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Checking/Captains' Meeting gets the good times rolling

With over $500,000 in cash at stake to go with prizes that go beyond galore, the kick off to this year's WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot shows that what happens in Cabo isn't staying in Cabo… well, at least not the prizes, loot and the fishing stories

WON Staff Writer

WYNDHAM, Cabo San Lucas -- It's one eclectic mix at the check-in for the 2012 edition of the WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, as this is the one spot where all the fishermen and anglers that will end up riding everything from 22-foot pangas to 90-foot yachts that go beyond mega have to be.

PILES OF SHIRTS AND HATS were stacked high, with weighmaster Mike Packard doling out the ropa.

It's easy to skip the weigh-in, or pass on the post-fishing fiesta that shouldn't be missed due to the goodies and incredible spread put out by the malecon's most popular restaurant, Solomon's. Even the Captains' Meeting can get skipped by those who have been here and done this, and don't care about the raffles and giveaways that will also be there at the fiesta, and the awards ceremony that has also been known to get skipped by teams that missed the loot or ran into Montezuma.

Check-in. Gotta be there.

There's this electricity in the air. Sure, the fishing reports help, the whole THE GORDO IS BITING thing. But that's just one of the wires. Toss in the psych that comes from actually being on Mexican soil and down for the big trip of the year, the Coronas, now and then, the rekindling with old friends and even a little bit of, dare we say it, ego — ego in a fishing tourney, huh? — and the results are a unique feel for the 121 teams to check in.

THIS YEAR'S CASTING CONTEST had Avet's Rick Ozaki on hand to show off the power of the Avet Magic Cast.

Yes, 121 teams to check in, and nearly 500 anglers vying for over $500,000 in cash — $564,400, to be exact — and more than $100,000 than 2011.

Things are good in Cabo, and with the demographic that draws the tuna tournament participants. You'd think that the country's largest fishing newspaper would draw hard from its core readers, and to use the same word again, demographic. But it really doesn't. The Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot has grown to be a destination tournament, one that draws teams near and far, from right in Cabo San Lucas to outside of North America.

TEAMS FROM OUTSIDE the West Coast make up a big part of the Tuna Jackpot contingent, like the Hillbilly Yacht Club from Coalinga, CA. There were teams from Europe and as far north as the Yukon Terrority.

Chalk up the different accents and styles to the fact that the tournament is one where the $700 entry fee really does allow anyone who would be in Cabo for fishing anyways participate, while it also gives the ballers with big bucks plenty of reason to participate; Optionals in the thousands — with $5,000 and $10,000 being the biggest — combined with the masses entering the smaller $500 to $3,000 daily sidepots means that paydays over $250,000 are more than possible, they have become standard.

THE CHECK-IN line and crowd grew as the 2 p.m. check-in wore on.

And that's why the check-in really is a sight to be seen, blue-collar "Joe Six-Packs" are right in there competing against the guys that could — and maybe even do — sign their paychecks.

'Fish hard, party harder' is the slogan of the event, and the malecon in front of the host hotel, Wyndham, is the unofficial party to kick it off. It's beers and drinks bought from neighboring bars in hand between John Handcocks and goodie bags.

SIGN YOUR LIFE AWAY! Not really, but putting the old John Hancock on the entry finalized entry for the over 400 participants.

Backpacks stuffed with goods from all the event's sponsors make the long check-in line worth it. This year, Steve Tagami of Mustad is on hand to hand out hooks and talk about the wide gap Mustad Demon Perfect Circle hook that has a one-of-a-kind bite to it -- the hook has proven itself as the best new big tuna hook on the market, and the pending IGFA world record caught on one has everyone talking about the hooks and getting them to switch brands. Which is tough: it's like getting a Coke drinker to switch to Pepsi, a blonde guy to say brunettes are the best. Mustad giving away three $500 shopping sprees to be raffled off to anglers who bring their fish to the scale with a Mustad hook attached is the swing vote to get most to make the switch.

BEAUTIFUL GIVEAWAYS from the event -- backpacks and long sleeve shirts to Mustad hooks styled everyone out at check-in. New Jersey residents Tom Kayhart and Tom Rinbos had beer goggles on after spending the morning and early afternoon at the nearest watering hole; they liked what they saw.

Seaguar's Gerry Benedicto and John Devries heard about all the big fish this year, so its straight 130-pound Seaguar Fluoro Premier being given to all participants (fast forward to day two, and the 372 caught on the Estrella de Norte was on not the 130-pound giveaway fluoro, but rather "only" 100-pound connected to the monofilament with a Seaguar knot). And they are also there to talk to anglers about the famed Seaguar photo contest.

Costa Sunglasses' Dave is on hand to show off the wares and talk about the new-for-2012 Costa Bingo, as well as why Costa has become number one with West Coast anglers making choices in sunglasses.

COSTA was on hand to show off the most popular glasses in their extensive line — like the Blackfin. Dave Bulthuis had plenty of Costa wearers to talk to. And he was doing a 50-50 drawing for charity, raising $1,500 himself.

There's plenty of sponsors to talk to before and after check-in, with Rick Ozaki of Avet on hand to answer questions about the three-speed 80 Avet, and Jeff Gammon of Terrafin at the last booth to talk about water breaks and edges and how invaluable Terrafin's service is. Grabbing a cigar from Cabo Cigars and talking shop was a popular way to spend the check-in time.

THIS YEAR MARKED the 14th edition of the WON Tuna Jackpot; all the winners were on a board to show off the big, bigger and not-so-big fish that have won the event since 1998.

As was the Avet Casting Contest. Ozaki opened things up, casting the tennis ball right into the tub with an Avet JX Magic Cast; and in the end, 33 of the anglers took part in the casting contest. But they all should have! It was free to enter, and, really, zero casting skill was required. The anglers who tried were put in a raffle, with all having an equal shot of their names getting pulled out of the hat at the captain's meeting and winning an Avet/Seeker combo...

DOS HUEVOS played some killer cover tunes for the crowd to check in to.

Matt Campbell ends up getting drawn for the casting combo — he even gets the tennis ball used for casting -- but what he's going to use it for in Calgary creates a ha-ha moment.

Rules and logistics take up the bulk of the meeting. Maybe that's why so many of the raffle tickets have no claimer?

THE EAT ME LURES girls were on hand to sell the trolling lures' garb; the company also provided the tournament flags this year.

Either way, a 30-minute video loop goes through itself a few times, McDonell with the help of Tracy Ehrenberg of Pisces fleet translating goes through the time for the fiestas and fun stuff, from the Seaguar Photo Contest to the Costa Bingo proceeds going towards building a kitchen for the childrens' orphanage. In between there's the sticker contest and all the good vibes that come with the event.


TEMPERATURES IN THE HIGH 80s kept some sweat on the ‘brow; anglers cooled off with waters and Coronas.

A PILE OF OVER 450 BACKPACKS were given away, with each angler getting a pack to put all their swag in.

THE LINE GREW AND GREW heading towards the 5 o'clock hour.

CABO CIGAR CO. technicians were twisting ‘em up at check in, complete with the custom Cabo Tuna Jackpot wrap.

2011 WINNERS Oroville and Cindy Henseler were back to take a shot at winning again this year.


THE CAPTAINS' MEETING at the Cabo Cultural Center had last year's highlights on a 30-minute video loop before Pat McDonell and Tracy Ehrenberg went over the rules before heading into the events first raffle.

THIS YEAR'S CASTING CONTEST WINNER wasn't crowned by the furthest cast, but rather from a random drawing of all those who showed off their casting skills. Matt Campbell of Calgary came out the winner of the Avet Reel/Seeker Rod combo. He also won a tennis ball.

BIG RAFFLE WINNERS at the Captains' Meeting meeting took down everything from Seeker Rods to Costa sunglasses.

BIG RAFFLE WINNERS at the Captains' Meeting meeting took down everything from Seeker Rods to Costa sunglasses.

BIG RAFFLE WINNERS at the Captains' Meeting meeting took down everything from Seeker Rods to Costa sunglasses.

BIG RAFFLE WINNERS at the Captains' Meeting meeting took down everything from Seeker Rods to Costa sunglasses.