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Director's message

I will use my usual column standing head but with a different picture of me at weigh-in (you have it in that batch but I don't have access to here at home) and the column standing heads title is not Editor's Notes but "From The Director"

Odile, No Big Deal?

That headline is a great t-shirt slogan, and I bought one down there. Had to have it. But Odile's crashing our tournament party and the tourist season in Cabo was a very big deal. And its effects will be felt for years by the people of Cabo, and all of Southern Baja. A destructive lesson.

CABO WAS IN FULL SPORTFISHING FORM and the emphasis was on having a great time, while through charity efforts anglers were helping rebuild homes of sportfishing crews. The crowds were huge at each event and particularly at the weigh-ins on Thursday and Friday. PHOTOS BY GARY GRAHAM

But like any disaster - natural or otherwise - such things bring us all together and it certainly Nov. 5-8 at the Cabo Tuna Jackpot. I have said to some that 2014 was the best Jackpot tournament in its 15-year history? Is it true that this year's event held a few weeks ago beat out the 2012 tourney that had 121 teams, $564,000 and 11 tuna over 200 pounds, including the Estrella Del Norte's 372 pounder?

How does one gauge a tournament, comparing it against the others. The size of the event, the money in it? It is after all a Money Jackpot competition. Sometimes it just the feel of a tourney.

Strangely, after all these years, no one angler in the field this year has been to all 15 events. Several individuals have competed14 years. One of them, Victor Locklin, is a like a once-a year-friend I see every November, although we are Facebook friends, but even Victor missed that one year. Perhaps it was the first year when no one thought we could ever attract 100 teams to Cabo in the first try, and we had 112 teams.

The guys I started this event with in 1998-99 have left the company or for various reasons, do not attend it. The crews change. This year two important volunteers in Judy Passerello and Carolyn Collett begged out after 14 years and were missed a great deal. But people move on. But all 15 years? No one. Even the people in Cabo who assist in putting it on, the vendors, were not there in 1999 when the Estrella Del Mar panga pulled up with the winning tuna, a 218.9 pounder. The longest standing vendor is Gaston Mantano, 14 years as the sound/video man who was enlisted in 2000 when we knew we needed better equipment and a pro at the weigh-ins and parties.

So who would know if it was the best. I think that would be me. All 15 years as either the co-director or now as the director. Three years ago I came down when I should not have, and the morning of the awards I learned my mother had finally passed. A tough, tough day. That day I wrote out a script for the tourney's awards that night as the emcee and director, and before I left for the dinner typed out a eulogy for the woman who, among many other things, encouraged me to write.

So, yes, 15 years. I might be the only one who has been there every year in Cabo, and I would not have missed it. It has become part of a 2014 that included two hip surgeries, the wedding of my daughter, the death of a brother-in-law who loved Cabo more than any other person I know, and I turned 60. Odile and the tournament and all that happened is part of this amazing, emotional year for me.

DAVE AND AMY BULTHEIS of Costa were instrumental in raising money at the event, and it was their ninth year as attending sponsors.

So what makes a great event? The best event? A great party? It's when you get surprised. It's when everything gets thrown at you, obstacle after obstacle and the naysayers try to bring you down as they call or e-mail every day ("What are you gonna do?"..."You should cancel it to give Cabo a chance to heal" (huh?) ..."I'm not coming because the airlines cancelled my flight" or "What about all the violence down there I saw?" But here were many more comments like, "Hell yes I'm going!" And, "What can I do to help?"

Bill Boyce of WFN TV had planned to bring a film crew to Cabo and called a week after the hurricane and asked if all systems were a go because his crew guys were asking. Yep, I told him. Not to worry. And that was all Bill needed, and he was there, filming not the tourney, but about Cabo's sportfishing history and resilience. It'll make a great show.

Hurricane Odile was a game-changer for sure. We were headed for 150 or more teams after 135 teams last year, the fourth year the event grew after Mexico's cartel issues and our country's long-term recession had reduced our tourney field to 106 teams when I became director when my good friend Kit McNear moved on. So, yes, we were hoping for more money, more teams. Then came the warm water. And then Odile Sept. 14. After Southern Baja got blasted and the news teams showed the devastation, then the looting, I never considered postponing the event. It was part loyalty, necessity and maybe stupidity. My mother always said I was ornery.

CABO WAS IN FULL SPORTFISHING FORM and the emphasis was on having a great time, while through charity efforts anglers were helping rebuild homes of sportfishing crews. The crowds were huge at each event and particularly at the weigh-ins on Thursday and Friday. PHOTOS BY GARY GRAHAM

Well, damned if the whole thing didn't turn out to be better than most folks expected. A week after Odile, when things had settled, Denise, our longtime accountant at WON and for the Cabo Tuna Jackpot all 15 years, called every team captain from the previous year and every one of the 60 teams that had already signed up before Odile and made sure they knew we were not canceling. With no communication to vendors, I had to assume we all good.

The airline issues were a major concern as we all know. When I flew down on Spirit Airlines on the 31st, it was the first San Diego to Cabo flight since the hurricane. Half full. Who says Spirit has no heart? That they fly only when full. Everyone took a hit in some way.

I could go on and on, but the key element in the event was camaraderie and teamwork on the part of everyone, especially the locals in Cabo who were so appreciative of those who came down for the tournament after the monumental reconstruction and cleanup in the main tourist areas. There is much more to do. Thousands of homes were leveled, some of them homes of captains and crew members, and that is where the money we raised this year will go. Every penny. Not for administration, and not for some threatened animal in Africa. Not when the need is so great in Cabo for families struggling to survive with no roof or windows, and in some cases no walls.

So, yes, it was the best ever Cabo Tuna Jackpot. Take my word for it. We came, we fished, we partied and we helped families through donations through raffles, silent and live auctions, shirt sales, straight donations of money of $10 to $5,000.

Talk about surprises. When our charter start boat Cabo Escape could not get back from Mazatlan by tourney time due to the storm, the 150-person party cruise ship Baja Mar basically "donated" the boat for two days. The start boat Costa Charity Charter the second day was saved, and we hosted 130 people. The crew was incredible. They know how to party! The Cabo Mar normally goes for $2,000 a day. Welcome to Cabo!

Fishing? Eight of the 131 teams shared the $511,200 in the pot, we had a 293.1 pound tuna by the champs Dona Meche, the weather was fantastic after the threat of Hurricane Vance, the margaritas and beer were cold, the fish were big and most importantly we celebrated sportfishing and the people of Mexico.

Odile? Yes, it was a very big deal.

Pat McDonell is editor of WON and director of the Cabo Tuna jackpot. He can be reached at