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To the victors go the spoils


The WON 20th annual Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot is coming up with some big money
on the line; what do the champions take home besides the glory?

BY PAT McDONELL
Director, Cabo Tuna Jackpot

The Big Game, Big Bucks tournament season is coming up in October and November when the air and water cools and the big marlin and tuna show up off Lands End. It's also when the top anglers in the world converge on the Baja hotspot and vie for big money and glory in annual fishing tournaments.

Among them are the Los Cabos Offshore Marlin Tournament, the two Bisbee's events that includes the Black and Blue with more than $3 million at stake, and then there is the annual Tuna Jackpot, that this year is slated for Nov. 7-10. Last year 147 teams fought over $677,300 in prize money that went to a record nine teams.

With the optional format, it's hard for non-competitors to figure out who won what, and how they did it. Plus what else do they get? It's a good question, because the champs win a lot of unique prizes.

First off, the team that catches the biggest tuna over two days wins 85 percent of the overall cash pot, which is calculated by taking the number of teams and multiplying by $500, which is half of the $1,000 entry fee. The other $500 goes to dinners, clothing and operating expenses. If the champions are in any options, they win that money. Last year, Team North Star on the Estrella Del Norte caught a 338-pound yellowfin the first day and rode that to a payday of $252,425 for winning the first five of six tuna optionals and $61,625 overall first place money.

The most any champion has won, the result of being in most of the optionals, was last year, when Team 116 on the Reel Quest took the $10,000 optional the first day with a 231 pounder and then swept the second day optionals the second day with a 274 pounder for a total of $331,950. Second most money? That Team North Star on the Estrella Del Norte last year. Third biggest was in 2004 when 19's Toy won $248,800 fourth biggest payout for a champion was Reel Quest's 2013 total of $242,960. These boys mean business! Fifth biggest payday in the 19 years of the event was the 2012 team of Estrella Del Norte with $233,450. They are only two-time winners of the event.

The big money is, as you can see, in the optionals. And niot just for tuna. Each day last year the wahoo/dorado payout was $51,600.

So, Estrella Del Norte won last year, so what did they win in a general sense? Well, they got a big cardboard check (please don't try to cash it), four custom hand-carved (by the director) Hawaiian circle hooks on marble bases ($500 retail each), women's and men's custom ordered and fitted championship shirts custom fitted with their names created Friday night when the scales close on the tourney and are ready for the awards dinner where they are presented. They also receive a Cabo Cigar Co. humidor box filled with high-end CTJ-custom wrapped Dominican tobacco cigars, and four silver tuna rings from Jon Pettey Goldsmith in Tustin, CA.

The team name and weight of the fish are put on the perpetual trophy with the other 18 winners since 1999, and the color framed history of the tourney is put up on the Tuna Hall of Fame at Capt. Tony's Restaurant in Cabo with the other 19 years of success stories. This year that plaque is being rebuilt as 20 years of saltwater have taken its toll on the original plaque. Check it our when you are in Cabo. It's a piece of sportfishing history.

Pat McDonell started with the tourney with others at WON in 1999 and been the co-director or the director all 19 years. He is the former editor of WON.