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Huge tuna shatter Tuna Jackpot records
as 147 teams scour Cabo waters for cows


BY RICH HOLLAND
Special to WESTERN OUTDOOR NEWS

CABO SAN LUCAS, BCS -- The first day of fishing in the $677,300 Western Outdoor News Cabo Tuna Jackpot, a 338-pound tuna arrived in the marina an hour before the scales opened. On the second and final day, two boats that battled 325- and 289-pound fish for seemingly endless hours failed to qualify after arriving just minutes after the 6 p.m. deadline.


TUNA JACKPOT CHAMPS – The anglers and crew on the Estrella del Norte were the first ones to the Gray Taxidermy Weigh Station and this 338-pound yellowfin won them the 2017 Cabo Tuna Jackpot Championship. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

Time is measured in pain, money and glory in the Cabo Tuna Jackpot and fortunes can change in an instant. One thing is clear after the 19th running of the tournament, conceived as a way to promote the area's yellowfin tuna resource, produced a first-ever 2 fish over 300 pounds and 9 over 200 for a record total of 11 qualifying tuna over 200 pounds: there is no time like the present to fish cow yellowfin in the waters of Los Cabos. Consider that the 325 and 289 are not even tallied in the above numbers!

Both the past and the present have been good to James Rosenwald of St. Croix, MN and the Estrella del Norte. The total cow record was set in 2012 with 12 over 200 pounds, topped by Rosenwald and an Estrella del Norte team that weighed in a monster 372-pound yellowfin. This year Victor Locklin of Corona teamed up with Rosenwald on the Estrella del Norte and they were the ones waiting to weigh in their fish the first day. The building crowd around the Gray Taxidermy Weigh Station in front of the Tesoro Resort was treated to the awesome sight of the 338-pound Jackpot Champion fish on the scale.


BLAST OFF – Boats take off past the Costa Start Boat Cabo Escape on Day 1. Day 2 would see more boats head towards the Gordo Banks. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

During the awards dinner, after the team received a check for $252,425, an emotional Locklin told the crowd he went looking for a crew that knew how to fish the Gordo Banks and approached Rosenwald. The result was his first Tuna Jackpot Championship in many tries (see sidebar).

When Rosenwald addressed the awards audience, he made it very clear who should get the most credit, Captain Luis Beltran Cazessus and his two mates.

"These young men, who actually grew up in the small fishing pueblo of La Playita, they are the reason we are standing here tonight," said Rosenwald.

La Playita born and raised fishermen brought many of the big fish to the scales over the course of the 19th WON Tuna Jackpot, including the first of the two pork bellied yellowfin that quickly followed the 338 on opening day.


SCHOOLED UP – After catching identical 195-pound tuna off the same school of yellowfin, the Reel Quest and Sneak Attack teams decided to share their winnings. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

That was the 264-pound tuna caught on the charter boat Zorro by the Come and Take It Team of Keith Gelfand, Shauni Gelfand and Arthur Diestel of Richmond, TX and Mitchell McKerlie of Sugarland, TX. Another, which came later in the afternoon, was the 305 pounder taken by team Turbo Tuna on the Judy Judy consisting of team captain Francisco Segovia, Gerardo Banaga and Jose Banaga, of San Jose del Cabo, the town that has enveloped La Playita as it has grown.

The 338, 305 and 264 were the biggest qualifying fish and took the three overall money slots in the Tuna Jackpot. Since the Estrella del Mar was in every optional up to and including the $5000 and the other two boats weren't in the $10,000, they did get the satisfaction of some cash in the overall, the Judy Judy scoring $7250 and the Zorro splitting up $3625.

While giant tuna paraded through the scales in waves and the Texas Tuna Chasers team of Kurtis Wilcox of San Antonio, TXm Todd Menger of New Braunfels, TX, Chris Teague and Tammy Teague of Granite Falls settled the wahoo/dorado pot half-way through the weigh-in with a 41-pound wahoo, the tension level over the 60 grand in the $10,000 pot raised by the minute as it seemed like no one with a fish was in that jackpot.


TEQUILA TEASER TIME – It was party time for the Tequila Teaser team after claiming the biggest chunk of the second day cash with their 239-pound tuna. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

Meanwhile the Hook Up weighed a 260, the Jen Wren III a 184, the Valerie a 190, the Sea Boy a 232, the 305 showed up, and then finally a boat came in that was entered in the 10K pot, the Tejas team captained by Texas' own Mike Darden with a 143.5 pounder.

Now a word about the 200-pound fish taken during this Tuna Jackpot: they were 200-pound high school freshman lineman who will just keep growing: girthy with muscle piled on where it's supposed to be. So when Nebraskan Patrick Vanderhieden's Team Vancare on the Go Deeper brought in a monster of a fish and it "only" weighed 231 pounds, they just had to weigh the other big one they caught. It was also 231 pounds and not the last time an identically-sized fish was pulled from a school in this even. Yet imagine catching 462 pounds of yellowfin in a day in a tuna tournament and not winning a buck. That's the way it went.

The clock wound down on Day 1 but before time was over, the Overtime brought in yet another beautiful tuna, and yes, they were in the high roller pot. Their 184.2-pound fish easily beat out the Tejas and earned Charles Girot, Jose Alfredo Ruiz, Albert Van Vorkum and Mike Vorderstosse $60,000, which, by a twist of fate, would turn out to be third highest payout of the 2017 Tuna Jackpot, an event that saw the overall kitty of $677,300 split between 9 teams.


THE CAPTAINS MEETING – Featured a free tequila tasting courtesy of Team Buckeye and lots of great giveaways. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

The second biggest payout was earned quickly at the scales on day two, a day which saw high expectations for another run of huge fish. In fact, Tournament Director Pat McDonell downright predicted that would be the case.

Again the cows came home early, with the first up a 248 pounder on the Sundancer. At first that seemed to make the 239 pounder hoisted up just following an afterthought. Then it was announced the Sundancer was not entered in any of the daily optionals.

All of a sudden East Cape sportfishing charter captain Mark Rayor and his Tequila Teasers team of anglers were in the spotlight and in the money big time! They had ponied up for the $500 through the $3000 pots and just had to wait and see if anyone could best their catch. It was a possibility that seemed almost a sure thing at that point in time.


THE CASH COW – The Tequila Teaser team on the Vaquera earned $132,800 in optionals with their 239-pound yellowfin tuna. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

Yet it never happened, although Brian Solomon's team gave it the best shot and thought they had the deal done when they brought in a huge fish after a five-hour battle. As big and mean as that fish was, it could only pull the scale down to 222 pounds.

So the Tequila Teasers team of Mike Daniels of Redlands, Adam Morse of Tampa, FL, and Mark Rayor and Diego Romero of Los Barriles on the Vaquera earned $132,800.

"Our game plan was to fish the Gordo Banks the first day and the Pacific the second," said Rayor. "But one of my boats said it was rough out on the Pacific, even there was a 161 caught on the Jaime.

"And I watched the Estrella del Norte catch their fish on the Inner Gordo. We had a chum line out and they pulled up nearby, though not in our chum or anything. As luck would have it those big fish came up all around their boat.


THE CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM – Two-time winner James Rosenwald and first-time champ Victor Locklin savor their victory in the 2017 Western Outdoor News Cabo Tuna Jackpot. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

"So we headed to the Inner Gordo the next day and I have never seen so many boats there, it didn't look like you would be able to land a fish in there, although they did," Rayor added. "I don't like crowds, so we went out to the outer Gordo and found our fish. I hooked it and ran to the bow and it dragged us half a mile. Then Mike took over and we got it done."

There were two issues left to settle, the two high roller pots and the wahoo dorado.

The wahoo battle was intense, since right after James Coiner weighed a 36.9-pound wahoo for the team on the What A Journey, Ted Drake of the aptly named Team-Wahoo came to the scale with a skinny that looked every bit as big. But what's in a name – Ted's fish was a hyphen off at 36.8 pounds.


BIGGEST WAHOO – The 41 pounder caught by the Texas Tuna Chasers was the biggest wahoo weighed in the wahoo/dorado daily jackpots. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

Still, it looked like it was over for Team Pendejadas when Matt Clifton of the Los Maniacos team weighed a 41-pound ‘hoo. He was just explaining how the tuna fishing was slow, so they moved inside to fish wahoo when the WON accounting team indicated that the team, while in all the tuna optionals up to $5000, had failed to enter the wahoo/dorado segment.

So that meant Tuna Jackpot veterans Job DeHorta of Upland, Otto Paredes of La Puente and Coiner, also of Upland cashed in $51,600 for their wahoo on the What A Journey.

At the same time, $118,000 in jackpot money was definitely not settled when first a couple fish under 100 pounds had ahold of the advantage. Then the Overtime team was back in the hunt as Charles Girot hung a 181-pound yellowfin.

Time was running out. The area around the scales was overcrowded with friends, family and bystanders as the word of the big fish the day before and radio and cellphone calls from teams on their way in indicated huge fish were still out there waiting to change everything.

The Sneak Attack team struck first. Fishing on the Wicked Hookers after their boat broke down early that morning, the boys wheeled a monster up the ramp. I am telling you it indeed looked monstrous, maybe 300. Yet while it only weighed 195 pounds, it was 14 pounds and $118,000 dollars better than the previous leader.


EMOTIONS OVERFLOWED when the Sneak Attack and Reel Quest teams decided to split the $5000 and $10000 optionals (a total of $118,000) the last day of fishing. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

For a little while.

The Reel Quest was out there. Someone at the scale, either weighmaster Billy Egan or his assistant Adam Cargill, said, "Do they wait out there and try to be the last ones to weigh."

Because that's what happened last year and Reel Quest swept the final day optionals. And, oh man, it looked like they could again. Remember, all they had to do was weigh a fish better than 239 pounds to get it all. And surely this tuna would easily be bigger than the 195?

Not. In fact, when Egan announced the weight, it was exactly the same, 195 pounds. Tournament Director Pat McDonell announced the tiebreaker was a coin flip. Instead, the teams consulted. Turned out the teams were good friends, and in fact each had a Cabo-born Bojorquez brother as a mate. They decided to split the pots evenly, winning $59,000 per boat.

"It makes sense, both boats were on the same school of tuna and we were right next to each other when we caught the fish," said Reel Quest Captain Ty Valli. "It's only right that we share the money."

See you next year at the 20th Anniversary of the Western Outdoor News Cabo Tuna Jackpot!