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PREVIEW: Cabo is ready and waiting and looks great


San Jose based charterboat team Dona Meche pulls out a 293.1-pounder from the Gordo Bank and scores a title, claiming $122,600 of the $511,200 doled out to eight money winning teams in the 15th annual WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament, the biggest tourney of the year again in Cabo with 131 teams

STORY AND PHOTOS BY GARY GRAHAM
WON Staff Writer

CABO SAN LUCAS - The 15th annual Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot tournament is now in the history book. Its rich history of big payouts, huge tuna, exciting finishes and unusual participants' tales is dimmed by comparison to this year's event that has all the components of a Shakespeare play.


This isn't just a story about an interesting two-day sportfishing tournament. The story goes all the way back to mid-September when Hurricane Odile swept through Baja from tip to top with winds reaching 145 mph accompanied by torrential rains that destroyed both commercial and personal property, leaving thousands homeless and in despair.

Locals and visitors alike, surveying the damage after it was over, shook their heads in disbelief at the carnage and believed that recovery would take months, if not years, to recover.

Within days of the monster storm's departure, from the highest offices of the government to the poorest families in the colonias surrounding the cities, something remarkable happened. With a common purpose strangers from afar joined locals either by sending donations of humanitarian and medical supplies or cash, or in many cases, volunteering to come and help.

Thousands of workmen with equipment to restore power arrived along with thousands of marines who restored order and buoyed the spirits of the locals who call this harsh land their home and they were mobilized into action with a common goal: to restore normalcy as quickly as possible.


By registration day in front of the Wyndham Hotel the number of teams had grown to 131, once again establishing the event as the largest sportfishing event held in Cabo for the year.

Even before all the damage could be assessed, Pat McDonell, director of the tournament, vowed the event would go forward as planned… period. Teams had been signing up all summer. However, with the news of the September storm they faltered until it became clear that Cabo San Lucas would be ready to welcome them in less than two months.

By registration day, the number of teams had grown to 131 - once again establishing the event as the largest sportfishing event held in Cabo for the year.

For the many teams traveling from a distance, with limited flights being offered, getting to Cabo was a struggle, but no one seemed to mind.

Earlier, before registration day, 10 teams had signed up in the Cabo Charter boat Program, a free entry drawing at the Marlin sculpture which linked the teams with 10 charter boats in a drawing. The entry fee for those teams was paid through the program from a local and unknown benefactor who had paid entries for 50 teams in the 125-team Bisbee's Black & Blue Marlin Tournament the week before as a way to get crews back working.


New teams were welcomed by seasoned veterans, some of whom had participated every year since the 1999.

"The charter program wasn't as significant for our tourney as we are already a charterboat event," said McDonell. "But we didn't stand in the way of it, even though it was a complicated process with a lot of hoops to jump through. We found teams generally weren't interested in saving $800 when they couldn't pick their own charterboat. But ten boats is 10 boats and the organizers behind the program in Cabo were very professional and organized."

As registration began on Wednesday, the sun was brightly shining and the worrisome threats of Hurricane "Vance" that had preceded the contest were gone and Vance had headed east toward the mainland was no longer a threat.

New teams were welcomed by seasoned veterans, some of whom had participated every year since 1999. As they made their way through the registration line in front of the Wyndham Hotel, filling their tournament bags emblazoned with logos of the tournament, Gray Taxidermy, Gricelda's Smokehouse and Pisces Sportfishing with information and swag provided by attending sponsors Seaguar, Mustad, Reactor, Yo-Zuri, Minerva's, Costa, Hi-Seas/AWS, Terrafin SST-View, Eat Me Lures, Gray Taxidermy, Simrad Marine Electronics, Cabo Cigar Company and all the others who were on hand.


Throughout the afternoon, the Dos Huevos, a Cabo San Lucas-based Rhythm & Blues Band formed in the early 90s, kept the crowd rocking.

Throughout the afternoon, the Dos Huevos, a three-member Cabo San Lucas-based rhythm and blues band formed in the early ‘90s, kept the crowd rocking as the teams mingled and compared their team shirts, and in some cases outrageous names, while ever-seeking that nugget of fish dope that would give them an edge in the competition during the upcoming two days of fishing.

The afternoon sped by. Soon the bright sun plunged behind the pedregal as teams trudged up several flights of stairs to the Los Cabos Cultural Center amphitheater where the Eat Me girls passed out Frogg Togg's Chilly Pads (chamois for the neck) and as many shots of tequila from Solomon's Landing Restaurant as team members could handle.

It was an enthusiastic group that was seated before Director Pat McDonell as he welcomed the crowd from behind a table piled high with even more swag to be raffled off during the evening.


Soon the bright sun plunged behind the Pedregal as teams trudged up several flights of stairs to the Los Cabo Cultural Amphitheater where the Eat Me girls passed out Frogg Togg's Chilly Pads and as many shots of tequila as team members could handle.

The night's program began with a slide presentation created by McDonell of the devastation caused by Odile and the subsequent recovery efforts of thousands had locals joining visitors sharing in the civic pride and amazement at what had been accomplished in less than two months. Each cheer of approval grew louder than the last. That 3½-minute slide show can be seen by going to the website www.loscabostunajackpot.com and clicking on the link "Tribute to Cabo" under 2014 Review. It is also accessed through the event's Facebook page.

During a 15-minute video reviewing of last year's event, cheers and catcalls rang out as teams and participants recognized themselves and friends in the professionally-produced video by Erwin Witt of Beduino Productions.


It was an enthusiastic group that was seated before Pat McDonell, director, as he welcomed the crowd from behind a table piled high with even more swag to be raffled off during the evening.

McDonell then introduced Bill Boyce, renowned fisheries biologist, photographer and WFN TV show host who would be filming a show segment over the next two days with Robert Craig Warner, Reno, Nev., winner of a year-long Reactor Watch Promotion who brought his son to fish the event.

"Sportfishing is what made this town, NOT GOLF!" Boyce began, sounding a bit like a fundamentalist preacher at a revival, and eliciting a thunderous roar from the crowd. "That's the story I want to tell in the next few days, with your help. The history of sportfishing and what it means to your community needs to be told and I'm here to tell it!" He closed to the tumultuous approval of everyone as he left the stage.

Rebecca Ehrenberg introduced Barbie Alvarez, Isabel Gagnion, Zuki Page along with several others who have been working with families in the colonias assisting displaced families. As she introduced her team, she explained that they had constructed several community kitchens and they were also repairing damaged homes. (See Gary Graham's related story on this website).


Rebecca Ehrenberg introduced Barbara Alvarez, Isabel Gagnion, Zuki Page along with several others who have been working with families in the Colonias assisting displaced families. As she introduced her team, she explained that they had constructed several community kitchens and they were also repairing damaged homes.

McDonell pledged all funds raised from raffles, auctions, T-shirt sales , the Friday start boat cruise and live auctions at the awards would be used to provide cinder block-construction homes for 15 or more families who had already been selected. More money, more homes.

A huge raffle of Yo-Zuri items along with Cousin rods, Avet Reels, Plano Tackle Boxes, Eat Me Lures, Reactor Watches, a Simrad VHF radio and other sponsor-donated items followed.

The next morning as the party cruise yacht Cabo Mar left the dock at 6 a.m., "Happy" by Pharrell WiIliams blared over the speakers which were placed throughout the 65-foot long and 36-foot wide, double-decker catamaran the owners had donated toi the event with the scheduled start boat Cabo Escape was not able to get back to Cabo from Mazatlan when it had been undergoing repairs.


A huge raffle of Yo-Zuri items along with Cousin rods, Avet Reels and other items followed.

The song seemed to match the mood of the 130 spectators and staff aboard.

Slowly making its way toward Land's End, the Cabo Mar was surrounded by boats with teams competing for attention, displaying team numbers as well as their tournament burgees for recognition by the staff personnel. Many were also showing their Costas for the "Show your Costas" Contest as directed by signs the spotters were displaying on the bow and top deck.

All business, everyone concentrated on their assigned tasks. In the midst of it all, McDonell handed his mike off to Isabel Gagnion who took her job earnestly, directing boats to the side each should pass on as they approached, screaming their numbers as confirmation once she spotted them.

"Show me your tail!" she screeched, admonishing the captains when she couldn't see the name on their transoms. "That's a nice boat. Are you married?" The spectators on the Cabo Mar nearly doubled over in laughter.

Precisely at 7 a.m., the red shimmering flare streaked across the perfect Baja morning sky, signaling the official start of the 15th Annual Western Outdoor News/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament as everything from tin boats to tricked out mega-sportfishers accelerated to full power heading for their respective "secret" spots.


Scales opened at 2 p.m. and soon after the first tuna of the day was brought to the scale weighing 124.6 pounds by angler Tom Quimby, Team 57, on the Rebecca of Pisces Fleet and namesake of Rebecca Ehrenberg.

As the boat idled back to the IGY Marina, "Happy" was cranked back up and many elected to break into spontaneous dance mode on the bow. Why not? The tournament was on, Hurricane Vance petered out and a distant memory, and the Bloody Marys and mimosas were flowing.

At the IGY marina, they found the Reel Quest, last year's champion and big money winner, tied fast to the dock with hatches open and smoke pouring out of the port engine. A blown manifold. The team had found a substitute boat which was already on its way to pick them up so they could still fish.

Scales opened at 2 p.m. and soon after the first tuna of the day weighing 124.6 pounds was brought to the scale by angler Tom Quimby, Team 57, on the Rebecca"of the Pisces Fleet.

After that it was steady procession of mostly tuna, a few wahoo qualifiers but no dorado. By the time the scale had closed, a remarkable 24 teams had visited the scale with fish, with three in winning positions at the end of the day much to the delight of the large group of spectators gathered on the malecon.


Colleens Magic, angler John Kemp's 51.2-pound wahoo Team 87, entered in the wahoo and dorado jackpot locked down the heaviest wahoo daily and was never really threatened securing the wahoo/dorado jackpot.

The first team to stake claim to an optional at the scale was Team Redum II (Team 87) on Colleen's Magic. John Kemp with his team's 51.2-pound wahoo locked down the heaviest wahoo/dorado optional daily and was never really threatened and claimed the $45,600.

There were quality fish brought in, but the biggest arrived soon enough. Dona Meche angler Wyatt Duncan and his team 71 brought in a whopper, a 293.1-pound yellowfin tuna, and were in the $500, $1,000 and $2,000 jackpots. That fish, fourth biggest in the history of the event, easily fended off all challenges for the day, winning the three optionals for the day and holding the overall lead for the heaviest tuna for the tournament.


Dona Meche angler Wyatt Duncan with the team's 293-pound yellowfin tuna. Team 71 took day 1 $500,$1,000 and $2,000 jackpots, and managed to fend off all challenges winning top prize for the day and holding the overall lead for the heaviest tuna for the tournament.

The "Fat Farmers," on the charterboat Bob Marlin and led by Bart Scolfield, were entered across the board and took the final three optionals, winning money the second year in a row with a 181 pounder.

With 24 fish brought to the scale the first day of fishing, expectations were for lead changes and perhaps an even larger tuna that might topple the Dona Meche's catch within the top largest four in the history of the event. The day's weigh-ins done, the tourney crew and anglers had the night off to rest for the next day's full slate of fishing and Friday's grande Fiesta.

It was another beautiful sunrise, perfect backdrop for the Third Annual Costa Charity Charter, aboard the Baja Mar. The charter was incorporated back in 2012 with the morning shotgun start and each year the crowd has increased. The boat was packed with 130 guests who paid $20 to be on it, the money all going to the Fund. Teams behaved like the veterans they were with the first day behind them. The parade of boats was much more orderly as boats proceeded as directed by Isabel with microphone in hand.


Ziggy angler Dennis Demontigry and team with a 197-pound yellowfin tuna for Team 88, which was entered in $1,000 tuna and the Wahoo/Dorado Jackpot and ended the event in second place.

When the flare gun was fired, the boats were split with about half going toward the Gordo Bank up in the Sea of Cortez while the other half of the fleet headed out in search of porpoise schools hiding big tuna beneath them.

If the cruise was crowded and near capacity, so was the weigh-in that started at 2 p.m. and drew a monstrous crowd by 4 p.m. when boats began arriving. Word had gotten out about the number of fish weighed the first day. However, the quantity of the fish was diminished as the quality increased and the jockeying for position lasted until the last fish was weighed before all the jackpots were accounted for.


The champions unload their 293.1-pound yellowfin they caught drifting the Gordo Bank with squid the first day. The fish was worth $120,600, taking three optionals and 85 percent of the first place pot.

The Gordo Bank seemed to produce the largest tuna, though none would top team Dona Meche's 293.1-pound yellowfin from the day before.

It was a feel-good time at the scale, with great weather and Cabo was rockin' as several hundred people crowded the scales and lined the malecon as teams came up the IGY marina ramp installed just for the tourney weigh-ins over two days.

The second day at the scales saw five teams earn money: the 191.1 by Dingo II that took the $500, $2,000, $3,000 and $5,000 optionals, the 193.3 pounder by Speedwell that claimed the $1,000 optional, the 179.1 by Burro III that won the $10,000 optional for $36,000.

The second biggest fish of the tourney was brought in by the Ziggy. Dennis Demontigry's 197-pound yellowfin tuna for Team 88 was entered only in the $1,000 and Wahoo/Dorado Jackpot, and ended the day second only to Dona Meche in the overall race.


Much to the delight of the large group of spectators gathered on the malecón, the tuna parade produced some quality fish and stories at the scale.

The second day wahoo/dorado was won by Fish Cabo with a 37-pound wahoo for a nice $45,600 payday. In total, eight teams would share the $511,200 in total prize money.

With the fishing completed, it was time for a Fiesta on the malecón. In front of the Wyndham Hotel, beneath a moonlight sky, with an excellent barbequed rib dinner and all the trimmings catered by Solomon's Landing and entertained by the Mariachi Gavilancillo Cabo San Lucas presenting authentic popular Mexican music, the crowd was completely carried back in time to a real Mexican Fiesta.

Chuck Buhagiar noted the "Show Me Your Costas" Team 30 worked with Dave's assistant at Costa to get the wrap for the boat. His innovative boat design earned his team each a pair of Costa sunglasses of their choice as the contest winners.

While Cindy and Val Boyer of Eat Me Lures sold raffle tickets, Director Pat McDonell reviewed the unofficial tournament standings before Buhagiar drew more raffle tickets for prizes, followed by a slide show prepared by local photographer Danny Matthews comprised of photos he had taken during the three days of the event.


When the flare gun was fired the boats were split with about half going toward the Gordo Bank up in the Sea of Cortez, while the other half of the fleet headed out in search of porpoise schools hiding big tuna beneath them.

All that was left now, was the awards ceremony the next night.

More than 650 anglers, guests and local dignitaries attended the lavish victory awards banquet as the 15th annual Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot tournament finished on the highest note in history.

However, this year it felt as though the shared purpose of helping the displaced families of Cabo San Lucas, victims of the hurricane, had created a stronger camaraderie than experienced in previous years.

When a slide show first depicting the damage and desolation felt right after the storm, and then shifting to depict the rapid restoration and the broad spectrum of folks who enlisted or volunteered to be part of the recovery was presented, it drew round after round of grateful applause and shouts of appreciation from the staff and crowd.


While entertained by the Mariachi Gavilancillo Cabo San Lucas presenting authentic popular Mexican music carrying the crowd back in time to a real Mexican Fiesta.

McDonell began by thanking a long list of individuals and companies that had assisted in helping make the event such a success.

Next, Bill Dobbelear, General Manager of Gray Taxidermy based in Pompano Beach, Florida, took the stage to conduct a raffle for $6,000 worth of product from his company to those who had purchased special raffle tickets from Gray's staff.

Throughout the evening there were awards interspersed for fund raising contests that had been held during the week … along with a Silent Auction, Special trips, raffles and ultimately the Grand Raffle... all designed to raise money for restoration of Cabo.

Awards began with Team #88 for their 197-pound tuna earning them 2nd Place Overall and the sum of $5,200 for anglers Dennis Demontigny, Elsinore Calif., Mike Dowling, Jim Mansbridge, Cabo San Lucas, Billy Kirkbride. Dennis commented that the fish was caught on a Yummy Flyer on the kite rig and their team had fished three years in the event. Placing 4th the first year and a 2nd this year was an improvement. McDonell commented that it isn't always the large fish that wins the big money.


Show Me Your Costas! Team 30, worked with Costa to get the boat wrap's innovative design on by tourney time, and that earned the team four pairs of Costa sunglasses of their choice.

Next up was Team 124, Fig and Olive, aboard Speedwell. Their 193.3-pound tuna captured them 3rd Place Overall and the Day 2 $1000 optional worth $32,600 for first timers Russel Gall of St Louis, Missouri, Chris Wilson of St Louis, Tim Elam of Rockford, Minn., and Courtney Lehman of Zionsville Indiana. They had been in Cabo last year during the tournament and thought it looked like fun and decided to fish it this year.

Team 66, made up of Bradley Erickson, Edina Minn., aboard Burro lll, landed a 179.1-pound yellowfin tuna, taking Day 2 $10,000 optional worth a cool $36,000 for his fish that he landed in 4 ½ hours on 50- pound test line.

In the Day 1 $1,000 Wahoo-Dorado Anglers; Tom Brindley, Las Vegas Nev., Dan Hoffman, John Camp Jr., John Camp Sr. caught a 51.2-pound wahoo that won hands down for the day and earning Team 87, Redrum II, $45,600, aboard Colleen's Magic.


Awards on Saturday began with Team 88, the Ziggy team, for its 197-pound tuna earning them 2nd Place Overall and the sum of $5,200.

They caught it on the Pacific side and never had seen a wahoo jump before.

"We could see how large it was and our biggest concern was when it dropped on the deck none of us had shoes on. We couldn't have done it without John and Ryan's help, they are the best!"

On the second day Team 9, Purity Organics, fishing on Fish Cabo won Day 2 $1,000 Wahoo- Dorado with a 37-pound wahoo allowing Nick Koretoff of Fresno, Christine Koretoff of Kerman, CA, Steven Koretoff of Fresno and David Koretoff also of Fresno to pocket $45,600.

Team 70, the "Fat Farmers" with Bart Scofield of Arbuckle, Calif., and Jim Campbell, Princeton, Calif., riding on the Bob Marlin caught a 181-pound yellowfin that captured them the Day 1 $3,000, Day 1 $5,000 and Day 1 $10,000 which was worth a total of $107,600. Bart said that the team had done well last year in winning money and were pleased with this year's results. "Last year I said that we were the team of the future and we will win the Bisbee's Black and Blue, I guarantee it!"


Next up was Team 124, Fig and Olive, aboard Speedwell which won the $1,000 optional on day 2 and $2,600 for third place overall for $32,500. They later donated more than half of that in the charity auction for a trip to Florida for all four of them.

Next up was the only completely Mexican team to place. Team 107, Hook Up, aboard the 24-foot Dingo II. Juan Barajas, Cabo San Lucas, Noe Castro, San Jose Del Cabo, Eduardo Arista, San Jose Del Cabo and Otto Pinzon, San Jose Del Cabo, insisted in speaking in their native language, Spanish. They caught their 191.1-pound winner at the Gordo Bank but refused to go into details of the place and technique used. They grabbed $118,000 for the following categories; Day 2 $500, Day 2 $2000, Day 2 $3000 and Day 2 $5000.

Then came the finale. The 16th Annual Western Outdoor News/Yamaha Los Cabo's Tuna Jackpot Tournament Champions were Team 71, Peligro, aboard the Dona Meche. They landed 4th largest yellowfin tuna ever landed in the history of the tournament. Interestingly, the boat came fully equipped with reels, but Team Captain Alex Romans brought his own gear, all blue big game 2-speed Avets. The fish was caught on a 50 EXW two-speed, a 5/0 hook, 130-pound Seaguar Premium fluorocarbon on the drift with jumbo squid.


Team 66, made up of Bradley Erickson of Edina Minn. aboard Burro lll, landed a 179.1-pound yellowfin tuna and taking the Day 2 $10,000 optional worth a cool $36,000 for his fish that he landed in 4 ½ hours on 50-pound test line.

Romans, of Greenfield, Calif., was joined by teammates Wyatt Duncan, King City, Paul Anthony of Bradley, and his father John Romans, of Greenfield. They shared $120,600 for their 293.1-pound monster, they bested 130 teams in 1st Place Overall, Day 1 $500, Day 1 $1,000 and Day 1 $2,000. In addition they were awarded four custom-made Jon Pettey silver rings, a specially engraved Zippo lighter, a box of custom-rolled cigars from Cabo Cigar Company in an engraved champions box, four carved hook trophies, and a Gray's Taxidermy mount of their winning catch.

"It took us two hours to make chiuili bait and then we only caught one good one," said Romans. "We hooked a big fish right away and fought it for two hours before we lost it," he continued. "Our morale was as low as it could be when we hooked the second one on squid. The deckhand hooked another on squid but let it go because mine was bigger... so am I for that matter!"


In the Day 1 $1,000 Wahoo-Dorado optional, anglers Tom Brindley, Dan Hoffman, John Camp Jr., and John Camp Sr. caught a 51.2-pound wahoo that won hands down for the day. Earning team 87, Redrum II, $45,600, aboard Colleen's Magic.

With the award concluded there were more raffles and then the Charity Grand Raffle was conducted by Chuck Buhagiar including four Avet reels, four big game Cousins rods, (They are beefy, super high quality, and are made for BIG tuna), four Reactor watches, four hotel stays at the Wyndham, Seaguar fluoro packs, Mustad hooks, Plano tackle boxes valued at $10,000, and the lucky winner was Team 44, Solomon's Tuna Slayers team member Scott Ortar.

In closing, McDonell summed up the event. "This ended up being the best in its history. It was fun, emotional, had big fish, great weather (after a big scare from Hurricane Vance), the town embraced the tournament anglers and they responded in kind!"


On the second day Team 9, Purity Organics on Fish Cabo won the Day 2 $1,000 Wahoo/ Dorado optional with a 37-pound wahoo. The group, most from Fresno, were Nick Koretoff, Christine Koretoff, Steven Koretoff and David Koretoff who pocketed $45,600.

"We raised $50,000 for relief efforts in Cabo, aiding reconstruction of 15 or more homes of charter captains and crew members who lost dwellings as the result of Hurricane Odile in mid-September," said director Pat McDonell. "The homes have been specifically identified and not one dime goes to administration," he added. "Great weather, we had 131 teams which is an incredible turnout as I was hoping for 120 after the hurricane and disrupted flights and damaged hotels, and eight teams shared $511,600."

"The 293.1 pounder from the Gordo by the champs on the Dona Meche was the fourth largest in the 15-year history of the event. Huge crowds at every event celebrated Cabo San Lucas sportfishing with our staff and sponsors and supporters."

"We can't thank everyone enough for their unwaivering support. See you next year."



"Last year I said that we were the team of the future and we will win the Bisbee's Black and Blue, I guarantee it!" said Bart Scolfield of the Fat Farmers team on the Bob Marlin that won money the second year in a row.

The Bob Marlin team of "Fat Farmers" from the Central Valley were across the board and grabbed $118,000 for the following categories; Day 2 $500, Day 2 $2,000, Day 2 $3,000 and Day 2 $5,000.

The Dona Meche landed the fourth largest yellowfin tuna ever landed in the history of the tournament, a 293.1-pound yellowfin tuna that succumbed on the drift with jumbo squid on a 5/0 hook, 130-pound Seaguar Premium Fluorcarbon, 100-pound Momoi main line on an an Avet 50 EXW reel.