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Let the Good Times Roll!

20th Annual WON Tuna Jackpot
Continues Epic Cabo Run Nov. 7-10

RICH HOLLAND
SPECIAL TO WESTERN OUTDOOR NEWS

CABO SAN LUCAS, BCS – For the 20th year in a row Western Outdoor News is staging the biggest, baddest and best yellowfin tuna tournament found anywhere in the world and hundreds of anglers will fish hard and party harder and be rewarded with hundreds of thousands of $$$$$ in cash and prizes as teams from the United States, Canada and Mexico take to the abundant waters of the Pacific and Sea of Cortez Nov. 7-10.


THE CHAMPS of North Star who fished on the private boat Estrella Del Norte with their 338-pound tuna, fourth biggest in the history of the tourney.

Backed by a stellar list of longtime sponsors and featuring a seasoned team of officials headed up by Tournament Director Pat McDonell, the WON Cabo Tuna Jackpot has featured catches of huge yellowfin tuna, including two yellowfin over 300 pounds brought to the scales on the first day of last year’s event. “We have had more than 100 teams signed up as of early October and traditionally we see a lot of late signups from local teams and U.S. boats that have come down for Cabo’s tournament season,” noted McDonell. “Last year our field of 147 boats was the most of any event during the fall and we’re hoping to top that.”

McDonell and WON Publisher Bob Twilegar have been the driving force behind the Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot since they started the tournament with Kit McNear and Joe Higgins in 1999 to provide an alternative to Cabo’s marlin events.

And this 20th edition of the Tuna Jackpot should be epic. Will we have a second repeat winner or will another team break through to claim the championship?

Defending champions Team North Star on the Estrella del Norte will be back in 2018. Captain James Rosenwald, the only two-time winner of the Tuna Jackpot, will be joined by Don Whittier, builder and owner of the Estrella del Norte, who was on the team for the initial victory in 2012 with a 372-pound yellowfin tuna. Local captain Adrian Camacho of Pueblo La Playa is back from the 2017 team that weighed the 338-pound champion yellowfin.


CROWDS AT THE WEIGH-IN swell in the evening as the big tuna are brought up the IGY ramp to the Malecon in front of the Tesoro.

Local tournament fishermen play a huge role in the Tuna Jackpot dating back to the initial 1999 event topped by a 218-pound tuna brought in by the team of Jaime Piño Arista, Miguel Angeles and Daniel Gallardo with Toño Arista Guallarte at the helm of his La Playita panga Estrella del Mar.

Overshadowed last year was another catch by locals, a monster 305-pound yellowfin on the Judy Judy that had the misfortune to follow the 338 pounder to the weigh scale. The fish was good for second overall for the team of Francisco Segovia, Gerardo Banaga and Jose Banaga, all of San Jose del Cabo. Squeezed out of the daily jackpot money by the bigger tuna, the team did win $7500 in second place overall jackpot money.

A total of $677,300 was paid out in Tuna Jackpot and daily jackpot winnings in 2017, with most of that money coming from the daily payouts from the $500, $1000, $2000, $3000, $5000 and $10,000 tuna optional pots and the $1000 daily pool for the biggest wahoo.

Another returning team to keep an eye on is the Reel Quest out of Newport Beach, which in 2016 used an “across the board” strategy of entering all the dailies and two days of excellent catches to post the Tuna Jackpot record cash payout of $331,950.

Entering the daily jackpots is the key to cashing in at the Tuna Jackpot, since the overall jackpot is heavily weighted toward the biggest tuna of the event. Several tuna and wahoo that were the biggest to show up at the scales for either day of the two fishing days went unrewarded when the team failed to enter even the $500 pot.

The basic entry fee of the WON Cabo Tuna Jackpot is $1000 and that gets you in the overall jackpot and admission for all four team members to the many events and parties that are the keystone of the event.

“Fish hard and party harder!” was the phrase coined early in the game by Tournament Director McDonell, who has gone out of his way to engage with the many returning competitors to discover ways to make the Tuna Jackpot more fun for anglers and their friends and family that attend to cheer them on.


HECTOR MONTANO of the Cabo agency API shoots off the flare gun on the Cabo Escape last year to signal the 147 teams to begin fishing the first day.

Music, food, beverages, dancing and lots and lots of great swag from the sponsors highlight the Tuna Jackpot. The list of parties and events is a story in its own right, but of note is the Costa Start Boat Party dedicated completely to the supporters of the Tuna Jackpot’s great teams. Everyone has to get up early to board the Cabo Escape, the official start boat, but they are rewarded with mimosas and a hot breakfast buffet, a bird’s eye view of the shotgun start, music and dancing and, yes, a chance at free Costa sunglasses.

The best part is the proceeds from the event -- a $30 charitable donation is all it takes to get aboard -- go to SmilesInternationalFoundation.org.

Calstar Rods and Accurate Reels are coming aboard as first-time sponsors of the Tuna Jackpot, joining longtime industry supporters such as Seaguar, Mustad, Gray Taxidermy, National Car Rental, Yo-Zuri, Fishworks and many more.

Not to be overlooked and a primary reason for the success of the Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot are the great local businesses that support the event.

Tracy Ehrenberg of Pisces Sportfishing and Captain Tony’s restaurant, Grace and Dale Cota of Dreammaker Charters and Gricelda’s Smokehouse, Minerva Smith of Minerva’s Tackle, Brian Solomon of Solomon’s restaurant and Baja Cantina are a major reason the Tuna Jackpot has been going strong for 20 years.

Be sure to check out the complete sponsor story on the wonews.com Tuna Jackpot Blog, which will be your go-to source for stories, photos and tournament updates during the tournament. Also look for news and updates on the WON and Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Facebook pages, including live feeds from the weigh scale.

The WON Tuna Jackpot tournament team looks forward to seeing everyone in Cabo!


2018 Cabo Tuna Jackpot Schedule*

Tuesday, Nov. 6: Voluntary Pre-check for teams who have no roster changes, 1 to 4 p.m. Angler packets, hats, bags and shirts will be distributed only.   Wednesday check-in will be where you will pick up various sponsor gifts, buy  dinner or Cabo Escape charter tickets. All anglers must be present on the team to fill out waivers. Tesoro Conference Hall through glass doors.

Wednesday, Nov. 7: The official team Check-in 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Tesoro Cabo Marina weigh-in area. Yo-Zuri Welcome Party with free gifts, tequila shots, video showing, optional amounts announced, and drawings, 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Cultural Center Outdoor Amphitheatre.

Thursday, Nov. 8: Costa Shotgun start 7 a.m. at the Cabo Arch; Start boat is the Cabo Escape, leaving IGY fuel dock at 6 a.m. sharp; Annual Costa Charity charter, 6 to 8 a.m. on start boat Cabo Escape, first of two. $30 PP. Includes all mimosas, coffee, orange juice, champagne, breakfast burritos. All proceeds to Smiles charity. Gray Taxidermy Weigh-in 3 p.m.- 6 p.m. Lines out at 4 p.m. Weigh-in ends at 6 p.m. or until all eligible fish are weighed.


SHOW US YOUR COSTAS is a contest that has taken on a life of its own for teams. There are several contests and drawings that add fun to the event.

Friday, Nov. 9: Costa Shotgun Start at 7 a.m. the Cabo Arch; Weigh-in 3-6 p.m.; Annual Costa charity charter open to all guests on luxury start boat Cabo Escape, leaving IGY fuel dock at 6 a.m. sharp with mimosas, breakfast burritos, coffee and prizes! $30 a person (all proceeds to Smiles charity), lines out at 4 p.m. Gray Taxidermy scale closes at 6 p.m. or until all eligible fish are weighed.

Friday, Nov. 9: Baja Cantina's Fiesta at Maria Corona Restaurant in downtown Cabo. Doors and bar opens and music starts at 7:30 p.m., Live band, Mexican buffet dinner and foklorico entertainment begins at 8 p.m. and at 8:30 staff begins announcements of day's results, Show Us Your Costas! Contest, Fishworks/Baja Cantina Best Dressed, Kingfisher Big Fish, National Rental Car Sticker Contest, plus sponsors' drawings. All guests (team members and those who paid $40 as guests to attend) are eligible to win the drawings. Special tickets will be given out at the door.

Saturday, Nov. 10: Cabo Tuna Jackpot Awards Dinner, on cruise line pier. Bar opens at 5:30 p.m.; Live band starts at 6 p.m., dinner is ready at 6:30; Smiles International charity Silent auction. All sponsors tackle drawings begin at 6:30; awards ceremony begins at 7 p.m., ends at 9 p.m.