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CABO TUNA JACKPOT: A record setting event in many ways

Luck, via preparation

The Yamaha/WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tourney is over, and as the director who has to organize this annual beast, I can honestly say it was worth all the work, but I am soooo glad it's over. Nine days in Cabo of pre-event work and then attempting to party along with the rest of the entrants is more than this 55-year-old can handle any more. Now home, back at work and back to reality, I feel like a 383-pound tuna landed on me.


ASSISTANT DIRECTOR MIKE PACKARD, weighmaster, gets an assist from Jackpot director Pat McDonell and others at the scale as the 383-pound tuna is weighed.

But all that planning for 12 months paid off. The tourney with four parties and two shotgun starts just outside the famed Cabo arch set new standards: The largest tourney in Cabo this year, the WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot increased in size from 97 teams last year to 104, the only saltwater tourney I know of in California and Mexico to increase its participation this year.

Of course, the new Mexican yellowfin tuna record was set with a 383-pound yellowfin, and that fish caught on Seaguar 130-pound flourocarbon is likely the fifth biggest yellowfin ever caught in history on rod and reel. That tuna, taken at the Gordo Bank on a bonita, easily set a tourney record. The old Tuna Jackpot record by the Dayton, Ohio gang was 318 pounds, a weight I never thought would be beaten. When the Team Fisherman's yellowfin hit the ground at the weigh scale the gathering crowd gasped. No one had ever seen a yellowfin that big.

I've always said preparation and opportunity create the bulk of what we know is "luck," and we were certainly "lucky" we bought a block and tackle system the day before. A few days before the weigh-in, Dale Cote of DreamMaker Charters and Smokehouse, suggested I invest in a pulley system.

"There's going to be some huge fish, I think,"Dale said to me at his shop near the marina. "It would make it a lot of easier to lift those big fish."

So, a big thanks to Dale for going out and buying that block and tackle system for us. No way we'd have been able to weigh that 383-pound fish just hoisting it manually. Big tuna simply do not have built-in handles for people to lift them. We would have had to lift that monster tuna three times! Because of the size and weight of the fish, assistant director and weighmaster Mike Packard had to retie and shorten the scale rope twice when the fish stretched the weigh scale rope. The rope and pulley system made the multiple weigh-in attempts easy.

And, I suppose if we'd had a ladder it would been even easier. To retie and shorten the rope, Mike had to get on a chair, and then add a cooler to the chair, to get up high enough to shorten the rope so the nose of the fish would not touch the concrete. I had to steady him as Packard, all 6-4 250 pounds and tatoos, retied the ropes. It was incredibly risky for him. Three days earlier he'd had an epidural injection in his lower back with a foot-long needle at a Cabo hospital to prepare for the strain of the weigh-in effort.

Another record? Nine teams won money this year. The previous record for team payouts was seven teams. That's NINE teams out of 104. It could have been 11 teams if the $10,000 optional money had been claimed by a new team the second day. As it was, that second day money, $16,000, folded back over to the previous day's optional winner, the folks on the Picante Express who had entered across the board and ended up finishing second overall and won.

There's plenty of people who lent a hand. Kit McNear was back at the event to help out. He is no longer co-director of the event as he was for years, stepping down three years ago, but he came this time to help out where he could. He assisted at various levels at places where I needed him, but his most crucial effort came at the awards dinner. The 550 people, including the Baja Sur governor, were filtering onto the malecon, settling in at the white linen-laden tables and waiting for the event to begin. But we had no power for the stage. The 500-watt lights and high-powered sound system were overloading the mall's outdoor electric circuits.

McNear said. "We can't keep the lights and sound on. It keeps shorting out. But don't worry; I'm on it." He grabbed a few of the 100-foot extension cords I brought down and asked the owner of a nearby Italian restaurant if he could use their outlet for the sound. The music starts! We link up the lights to another restaurant's system. The lights go on! Five minutes before the event is to officially start and the governor of Baja Sur is due to arrive, we are in business and on schedule.

Kit and this reporter can add that one to the list of dodged bullets we can laugh about over the 11 years of holding this event.

I guess what I am saying is this: This event is hard to do, and it does not happen by just hoping it will be smoothly run. It takes planning, money and a small army of people on both sides of the border to create it. Without question, the 11th annual Tuna Jackpot was a helluva four-day party that will be tough to top next year.

Pat McDonell is editor of WON and director of the WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot. He can be reached at pat@wonews.com.