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Smiles and many thanks!

As the Jackpot director, in my 21st year, there's a lot of hats I have to wear, and one of them is working with the local vendors and supporters and bringing in a staff to volunteer. It takes a lot of cooperation among many agencies and just friendships to make the event happen over 12 months, not just four days in November when it unfolds.

Nine events, 155 teams, 600 plus anglers, and it all came together for a million bucks divided among eight teams. It was hot, humid, and one of the toughest 11 day stretches in my life, but I think we pulled it off as a team. Personnel at WON, Staff, attending sponsors, anglers, vendors, friends and folks in Cabo who love the event.

So here are some kudos to the following folks: Let's start with Wild Tours which allowed us the use their two-deck partyboat Cabo Escape two mornings for the Costa charters, and of course there were Tracy and Marco Ehrenberg, Alma Gachuzzo and staff at Pisces sportfishing who were the masters at keeping us all legal. Tracy. She is truly my rock down there. Incredible.

There are a few 21-year sponsors. One is Brian Solomon of Solomon's Landing restaurant. His daughter Samantha set up the catered the awards dinner and coordinated sites and other events like the check-in and captains meeting. Sammy is my onsite coordinator and she was simply incredible at keeping all the moving parts of the event meshing.

There were, as always, Grace and Dale Cote at Gricelda's Smokehouse who each year assist in so many ways at the ground level I cannot imagine a better pair of friends who are always there. That scale? Dale built it years ago (it tilts down and is a trailer with wheels) and delivers it and takes it away. They store all of our stuff. Since we can't ship gear back. Grace orders and even pays for the huge cardboard checks for the winners, provides coolers of drinks for the staff each day in the heat (it's the little things that really add up), and she runs the dock. And she is loved and respected in Cabo. When a protesting team wanted the $80,000 dorado sliced open at the dock to check for lead weights (I honored the request although it's not in the rules that have to, but it's a lot of $$) it was Grace who I asked. She carved the slit and jammed her hand into the fish's gut. "All clear!" she said. Keep in mind, their smokehouse is going full-tilt while everything is happening.

There is Gulliermo, Lissette and the entire staff at our host hotel Tesoro that pulled out all the stops for staff and the storage of all the gear, and put up the massive CABO TUNA JACKPOT banners up on the iconic hotel lighthouse. There was Ruben Cardenas of Iconos clothing in Cabo, providing such great product for the anglers and staff to wear, and Gaston Montano and his video/audio crew of kept things running smoothly although the Saturday dinner site on the long venue of the cruise ship pier provided many electrical and logistical challenges.

Erwin Witt of Beduino Productions was there each day for the video filming and created a great look at the tourney events up until the awards, and a big thanks to the Cabo cultural center for the use of their marina-facing wall to shine at night our gobo LED logo. It was pretty cool seeing it rotate on that massive wall, and Gaston Montano of made that happen, as well.

There were the ever-enthusiastic Scott and Bonnie Womack who came out from Texas as a team, fished and again worked with Smiles International founders Maribel and Dr. Jeff Moses of Smiles, Grace, Minerva and Bob Smith for selling the clothing and donating all proceeds to Smiles which raised $25,000 this year for surgical supplies for cleft palate surgeries for Baja children.

Jorge Gonzales of Baja Cantina and Maria Corona restaurants put on a great Fiesta dinner and sponsored the official hats, the municipality of Cabo for the use of their stages for three events, and of course marina manger Daren Carrey and his crew at IGY Marina for building the temporary ramp and clearing the way at the docks for sufficient room to weigh fish. And finally, API, the agency that allowed us the use of this facility for the third year.

The Sirena champs got their due for their 354 pounder, their record payout, accolades on stage, a standing ovation and a nice fireworks display behind them. Indeed, all well-deserved. Great guys, and what a video they made, which can be seen on our Cabo Tuna Jackpot Facebook page. A must watch.

But If there was one special moment for the event, it came just before that when the Smiles video that foundation directors Dr. Jeff Moses and his wife Maribel Moses took the stage and her video was shown. The footage of the October clinic was taken on her phone and from that, produced a dramatic video for the screen. Seen over three minutes were images volunteer medial personnel working with parents, children and infants with severe deformities before and after the clinics. It seems almost miraculous. But it's not. It's medicine, and devotion by medical volunteers.

Whew!. There were not too many dry eyes in the house among the 750 gathered that night. And then came a standing ovation. You had to be there.

The next Jackpot is Nov. 4-7, 2020. Put it on the calendar.

Pat McDonell is former editor of WON, and directs the Cabo Tuna Jackpot that he and others at WON began in 1999. See more on smiles at and more on next year's event at or on the Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Blog.