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"So, what's the story behind that winning fish?"


It wasn't the Bisbee, nor the Los Cabos Billfish, it was the Yamaha/WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot. A tournament that I have held near and dear for years. Some would balk at me even calling the WON a "tournament," as for most participants it is a four-day party with 2 days of fishing in between.


From welcome parties to cocktail parties, and weigh ins to awards banquets the theme is simple; come down to Cabo and have a good time with a bunch of like minded fishermen. Sure, you will still see pristine 50', 60' and 70' yachts, but with the $700 entry fee, this is a tournament that the "average Joe" has grown to love.

My team consisted of my father and business partner, John Donovan, my best friend Luis Vela, and two of my favorite crew members in all of Cabo: Captain Omar Ruiz and Americo Andres. Having fished the tournament in years past, and even taking third place a few years back, we knew what to expect. The guys at WON do a fabulous job procuring sponsors and events to make the tournament special.

Having a fleet of boats here in Cabo, RedRum Sportfishing, I was "in the know" so to speak before the shotgun start of day one. However, being "in the know" didn't do us much good. A few big Yellowfin had been caught in the preceding days at Gordo Banks, so we would try our luck there on day one. We chummed, we fished live bait, we trolled lures; we prayed, we danced, we sang; all for naught. There were no Yellowfin hunting the structure that make up Gordo Banks, one of the Sea Of Cortez's most famous banks. Thankfully, the tournament has a second day of fishing.

Day two came and we had a different plan. We had heard of several nice yellowfin that were caught on the Pacific on day one and we decided to try our luck on the "other side of the arch" for day two. We lined up with 95 other boats and went full throttle towards The Lighthouse on the Pacific.

In no time at all we saw the crashing, jumping, dipping and diving of porpoises. As any angler knows, this is a very good sign when trying to locate tuna. Ten to fifteen other boats from the tournament had happened upon the same school of porpoises, all with hopes of hoisting the trophy come Saturday night. There was only one problem, these porpoise weren't chasing tuna, they were simply cruising around playing games only a porpoise could understand.

With frustrated anglers and crew aboard, our vessel, a 28-foot Californian ReelRum, headed further out to sea. Searching, looking, and once again praying for further signs of life and action. Fifteen, twenty, thirty miles from the friendly confines of the marina we searched. Things were looking bleak, and as my father taught me from a young age, a good luck nap was what we needed.

I laid down on the engine cover and tried to think good thoughts. I changed shirts, switching to a lucky fishing shirt. I rid myself of the hat I was wearing, knowing that had to be the problem. Finally, I gave a quick rub to the top pocket of my shirt, where lay a pendant my late grandmother had given me. That should do it I thought, as I dozed off to the lull of the diesel engine and the soft rolling of the swells.

If you have never had the opportunity to awake to the sound of a screaming reel, there is no sweeter sound. Especially during a tourney. The Penn 80 on the back right corner was screaming and fortunate, or not, I was first in the mad rush of teammates trying to set the hook on whatever may be biting the artificial lime green squid we had been trolling. Let's just hope we have a tuna was all that consumed my thoughts.

As luck would have it, a yellowfin had crashed our spread. After a short time we were able to spot the fish on the surface and Americo, our mate for the tournament, thought we had a pretty nice fish on the line. But as the story goes with big yellowfin, that was the last we would see of the fish, for a very long time.

Minutes past, then hours. Take your time, watch your drag, fight the fish, but be smart. Braun and brut will get you nowhere with a monster tuna, this was a waiting game. I was alone in my fight, I had the encouragement of my teammates and the Captain was there to move the boat when he could, but this was a solo battle.

A lot goes through your mind in an endurance battle like this. Will the line snap? Was the hook firmly set in the jaws of the fish? Can my back, shoulders, neck and arms hold up? Take your time, think good thoughts, and rub Nana's pendant from time to time.

The fish gods were smiling down the boys from RedRum last Friday, and we couldn't have been more appreciative. After 2 hours and 45 minutes, the fish sounded. She was done. She had fought her heart out, and humbled a man of similar size. My teammate Luis was able to stick the fish with a perfect gaff to the back and we had her. Done deal right? Wrong.

We were now nearly 40 miles from Cabo with only little more than three hours to make back to the aformentioned friendly confines of Marina Cabo San Lucas and the awaiting scale. Set the GPS, pull in the lines and hold on; we had history to make.

With the help of five grown men, the fish was hoisted as the crowd of several hundred on-lookers gazed at the magnificent beast that hung in front of them. Pat McDonell, director and emcee of the tournament, howled in surprise as he read the digital scale that held our fate.

244lbs even. We had the biggest fish in the tournament. Second place was more than 100lbs lighter and the crowd erupted. Team RedRum; the local guys, the guys on the small boat, the "average Joes," had done it. First place in the Western Outdoor News Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, and the third biggest fish in tournament history. It was Corona time folks, and we were only too happy to oblige!

Contact Ryan Donovan of RedRum Sportfishing at with any questions or comments.

RedRum Extras


- New RedRum videos published...
Two new videos have been added to Youtube, one a compilation of pictures from the Yamaha/Western Outdoor News Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, and the other from an underwater Marlin release last weekend at Golden gate.


Tourney Photos:

Marlin Release: