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LUCKY 7: Hillbilly Yacht Club

BY GARY GRAHAM

The Yamaha/Western Outdoor News Tuna Tournament held last week in Cabo draws some of most interesting and unique competitors. When I spotted Barbara Morris, Randy Matz, Fred and Tawnya Stevens sporting t-shirts with Hillbilly Yacht Club emblazoned across their backs, I knew there had to be a story there. It was in the branding.


When I spotted Barbara Morris, Randy Matz, Fred and Tawnya Stevens sporting t-shirts with Hillbilly Yacht Club emblazoned across their backs, I knew there had to be a story there.

The four were harking from Coalinga, California, which they quickly pointed out was just three miles beyond the ‘cow smell'… 100 miles north of Bakersfield.

Basically they are freshwater fishermen who spend most of their summers fishing the Wishon Lake in the Sierra foothills. Randy Matz dreamed up the name Hillbilly Yacht Club and it stuck for them and other friends from Coalinga who fish trout every summer on the lake.

It was also Randy who had read about the WON Tuna Tournament for years. Three years ago, while they fished from a pontoon boat, which they refer to as "dry dock," he mentioned it again. A few beers helped them decide to give the saltwater tournament a try.

Their first year, Team 7 caught a qualifying fish that put them in the lead for nearly an hour before it was replaced by a larger fish. They still felt as though they were winners. Before the event was over they had won enough swag that they needed an extra bag to get the goodies back to Coalinga. Their prizes included Costa Del Mar sunglasses, Reactor watches, Baja Fish Gear and Eat Me Lures. Their pictures were all over the WON paper, and their photos in the promotional ads constantly reminded them to sign up again.

This year was their second WON Tuna tournament. They signed up for the Early Bird Drawing and were given their lucky number 7 again. When I first spotted their t-shirts, I knew that here were some folks who were bound and determined to have a good time. They even had the tournament motto on the sleeves of their shirts, Fish hard and party harder!

Day #1 at the weigh-in, I kept watching for them, but they never showed up. They had not gotten the "catch" part of fish harder, but I figured out that they did understand the party harder! When I saw them later that night at the Yokohama Fiesta, they were whooping and hollering like any good hillbilly!

Friday night, we bumped into them at Solomon's Bar. Not only had they not caught anything to bring to the scale, they hadn't even won any raffle prizes! Bummer! Though their smiles and laughter convinced me that win or not, they were enjoying this event. When they finished their drinks and headed for the Reactor Squid Roe party, I reassured them tonight would be their night.

Sure enough when I bumped into them early Saturday morning on my way to the Pete Gray Let's Talk Hookup show at the Pisces Fleet office, they were quick to show me their three new Reactor watches and Costa Del Mar glasses to go with them.

With high hopes at the final dinner, their goal was to win the Alaska Kingfisher trip. They didn't win the trip but they did manage to win another Reactor watch…all four had matching wrist jewelry. And they agreed that since they didn't win the trip, they were going to pay and go anyway.

The Hillbilly Yacht Club has already decided to return to Cabo for the 12th Annual Yamaha/WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament. They are not sure whether it is the fishing, partying, raffles or all the great people they meet during the events, but Team 7 has already booked their boat and are making plans for next year. I can't wait to the next t-shirts.