cared for by a husband and wife. All are housed in a trailer designed for only eight people. Before the auction, Tracy Ehernberg of the Pisces Fleet, who met the couple and who have been assisting them with her husband Marco, told of the work being done. Two of the kids spoke with Tracy translating. Not a dry eye in the place. That's the kind of tournament I have to put on. One that matters.

Low: Cabo's main street is being torn up, and without a schematic to work with, workers twice crushed water mains and there were no working bathrooms two of the days of the event in that part of the city. My bladder may never be the same.

High: The water flowed, eventually.

Low: Customs confiscated the two digital scales when I arrived four days before the event.

High: Three days later, a shipping agent stepped in and solved the issue and I paid a 20 percent duty. Gladly!

Low: The start boat, the dive boat Oceanus, almost didn't make it to the start the first fishing day! Mechanical problems, fuel issues … we made it with 15 minutes to spare. We also had radio problems. The repeater (a two-unit system that extends radio power) would allow messages out, but back to us.

High: It all worked out. The Oceanus, with boats swarming around us to check in to radio control as we slowly made our way out, cruised into position off the arch with 15 minutes to spare, and with the help of hotelier Luis Bulnes' staff, we obtained permission to use another repeater channel. The second day's shotgun start went flawlessly.

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THE SHIRT, well, it says it all. My job was done.

High: My goal has always been to make this an event that attracts teams locally, from the U.S. and around the world. This one did. One team was from Northern Ireland, another was made up of European young guns, teams from Canada were represented, and at least a dozen Mexican teams. Twenty teams were from the Midwest and back east. The Cabo panga Mexican team of Dr. Pescado nearly won the event, but the 244 pounder the second day moved them into second. But Dr. Pescado won more than $15,000.

Low: I lost my voice again. A week later it's still shot. The price of having too much fun.

High: The event also showed the folks who have the means to go across the board at $23,200 it can be worth the gamble. The Bottom Line caught two 100-pound class fish and claimed a record payout of $271,000.

Low: We attracted 97 teams. The lowest team total in the history of the event.

High: We attracted 97 teams: In this economy. Many who couldn't make it this year called, saying they were disappointed they couldn't come, but promised to make it Nov. 4-7, 2009.

Low: Cabo Wabo nightclub misunderstood my instructions for the Friday night Reactor Rock and Roll party and turned the microphone off with 10 minutes to go at 9 p.m. The party ran until 9:30 last year, so why the change? They also ruined the food from my caterer. Not the smartest cabbages in the patch, those guys.

High: Before the microphone went dead and 500 of us all left for other nightclubs in town, Scott Lipsett and Trey Jeffries of Reactor watches raised $10,000 for charity in a raffle and quick auction of a Florida tarpon trip. Note: We have three invitations from other clubs to hold next year's party. Adios Sammy Hagar. Your staff is incredibly rude.

Low: There was little tuna action to report before the event, but amazing marlin action.

High: As it turned out, there were plenty of tuna, 30 to 60 pounders under the porpoise with a few over 100 pounds. And one was 244 pounds, caught on the Reel Rum, one of the Red Rum Fleet charterboats. John Donovan, owner of the fleet, was the captain of the team. It was the THIRD biggest in the history of the event and it made for a dramatic weigh-in before three hundred people at the scale. On the podium I kept saying it was second biggest. The 2002 fish of 256 by the Gricelda team takes the second slot behind the 318 of 2006 on the Ni Modo.

So many memories of the tournament, so much help from locals in Cabo, staff here at WON and in Cabo, sponsors who came down and those who donated prizes, and especially all the anglers who came down to fish, party and compete. Let's do it again!

Pat McDonell is director of the Yamaha/WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot and is editorial Director of Western Outdoors. He can be reached at (949) 366-0030, ext 33 and pat@wonws.com