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From Tragic to Magic

Just 7 months after a tragic accident that took his leg, Cabo Magic angler Orville Hensler puts his prosthetic leg to work and lands a 213-pound cow after a 4 hour, 55 minute battle that he credits to going his way thanks to 150-pound Seaguar

Fishing hard leads to big bucks for some, partying harder for others
at 2011 WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot

THE WINNERS of the 2011 WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, Oroville and Cindy Henseler.

WON Staff Writer

CABO SAN LUCAS - Word that a 250-plus-pound yellowfin tuna had been caught prior to the first day's scales opening in front of the Wyndham at 2 p.m. created quite the buzz to kick off the weigh in.

But it wasn't a big tuna that would be tough to beat to kick off the 2011 WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, but rather that of a 55.5-pound wahoo for Team Checkmate that locked up the wahoo/dorado optional that had $72,000 in the pool, with $36,000 of it going to the eventual day one winners on the Checkmate.

The buzz over the 250 - and that it was caught by a team across the board in all the optionals - filled up a good part of the dialog that Tournament Director Pat McDonell was putting out over the microphone leading towards the first tuna of the day to hit the scale. Team 65 made up of Scott Miley, Jeff Friemoth, Antonio Gulvarte and Ted Higginbothan were the first to have a fish go on the board thanks to the 96.6-pound yellowfin they caught on 60-pound test on the Alejandra.

Typical of day one, the team wanted to stay tight lipped about the location and details of the catch, saying only it was caught on bait with 60-pound test. The team was just in the $1,000 optional, so there were still plenty of slots to fill in the optionals and leader board as a string of smaller fish came to the scales.

By 3:30 p.m. Rico Torres on radio control said that two fish were still hooked up leading to the 4 p.m. lines out time. The team that had the rumored big fish - which would go on to be called the "phantom tuna" by McDonell - was said to be team 86, which was the Fortuna. A look on the check-in sheet confirmed that the team had in fact entered across the board. But when the team, which called itself Bill's Toupee, came in it wasn't a big cow that came up the ramp, but rather a 80.2 pounder that would have a short stay as the leader of all the optionals, outside of the $1,000.

THE WEIGH IN WENT INTO THE DARK as some last-minute huge fish on the Maybe Manana, Wild Hooker, Hammer Time and finally, True VII came to the scale.

Lots of small fish started coming in, with the Bad Medicine and Marlin Queen coming in with 40.3 and 36.9-pound yellowfin. Word was that the fishing on school fish was good. The Ohioans that made up Team Tuna Chasers came in next, with team member Dale Braun reporting "We had tuna all day on porpoise, just nothing big."

The first 100-pound fish of the event was up next at 4:56 p.m., and it wasn't a huge surprise that it was past winners of the 2009 event - in which they caught the largest yellowfin tuna ever caught on a Mexican-based boat in the process, with a 383 - Team Fisher Man. Most of the team stayed on the boat, but the father-and-son duo of Augustin Pino and Hugo Pino checked in the 107 pounder that Hugo caught.

They were in all the optionals, aside from the $10,000 that six teams went into.

But the stay at number one was short lived, as the first fish that looked like it could be a cow over 200 pounds came up the dock being carted by Felipe Mago and Jolo Villavicakio Garcia of the charter boat Angelina, as the crowd built around the weigh station being manned by Jonathan Roldan.

Roldan used the electronic winch to pull the big fish up and then clip it on to the scale. The slow, steady drop had the pulley rope go slack, and McDonell announced the weight "198.1."

The family team of Anna and Marty Griffith along with son Evan Villarruel told the crowd that they hooked the fish on the troll just 20 minutes into fishing, and that Villarruel was the one that grabbed the rod.

AN IMMEDIATE CELEBRATION broke out when Team True VII realized they had swept the optionals.

"It's pretty much a one-day tournament for us," said Marty Griffith, who was already figuring out how to cut up the check for the day one $500 and $1000 optionals between the family and the crew at weigh in. Turns out the family were in Cabo for a wedding, and that they'd only be able to fish half a day on day two and they'd miss the parties and weigh ins.

By this point it was 5:13 p.m. and anything could happen. The only optionals that were locked down were the $500 and $1000, and even those were vulnerable, especially seeing how the buzz was still that there was a 250-pound fish out there somewhere. One cow could change it all.

More 100-plus-pound tuna came in - including a 117 for Team Reina de Wahoo that could have toppled the 107 on the Fisher Man IF they were in the big money optionals - but in the end the only slot still open was the $10,000 optional as the time started ticking down at 5:45 p.m. But then Captain Edwardo Liera slid the Precision III into the slip in front of the scale, and angler Mark Callahn asked if any fish had been weighed in for the $10,000 optional. And just like that the day two $10,000 optional worth $24,000 got filled. There would be no rollover money.

The crowd was huge by this point, with good music and beers and cocktails in everyones' hands adding to the "Fish Hard, Party Harder" brand that the tournament is built around.

Still, where was this 250-pound tuna? Would there be some sort of last minute back down and weigh in - which is synonymous with the tournament. Or was it all rumor?

"There's six minutes to go, where's this 250?" McDonell asked the crowd at 5:54 p.m. Come the last seconds of day one a countdown ended with McDonell saying, "We just gave away $154,000.00, and we're going to give away even more tomorrow!"

THE BIGGEST YELLOWFIN of day two hit the scales and the crowd—and anglers and crew on the Cabo Magic -went wild. From left, deckhand Omar Aeala, Captain Hector Aeala, deckhand Rafael Sanchez, Cindy Henseler, Orville Hensler and Eat Me Lures' Cindy Boyer.

Team Fisherman got the biggest chunk with $94,400.00. The big question leading into day two was whether a cow would come to the scale and topple the 198.1 that earned the team on the Angelina $35,800.00.


The tone for day two was set right after the scales opened, as Rico Torres on the tournament control radio told McDonell that 11 boats were already coming in with fish, the first of which being the Protocol.

Team 94 on the Protocol, made up of Alex Rogers, Bruce Lynn, Greg Surgener, Rick Rohodes and Damien Oswald had a good fish that looked over 120 pounds, and they were in all the optionals. The same fish would have taken all the optionals from $2,000 to $10,000 on day one, but this day had that feel of being a different one right out of the gates, with reports of great fishing to go with the fact that there were still 10 boats to get weighed in so early in the tournament. But the 126.7 for the boys on the Protocol set the bar early as the fish to beat. Still, team captain Rogers seemed to know it wasn't going to be enough: while the crowd cheered any lip readers in the audience could tell he was thinking the fish would weigh in heavier.

The reports of fishing being "good" would be an understatement, as a string of fish that included 20 over 100 pounds and (spoiler alert) 3 over 200 started getting checked in.

DAY ONE'S BIG FISH went 198.1 pounds for the Texas based team made up of, from left to right, team captain Anna Griffith, Marty Griffith and Evan Villarruel and son/grandson, Huston. At far right is Eat Me Lures girl Cindy Boyer, Kneeling are Angelina crewmembers Felipe Mago, left, and Jolo Villavicakio Garcia.

Teams like Meal Money, Solomon's Dream and Reina de Wahoo all had 100-plus-pound fish, but it was apparent that it was going to take a fish closer being in the cow category on day two. Still, Reina de Wahoo got a consolation in that of their 39.2-pound wahoo that they weighed in along with their 121.9-pound tuna being good for the day two wahoo optional.

And then came the first cow of the tournament.

The Bottom Line slid into a slip in front of the Wyndham, and it was immediately apparent that the ante was getting bumped up. Ex pats John Buchan and Gil Leiendecker now call San Jose del Cabo home after spending their working lives in Seattle, and it was the waters around their new backyard - Punta Gordo to be exact - where Captain Rodrigo Arce slow trolled up the cow that ate a "Chilly Willy" the rainbow runner-like bait that can be caught on light line and small hooks on top of the Gordo banks.

The fish ended up going 205 pounds, good for the top slot in the overall - which paid out 80 percent to first - and the day two leader in the $500 and $1000 optionals that the Bottom Line team had ponied up for.

The crowd really started to ramp up as Team Hillybilly Yacht Club came in on one of the Redrum boats with two fish that looked to be in the 150-pound class.

And then things started to go off. The Bill Collector checked in a 190.2 that ate caballito fished in a pod of porpoise way up the Pacific side. The team had chartered the boat from the Pisces Fleet, and all of a sudden Wayne Smith, David Bick, Ed Sexton and Jim Brown were sitting in the top spots in the bulk of the bigger money jackpots, save for the 10K. It almost looked like the fish they caught with Captain Julio Gonzales and deckhand Estebon Boldoes could hold on and get some of the big bucks.

Stories of big fish and break off were rife. Ed Tschernoscha of Baja Fish Gear had a good grade fish well over 100 pounds, but he said it was he one that broke off that could have put him in the money once again.

By now it was 5:20 Reactor Time, and McDonell couldn't believe the amount of 100-plus-pound fish-albeit none of them would qualify-coming up the ramp. More than once he called the fishing and parade of 100-pound fish the best he's ever seen at the event. Plenty of stories started along the lines of "If we had landed the one that we hooked..."

And then came Cabo Magic. The crowd had been introduced to Oroville and Cindy Henseler at the day one weigh in, when Oroville weighed in a non-qualifying fish and told McDonell and the crowd that fishing in the Tuna Tournament was on his "bucket list." A workplace accident last April in which led to Orville losing his leg from the knee down is what led to the creation of this "bucket list"-and Orville standing on his new prosthetic, Corona can in hand, next to wife Cindy, while Roldan strung up a cow that looked like it was going to smash the Bottom Line's 205.

The fat cow looked bigger than it was, but the scale stopped at three numbers that were plenty big enough - 213 - to knock the Bottom Line out of the top spot in the overall, but not the day two optionals, as the Henselers threw down the $800 to enter, but not in on any of the optionals.

But after a battle that went beyond epic, Orville couldn't care less. It was all about the experience of fishing in the tuna tournament he had read about on the Internet back home in Pennsylvania.

He told the crowd that is was over a 4½ hour battle on the 60-pound mono and a single speed 6/0 Senator and a no-name rod that looked more suitable for fishing 30-pound. Maybe 40.

Still, a leader of 150-pound Seaguar Fluoro Premier saved Orville, creating a heavy buffer between him and tackle that was down a few notches as being cow worthy.

He said that Captain Hector Aeala stopped the boat on a spot of porpoise and the boat's deckhands, Omar Aeala and Rafael Sanchez, dropped caballitos back into the porpoise. Cindy hooked a 55 pounder; Orville got bit by the 213.

For over 4 hours she gave him waters and cigarettes, although the captain put a no smoking ban into place after getting nervous that the cherry would hit the line.

Even in the end, after fighting the fish with the prosthetic leg he still hasn't become used to wearing, Orville told the crew of the Cabo Magic that he wanted to gaff the fish himself. Muy Loco.

But the celebration was short lived. For now. No sooner had the Henselers and the crew of the Cabo Magic gone back to the boat than did some of the big name favorites start to show up with big fish. Not fish big enough to take the overall that would pay $35,040.00, but fish plenty big enough to take some of the big money optionals from $2,000 on up. Maybe Manana, Wild Hooker, Hammer Time – they all had fish that were worth weighing, and when the parade ended the Hawaii based team on Wild Hooker - they literally came over to Cabo from Hawaii to fish the event-were sitting on the $3,000 and $5,000 optionals with a 187.4 and the Maybe Manana had the 10K on lockdown with the fish that went 149.4.

The 190.2 on the Bill Collector was sitting on the $500 daily worth $28,400 and the $2,000 daily worth $24,800.

The only cow holding an optional was the 205 that had Bottom Line looking like they were going to get the $21,600 for to go with $4,320.00 for second overall. But all the teams were about to experience a huge swing from black towards red.

The crew on the True VII was sitting back in the slip, waiting for the other big yachts to weigh in. It was pitch black by this time, and the buzzed-up crowd went crazy when the crew put what had to be a cow over the rail and into the dock cart.

"Will this beat the 213 that the Cabo Magic has? It looks like we could have a sweep of the optionals... they are in all the optionals!" said McDonell.

The team actually had two fish to weigh in. The big one would have done it, but the team led by Captain Brett Eller had the smaller of the two weighed first. The 164 was good for the 10k optional, knocking the Maybe Manana's 149.4 out. Then came the big dude. It didn't look bigger than the 213 on the Cabo Magic, but it looked like it was right there with the 205 on the Bottom Line.

It was as though what went on to be called Team True (drop the VII) knew they were going to smash the optionals, and when the scale stopped at 206 - smashing most fish out of the optionals and edging the Bottom Line by a pound - angler Chris Fuller, Captain Eller, Tom Aland and local Cubby Pahl, Steve Geary and Rudy Jimenez blew up in celebration along with their friends. And it wouldn't end until the wee hours of the morning come Sunday at Squid Roe.

And that was it. A two-day weigh in that had it all: working class winners in the overall, a last minute weigh in for over $150,000 and the odds-on favorite team Fisher Man getting a big chunk of the prize pool to go with enough winners to make for plenty of checks to get cut at the awards ceremony come the next day.

But first it was time for that night's fiesta hosted by Costa and Reactor watches.


Stay tuned, but Cabo Tuna Jackpot video from our official videographer Ervin Witt of Gringo Gazette TV will be up on You Tube within a few weeks of the end of the event, or by Turkey Day. All facets of the event were filmed and the video will be, like all You Tube video -- free to link to and watch. Enjoy!

Next Year's Event: Nov. 7-11, 2012

Plan now for the 14th annual Cabo Tuna Jackpot. It's planned, as always, for the first Wednesday through Saturday of November, so this year the tourney will be staged AFTER Holloween and after the elections. There will not be major schedule changes. A party may be added.

The cost to enter will not change, $800 for a team of up to four anglers, plus jackpots. A new entry form will be created soon, so watch for it in the coming weeks.

If your company is interested in sponsoring the tournament next year and even attend the tourney, please contact WON's Chuck Buhagiar at


Whether it was charity or for helping build welcome bags for anglers, donating prizes, sponsoring parties or bringing down prizes for drawings, TUNA JACKPOT SPONSORS make it happen for the tuna tourney.

Attending sponsors were John, Cinda and Evelyn Boyer of Eat Me Lures, Pam Lorenz of WIN-Team investments, Steve Tagami and Tom Kurtz of Mustad products, John Devries and Jerry Benedicto of Seaguar fluro and super braid lines, George Large of Yo-Zuri lures and monofilament, Jeff Gammons of Terrafin satellite imaging maps, Scott and Tracy Lipsett of Reactor watches, and Ed Teschernoscha of Baja Fish Gear.

Supporting companies unable to attend were Yamaha, Global fish mounts, Kingfisher Lodge in Alaska, Plano tackle boxes, Avet reels, Calstar rods, Lowrance, and Let's Talk Hookup.

Assisting on-site at the event were Tracy and Marco Ehrenberg of Pisces Fleet and their staff, Jose Luis Cruz and Rafael Sanchez Navarro of the Wyndham Hotel, the entire staff of the Marina Cabo San Lucas, National Rental Car, Brian and Dawn Solomon of Solmon's Landing Restaurent, Dorrane Pacheco and Salvador Rico of the Puerto Paraiso Mall, Dale and Grace Cote of Dreammaker Charters, and Hector Ojeda of Ruth's Cris Steakhouse.

On-site staff were: Pat McDonell, Jill and Jonathan Roldan, Chuck and Rhonda Buhagiar, Judy Passarello, Carolyn Collette, Brian Harris, Gaston Mantano, Brandon Hayward and Mike Bohn.

WEBSITES: Get the details

This supplement has all the information on the event with most of the photos, but if you'd like to download photos, see more of them, sign upo for next year, link up to video taken during the event and even sign up for next year's event to get that special number (7 is taken), there three ways to go online.

  • The official website of the Tuna Jackpot at has video links, sponsors links, a schedule for next year, archived stories and results, and downloadable gallery photos to see and pull off.

  • The WON website is the place to signup for 2012 via credit card by going to "events" and scrolling down. At this point, you can sign up for the team portion at $800 to secure your team number. And, on the home page, you can check the Cabo Tuna Jackpot blog (click on see all blogs if it's not showing at the top) for any breaking information.

  • Facebook: The Cabo Tuna Jackpot Facebook site is a great spot to read about the event and comment. You can go to the site and click on the link/logo on the right side.