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How do Calcutta tournaments work?

You compete at any and all levels you choose, from $1000 basic entry to going across the board; but remember, in the optionals you compete ONLY against those teams in your optionals


BY PAT McDONELL
Tournament Director

About 25 years ago I competed in my first Calcutta tourney, the Bisbee's Black & Blue Marlin Tournament. At that time being "across the board" meant the team was kicking in $16,000. Now it's $60,000, which is crazy money. It was great fun, but the pressure was on us, and even though we did not win anything or weigh in a fish, it was one of the great fishing experiences of my life. We were competing for more than a $1 million, sitting at the high stakes table.


HERE, CLOUD NINE, 2018 CHAMPS, celebrate their win and accept their check for sweeping the Day 1 tuna optionals and taking the overall money for $392,800. Optionals are simple. Put the money in that single bag, and you only have to beat the teams that put that money in that bag. Each day is a new day. You do not have to be in any optionals, but it is fiscally wise to do so especially with the new separate $1,000 Dorado and Wahoo optionals for 2019. Also new is the $20,000 Gray Fish Tag Research Optional, for across-the-board teams only (there were 22 such teams last year) with an 85 percent payout with 5 percent ($1,000) going to buying electronic fish tags. Here, Cloud Nine, 2018 champs, celebrate their win and accept their check for sweeping the Day 1 tuna optionals and taking the overall money for $392,800.

I covered many Bisbee's tournament over the years, and I knew I had to create an exciting big-stakes tournament like that, but for tuna anglers, for Western Outdoor News, where I was the editor. About five years later in 1999 I had that opportunity to make it happen with fellow WON staffers, and 21 years later, here we are. And yet, every year many folks who want to try it will say our tournament is "too rich for our blood."

It truly is not. In a Calcutta, you play at whatever level to wish.

Here's a quick primer, but remember, you do not have to enter any optionals, but we highly recommend your team does throw down some money beyond the basic $1,000 team entry fee.

Cash/Prize Payouts

The basic team entry fee (teams can consist of up to 4 anglers and 2 crewmen) is $1,000, with two days of six optional daily jackpots totaling $500, $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000, and $5,000 and $10,000. This year we added a $10,000 a day tuna optional only available to those teams who are across the board in the tuna optionals. There were 22 teams last year at that level. Plus there's the wahoo and dorado optional jackpots of $1,000 each. This year we made them separate optionals. For a total of $24,500 (plus the that $20,000 optional).

Remember, these are optional jackpots. You can enter none, or one, or some of them, or all of them. I tell people all the time, for the first year enter at $1,000 and one dorado or wahoo optional and see if you can shake loose some money with a big tuna or dorado or wahoo.

The payback to anglers

There is $500 payback on the $1,000 entry fee and there's an 80 percent payback on all daily jackpots. Nearly all of the remaining $500 per team goes to hats, bags, shirts, dinners and event rentals and staffing for the four days.

What exactly can you win? It all depends, of course, on the number of teams and how many have paid into the optional jackpots. This is how it breaks down: The team/captain that catches the biggest tuna over two days wins 85 percent of the total cash available in the overall pool among all teams. The math is simple at $500 payout per team. 100 teams, $50,000. And so on.


HERE, CLOUD NINE, 2018 CHAMPS, celebrate their win and accept their check for sweeping the Day 1 tuna optionals and taking the overall money for $392,800. Optionals are simple. Put the money in that single bag, and you only have to beat the teams that put that money in that bag. Each day is a new day. You do not have to be in any optionals, but it is fiscally wise to do so especially with the new separate $1,000 Dorado and Wahoo optionals for 2019. Also new is the $20,000 Gray Fish Tag Research Optional, for across-the-board teams only (there were 22 such teams last year) with an 85 percent payout with 5 percent ($1,000) going to buying electronic fish tags. Here, Cloud Nine, 2018 champs, celebrate their win and accept their check for sweeping the Day 1 tuna optionals and taking the overall money for $392,800.

The team/captain that catches the second largest tuna automatically wins 10 percent of the Overall Jackpot cash. Third biggest tuna over two days wins 5 percent.

Optionals:

Now we go to the optionals. It's where the bigger money is won. Each day is a new day to win. The biggest tuna caught wins in each pool. You compete only against those who joined you in the pot. Some teams get into only the $10,000, as its a great gamble. The lower cost pots obviously have more competition. Usually, it takes a while for the final two pots to be filled each day. As for the $1,000 wahoo and dorado optional, the combined optional has always been the most popular. This year, being separated into $1,000 optionals, it will be interesting to see who will be going into one, or both of the optionals. The combined optional payouts for wahoo/dorado were last year were $50,000 each DAY.

In optional jackpots, the winning team takes all cash in the pot that day. There's two days of optionals on all seven tuna and the other two optionals for wahoo and dorado. If the boat has been chartered, the charter captain will be paid out 10 percent of the winnings. The optionals starts new each day. What if no one wins the money in a jackpot? No qualifying fish. It rolls back or rolls forward. If no team brings in a qualifying fish of 30 pounds or heavier over two days, the money is reimbursed, minus 20 percent. In the $20,000 Gray Fish Tag Research Tuna Optional, new this year, 15 percent is deducted, and a third of that $1,000 is donated to buying electronic fish tags by Gray Taxidermy.

Taking a theoretical team into account, Joe Fish and his fellow three angler buddies got into the dorado $1,000, paid the $1,000 entry fee, and paid $1,500 for the first two tuna optionals. $3,500 total pay-in. They caught the tournament's biggest tuna, so they won 85 percent of the overall money. There were 200 teams, thus there was $100,000 in the overall pot, so they won $85,000. Their big fish the first day won those first day optionals, and claimed $40,000 and $45,000 for the $500 and $1,000 daily tuna optionals.Other teams caught smaller fish that first day but claimed the other tuna, wahoo and dorado optionals and that $60,000 for the first day's Dorado Optional worth $60,000. No dorado money, but they won a total of $170,000. For a $3,500 investment.

Usually six to 8 teams win money spread across the board in the overall tuna, the seven tuna daily optionals, and now there are the two dorado and wahoo optionals.

And if you don't win cash, there's the $100,000 in prizes given away in free drawings, plus the giveaways for each team when they sign in, plus some fun contests for free gear.

Remember, you are subject to Mexican income taxes, which will be deducted from your team's total amount. If you bring the money into the U.S. you must declare it on your taxes. And, be aware, for your protection, we divide up the winnings in accordance with the team's wishes based on percentages requested. That way one angler won't be doling out money to teammates but paying all U.S. taxes on it.

What if a teammate is a high roller and you aren't?

By the same token, if one or two of the team members wants to gamble more than the others, then have that person or persons pay for additional optionals, and if the team wins that optional, he or they will win more of the money. Just tell us what the percentage is and we'll send you the checks.