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TUNA JACKPOT TRAVELS:

2,000-mile trailerboat journey through Baja by road and water
not for everyone, but "we had a blast!” said the author

The following is a running account of a 2,000-mile Baja adventure by road and over 800 miles of water by a group of anglers who centered their trip on competing in the WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tourney held Nov. 3-6.

BY JOE McGINNIS
Special to Western Outdoor News

CABO SAN LUCAS -- First I would like to say "Thank You” to all of the people who helped make this trip in October and November an extremely successful endeavor.


THE THREE boaters that made the trip. It all originated in Simi Valley.

The road conditions and weather reports from Gary Graham, along with GPS coordinates and launching ramp information in Lopez Mateos came in very handy. Bob Hoyt and his wife Dianna were very cordial and instrumental in logistics for storing trucks and trailers at their facility and fuel delivery to Santa Maria Cove. Note: I would highly recommend Mag Bay Outfitters to any outdoors person wanting a grand experience fishing, camping or just exploring that area of Mag Bay down the Baja Peninsula's west coast.

Our trip began on Oct. 26 with our meeting at the first toll booth Mexico 1, crossing the border at Tijuana. There I met with Charlie Tripoli, Yence and Ken Sund, Ray Madrid and Bill Alexander. Our group was reduced in size due to a number of unexpected reasons. Our good friend, Ron Reinhardt (Black Knight), called and reluctantly cancelled, as did Wendal Harden of Vagabundos. Four vehicles headed to El Rosario after passing out Motorola radios to each vehicle, which were invaluable in passing other vehicles and as Charlie Tripoti made us aware of his first flat tire. This was one of a total of four for the entire trip. The first night we stayed at Hotel Sinahi and enjoyed a tailgate party in the large parking lot for the boats, and also drinks and dinner in the motel's little restaurant.


YENCE SUND, left, and John Chonette with a tiny roosterfish.

At 7 a.m. the next morning we departed for San Lucas Cove. Road conditions were better than expected. We arrived early evening and met up with avid angler David Hughes and wife Martha. They live in the cove eight months out of the year.

I was delighted when Dave agreed to participate in the Western Outdoor News Tuna Tournament on my boat the Baja Dawg. Listening to the radio after dark, I heard Charlie Tripoli talking to Ken and Yence trying to find their way into San Lucas Cove Trailer Park. A few minutes later, they arrived with a police escort with lights flashing as they dodged the trees with their radar towers. Everyone made it unscathed.

Cocktails and dinner aboard our boats and with a good night's rest we left early the next morning, stopping by Singular Marina in Puerta Escondido inquiring on their facility regarding parking trucks and trailers while we cruise the peninsula.

The wind was blowing 40-plus at that location and the report for the Pacific side was no better for the next few days, so we arrived in Lopez Mateos around 12:30 noon. We scouted the area, meeting up with one of the great captains in the area, Ruben Duran. Ruben informed us that the weather outside the Boca would not be favorable until day after tomorrow and recommended we fish the estuary inside, which we did. We caught grouper, corvina and snook. While in Lopez Mateos, Ruben opened up his house and the rental house next door.

We were able to camp in the backyard and take advantage of a hot shower. His wife even prepared meals for us. We want to say "Thank you very much and we look forward to our next visit with Ruben and family." Items were passed out through the Christian Church there in Lopez Mateos to needy families that were affected by Hurricane Jimenez (blankets, towels, clothing, shoes and more) from friends and neighbors in California. We also brought down candy to be passed out to the children on Halloween evening.


THE 2110 STRIPER Castaway with Charlie Tripoli during the 800-mile cruise from Mag Bay to Cabo to Loreto.

We fished on Saturday, Oct. 31 heading out the Boca to the Thetis Bank. Ruben had a charter and stayed close. He caught several small yellowfin. Charlie Tripoti had multiple hookups of tuna and dorado with his friend John Chonette, who joined us in Loreto. The four boats that headed through the Boca were: Baja Dawg (a 27-foot Sea Ray), Cast Away (a 21-foot Striper), Juliana (a 23-foot Blackman), and Heavy Metal (a 23-foot aluminum center console with Ray Madrid and Bill Alexander aboard. Heavy Metal's plan was to stay with us until we departed for Cabo San Lucas. Ray had a freezer on board and most of the fish we caught was donated to him. They were a great addition to our party. Bill cooked up a wonderful breakfast one morning for everyone.

That night we anchored in Santa Maria Bay and went ashore to Mag Bay Outfitters restaurant where we had shrimp and lobster dinner. Lobsters were provided by Joe McGinnis from a California catch.

The next morning, we returned to the Thetis Bank and fished that area for a ¾-day. The winds were calm. We were unable to hook up with the wahoo that were biting, but we landed tuna and dorado that were biting. We returned to Santa Maria Cove where we had arranged for fuel that was delivered that evening.

After topping off our fuel tanks and rafting together for dinner, we were amazed at the amount of sail boats that had entered the bay from the Baja Ha Ha group. We had made friends from a crew of a 97-foot sailboat who came over after our dinner and invited us for a cocktail aboard their boat. We spent an hour aboard and got the official tour. I talked to Rick, the captain, and got some valuable information on our next leg of our trip - 212 miles to Cabo San Lucas.


HAVING FUN IN the Bay of Dreams (previously called Muertos Bay) south of La Paz Bay were Mia Tripoli and the author's wife, Linda McGinnis of Simi Valley.

We had a short meeting and all agreed that the weather was right for departing early, so we pulled anchor and left out of Santa Maria Cove at 2 a.m. Seas were calm enough to run 20 knots and with a full moon, everyone was visible. We stopped for short periods for bathroom breaks. Since I was alone I could actually cruise a little faster than the fleet, allowing for them to catch up. Since we were on a mission to get to Cabo San Lucas in time to make arrangements for the tuna tournament, we did not stop and put lures out for the marlin that we saw right next to the boat.

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas at noon without incident. Seas and wind conditions were variable, mostly with trailing seas after the sun came up. After anchoring in front of Medano Beach, we took my dinghy to shore and had lunch at The Office. There were two cruise ships in and the place was very busy.

Yence checked into the Hotel Tesoro, tournament headquarters for WON. Charlie and John stayed aboard the Cast Away, Joe stayed aboard the Baja Dawg and Ken stayed aboard Juliana. Maya Tripoli flew in from Humboldt, Calif., Linda McGinnis from Simi Valley, Calif., and Scott Weems from San Antonio, Texas. Scott crewed on the Juliana. Clint De Spain and Joel McGinnis also flew in from Las Vegas to crew on the Baja Dawg. Joe Frasier and Debbie also came in from Humboldt, and Joe crewed with Charlie on the Cast Away for the tournament.

The next morning we checked into the marina and obtained our slips and hotel rooms and made ready for the tournament. We stored most of the heavy stuff we brought with us on the dock boxes. We double-checked our tackle and cleaned the boats.

The next day the rest of the party arrived, 14 total. No big fish were caught aboard our boats, though we were right next to the boats that did hook up. A record-breaking tuna weighed in at 383 pounds caught by a local captain out of Cabo San Lucas. This fish won the tournament. Each boat won something in one of the drawings during the tournament. The last night Joe won a new Seeker rod "collectors edition."


DOLORES BEACH was the spot to relax for Linda McGinnnis.

We departed Cabo, Sunday the 8th of November continuing our cruise around the southern Baja peninsula. Joe and Debbie Frasier rode with Joe and Linda McGinnis to Las Brailles. Yence Sund took John aboard the Juliana in place of brother Ken who needed to take care of business back home. Ken departed for home out of Cabo San Lucas.

After dinner ashore at Hotel Buena Vista and breakfast the next morning, we pulled anchor and said goodbye to Joe and Debbie. Cruising and fishing, catching and releasing a variety of fish, we arrived at the Bay of Dreams that evening. This is a beautiful bay and we went ashore in our dinghies to what used to be the Giggling Marlin restaurant for dinner. Charlie and John landed dorado and tuna that we had that night for dinner.

The next morning we departed for La Paz Bay. Linda and I stayed on the boat in front of the El Arco Hotel, Charlie and Yence got a slip and we all went ashore for dinner at a local restaurant. The dinner was great. After refueling in La Paz, we cruised around the islands just north of Tecolete, snorkeled and swam with the seals at the marine park called Los Islotes, at the north end of the islands. The most amazing thing was diving down through the millions of sardines and having them swim all around you. We watched John as he dove to 40 feet in and out of the large grouper at the bottom. I know he wishes he could use his spear gun there.

We fished all day the next day, then anchored for the night at Isles San Francisco where the "No See Em's" became our best friends, biting everyone incessantly, and causing Charlie to pull anchor and head into the wind to blow the insects out of their cabin. What a night that was! At least they weren't mosquitoes.

We headed out covering approximately 50 miles, stopping at a couple of beautiful beaches to swim and snorkel, and check out the locals. That day, Yence and John were the heroes of the day, landing a 40-pound bull dorado worthy of the cover of Chubasco. This was a gourmet dinner that night cooked by Charlie and Maya aboard their boat, with pasta to die for. Charlie made a heroic dive over the side to save a spatula and something else that fell in. This was at Puerto Los Gatos.


THE MAP is doted with the trail that the group made, trailering to Mag Bay, running the boats to Cabo for the Tuna Tourney, up the Sea of Cortez to Loreto (a total of 800 miles) before trailering home.

Fishing along, we passed Singular Marina. Charlie suggested that we continue on into Loreto to tie up at their guest dock, and since it was Friday afternoon, that worked for us.

The Baja Dawg spotted a panga close to shore and went over to investigate. We wrangled up about 4 pounds of lobsters and 50 chocolate clams. This would become dinner for us that evening in Loreto at the restaurant "Mediterranean." Be careful, it gets pricey if you don't pay attention to extra charges. We all stayed at the new Hotel La Mission overlooking the water. The rooms were beautiful. Yence, in honor of his big fish, was declared the winner of the big fish contest. He bought the first round of drinks.

Charlie, Yence, Joe and John checked out in the morning, paid our personal security guard who stayed with the boats all night, got into our arranged taxi-van who met us in front of the hotel at 8 a. m. By 10 a.m. we were back in Lopez Mateos to pick up our trucks and trailers. We thanked Bob Hoyt very much for taking care of them for us and paid him the $2 per day storage fee. We arrived back in Loreto at 12:45 p.m. Charlie and Maya decided to spend another night in the hotel. Yence and Joe retrieved their boats. Joe had help from John with his 4-wheel drive as the ramp was a little too steep and wet to pull out the Baja Dawg with 2-wheel drive vehicle. We spent the next couple of hours securing the boats.

Saying goodbye to John Chonette, who lives in San Nicholas, not too far away, we departed for Santa Rosalia and Hotel Moro to spend the night. Dinner there that night was great. We had the chef cook up some of the chocolate clams that Joe had found.

Early the next morning, after repairing Yence's trailer lights, we headed for El Rosario. We headed back to the Hotel Sinahi for the night. Just before dark, Charlie and Maya pulled in. They drove all day from Loreto to the motel and we all spent the night there.

Departing ways at daybreak, Charlie and Maya headed out for their place in San Felipe, and Yence headed for the border at Tijuana. Since we were spending another night m Tecate, we slept in, then took the road into Tecate and booked a room at the first hotel on the right that we saw before heading into downtown Tecate. The name of the hotel is Hotel Rosita and it is very nice. In the upstairs dining room, Joe met Alphonso our waiter who he booked to take us on a City Tour as soon as Alphonso was off work at 2:30 that afternoon. He drove us by the Tecate Brewery, by the fish market, and to the huge and best ever Panaderia. We bought pastries there to take back to our room. Alphonso also picked us back up that evening and drove us to a nice restaurant for dinner. It was called La Mission restaurant.

The next morning, to our amazement, as we rounded the comer heading for customs at the border, we discovered we were next in line to go through the process. By 9 a.m. we were over the border and on our way home to Simi Valley, arriving at approximately 2 p.m. that afternoon.

This was an adventurous trip and as Pat McDonell (Western Outdoor News Editor) put it, "The Most Ambitious" of the many trailer boats to participate in the WON Tuna Jackpot Tournament. We put 2,000 miles trailering and over 800 miles on the water. Not for everyone, but we had a blast!

Joe McGinnis is a resident of Simi Valley. He has competed in the Cabo Tuna Jackpot nearly every year.