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How do jackpot tournaments work?

You compete at any and all levels you choose, from $1,000 basic entry to going all in across the board; but remember, in the optionals you compete ONLY against those teams in YOUR optionals

Tournament Director

About 30 years ago, I competed in my first jackpot 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.

I covered many Bisbee's tournaments 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 22 years later, here we are. And yet, every year, many folks who want to try it will say our tournament is "too rich for their blood."

But truly, it is not. In this jackpot, you play at whatever level you wish and feel comfortable with.

Here's a quick primer, but remember, you do not have to enter any optionals, though 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. Last year we added a $10,000-a-day Gray Tag Research tuna optional, only available to those teams who are across the board in the tuna optionals. Plus, there's the wahoo and dorado optional jackpots of $1,000 each. And last year we made them separate optionals. So, it's all in for a total of $44,500.

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 85 percent payback on the new $10,000 daily and an 80 percent payback on all other 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. 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.


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 it's 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 optionals, the combined optional has always been the most popular. Last year, being separated into separate $1,000 optionals, we gave away $160,000, $40,000 for each optional over two days. Team Outcast won $80,000 when the first day's optional money floated over to the second day because a 30-pound minimum dorado was not caught the first day.

In all optional jackpots, the winning team takes all the cash in the pot that day. There are 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 start anew each day. What if no one wins the money in a jackpot? No qualifying fish. It rolls back or rolls forward., which why Team Outcast won that $80,000. 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 FishTag Research Tuna Optional, new last year, in which $1,000 from each optional entry is donated by WON toward buying electronic satellite 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 were $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 6 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 for a few more shots to win. Eight teams split just a hair over $1 million, a record payday.

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 shots at 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 want 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.