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IT'S STILL CABO!

We're back! We expect 120 teams to compete over two days of fishing for tuna, wahoo and dorado and big money; It will be a different kind of Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot tournament with new sites and no large gatherings or parties; Weigh-ins will be isolated but seen on FB live


Our new CatchStat.com app and cabotunajackpot.catchstat.com website allows teams to sign up or add optionals for the tourney now and right up to the end of checkin Nov. 4 instantly on a credit card; See all teams and get instant tourney updates on your phone plus live scoring on weigh days


BY PAT McDONELL
Director, Cabo Tuna Jackpot

ON DAY 1 a total of 7 tuna over 200 pounds (one 345 pounder) and 10 over 100 would get hoisted as the scales operated well into the dark. Those catches included the 185 pounder on the Tag Team by Dave and Nancy Marciano of Wicked Tuna TV fame, and hard to believe, it was their first yellowfin. They were a blast to have at the event! RICH HOLLAND PHOTOS

CABO SAN LUCAS -- What changes will we see in a few weeks at the 22nd annual WON Cabo Tuna Jackpot? The answer to that is: Plenty. But it will still be a great event Nov. 4-7. The fishing is spectacular for dorado, tuna and wahoo with perfect fall water conditions.

First things first. The fishing is fantastic, with 200-pound tuna showing at the scales to open the month of October, along with massive numbers of 60 to 100-pounders. Dorado are bigger this year, and wahoo are biting right now.

But how different will the tournament be? Very. Due to health concerns, organizers will not be allowed to host any events on the malecon as they have in the past.

Check-In will held over parts of two days Tuesday and Wednesday at the third floor balcony of the Galatti Yacht office above the Pisces Sportfishing office, located next to Capt. Tony's.

DIRECTOR PAT McDONELL, right, and Dale Hightower of Seaguar and Nomad lures got pretty excited about the flouro packs being given away for teams at check-in, in addition to Gamakatsu bags, shirts, hats and team flags.

The Captains Meeting will be on FB live. There will be no Fiesta and no Awards Dinner. The pair of usually wild and crowded weighins will be isolated, but able to be viewed on FB live both days 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

"While we all love parties, we are still talking about Cabo San Lucas here," said longtime director Pat McDonell. "Our primary goal is to have a fair and fun tournament and give out a ton of prizes and money and raise money for charity in the process. But this year we have a priority and that is to host a tournament within the government's strict health protocols, not just to protect ourselves but also the fishing crews and people of Cabo."

Signups are now surging, McDonell said, as obviously people have been holding onto their charters, yet waiting to see how things progress in Cabo San Lucas. The big guns that go across the board are on the board or are coming.

"After a recent staff Zoom meeting in late September to deal with the reality that normal event sites were not available to us, and we must avoid all crowds, it was a reality check," said McDonell. "However, the very next day 10 teams signed up to break the 76-team mark. And we got to work and secured new checkin and weighin sites and formulated a plan on how to hold a huge tournament for 400 to 500 people and stay within the strict health protocols. Plus, we were hearing from teams signing up was that they realize that yeah, this is a different year, but they are coming down to fish, enjoy life and feel normal again."

SOME PEOPLE JUST know how to party and dress for success, and Team NorCal (No. 55) led the way last year. This year? Bring it on!

CHECKINS: It all starts at checkin, and there are essentially two of them. The first is an early checkin on Tuesday afternoon at the upstairs third floor Galatti Yacht office balcony for teams with no roster changes. That early checkin is from 1 to 4 p.m. There, on the balcony staff will give out team packets, official tourney hats, Gamakatsu bags and hooks, official flags, Berkley ProSpec line, Berkley official tournament shirts, Seaguar fluoro and other sponsors items.

"It is important that while teams can come to the area, of course, at the marlin sculpture between Solomon's Landings Restaurant and Capt. Tony's, only one team member will be allowed to come upstairs, with all waiver forms in hand," said McDonell. "Tourney staffers will be there at the base of the stairwell giving out place numbers."

In that Capt. Tony's restaurant/bar area, while waiting to check in, there will be opportunities for anglers and non anglers to sign up with Smiles for the Cabo Escape Costa charters at $40 and for all to buy Grand Raffle tickets and buy fishing licenses. That check-in scenario will be repeated on Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 6:30 or until all teams are registered.

"It should be a busy area around that marlin sculpture, but it usually is anyway that time of year with the Solomon's and Capt. Tony's restaurants and bars. There will be masks required at checkin and on all tournament boats," said McDonell, "and we will do required temperature checks at both checkins as well. We hope people understand it's for everyone's safety and peace of mind."

WAIVERS: There's always a silver lining! In this situation, for checkin, one person with waivers is needed to grab the packets and goodies upstairs while the rest of the team eats and drinks down stairs. There will be NO lines in the hot sun and all team members will not be required to be onsite both days. We just need all the waivers at checkin.

The website at www.loscabostunajackpot.com has a printable and editable (on a computer) waiver. Print it out and fill it out and sign it and have it ready before checkin for all team members. It will save you time. Teams will be sent the waiver by Lori Twilegar (lori@wonews.com) as part of their confirmation. Send to your teammates to print and fill out. Your team rep at check-in MUST have all the signed waivers in hand. There will be some extra forms at the entrance to the stairs.

THE RECORD PAYOUT for Team Sirena was among the highlights of the Saturday party at the Cruise Pier catered again by Solomon's Landing. Eight teams shared just over $1 million, also an event record. The 345-pound fish by Sirena at the Jaime Bank is the third biggest in the 21 years of the tourney.

Again, be aware that arriving teams will be given numbers as they get to the Marlin area and we will send you up to check you in as we call out or post that number. Fast and easy. Did we mention there were plenty of bars in the area?

CAPTAIN'S MEETING: That will be virtual on FB live Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. from the balcony of the Galatti Yacht office as checkin winds down. Teams are responsible for listening in because we will be going over some rules, site change updates and we will open to questions. Just type them in. 6 p.m. sharp if you want to listen and watch live.

WEIGHIN -- The Gray Taxidermy weighin will be held at the Pisces' Marina Del Rey marina, fuel dock and weigh station located near the harbor entrance close to the public beach/turnaround. It is a perfect marina site for a weighin with plenty of room for weighing fish, ramps, docks, and slips, as well as internet, which will be needed for the 3 p.m.to 6 p.m. Facebook Live broadcast both days.

"There are a lot of plus sides to this new location -- it will be great for teams coming in with fish with plenty of dock room to dock and wait to weigh, and it's right at the harbor entrance so we won't have disputes on the 6 p.m. deadline. On the down side, there can be no crowds watching due to health concerns, so the live broadcasts on Facebook will likely be entertaining. We hope the bars in Cabo will be showing it. We will make it as professional as possible. You can also go to your catchstat.com app for minute-to-minute weighins and scoring."

The other weighin alteration is that unless protocols change, only one team member can come up to the weighin with the fish brought by the tourney dock staff. After photos, the fish will be brought back to the boat for a full team photo with the fish and a team scoreboard.

"As always, the fish can be donated to a local church, or processed by calling Gricelda's Smokehouse on the radio," said McDonell. "We do expect a smoother, and longer weighin because of the live broadcast, interviews for it, and the second photo sessions at the boat."

BLASTING OFF were the 154 teams of the tourney, past the start boat Cabo Escape and the famed Cabo Arch. Pretty exciting stuff for everyone.

You can view the Cabo Tuna Jackpot FB page by going to www.loscabostunajackpot.com and click on the icon, or go through your FB app.

WINNING TEAMS PHOTO SESSION: Because no government agency will allow any kind of large dinner, and photos of teams are even restricted with one photographer at an isolated spot, photos of teams who won money and get special championship clothing and carved hook trophies, will be conducted over three hours on the Galatti Yacht balcony in the late afternoon Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. Money winning teams will be notified of their photo session time.

TEAM FOOD/DRINK VOUCHERS: In lieu of a gala champions dinner, each team member will be given a pair of $20 food/drink vouchers (total of $40 pp for you math wizards) for any of three Cabo restaurants: Capt. Tony's, Solomon's Landing and Baja Cantina. Holders of the vouchers can use them at any time after they receive them at checkin Tuesday or Thursday, but holders must be wearing a Tuna Jackpot Wristband. They can be used together, or separately or to pay a larger bill. They cannot be used for tips, nor is change given.

NEW WEBSITE AND APP! This year the tournament added something very cool, CatchStat.com, which is both a mobile-friendly website and app. Go to https://cabotunajackpot.catchstat.com/ to sign up and add optional jackpot entries right up to and during the checkin period. Realtime tournament scoring with profiles of the teams and their jackpot entries are the reason this application is used by all the major tournaments.

Download the CatchStat.com app on your iOs or Android device for up-to-the-minute catch information. You can even follow the event for "push" notifications sent directly to your mobile device! CatchStat.com free, it's easy, and you just sign in and you are all set.

What CatchStat.com allows:

-You can sign up for the tournament and add optionals with the use of a credit card now or right up to the close of checkin. (Card charges do apply and you can sign up via wiring funds as usual, but if we don't get a wire in (and cleared) on time by 4 p.m. on Nov. 4, you have one recourse. Sign in via credit card.

DIRECTOR PAT McDONELL savoring a fine Cabo Cigar Co. custom-wrapped Cabo Tuna Jackpot cigar at the end of the weigh-ins.

- Add team members or change rosters.

- Plug in your boat picture and info, as well a team member pics.

- See all teams and their info and what optionals they are in and totals in those optionals.

- Provides updated rules, schedule and will offer live scoring during the tourney so your friends, family or you yourself in Cabo can see how the weighin is going, or went that day.

BOAT PROTOCOLS: "People are excited about the really, really good fishing for tuna, dorado and wahoo catches. But it's important to remember there will be restrictions on the numbers of people on any given vessel," said McDonell. "Due to health protocols for spacing, the number of crew and anglers are currently limited to the size of the boat. You may include crew as team members, but boats have a max capacity for each size boat."

He said to plan your team around these max capacities. You may include a crewman as a team member, or list a guest or angler as a crewman. Your roster at check-in must reflect those specific designations.

Under the protocols for the tourney as of early October, the following is allowed for crew angers and guests at the Tuna Jackpot. How you configure your roster and add guests is up to you. Remember that guests cannot fish. Crew members can be on the roster.

--20-24ft: 2 anglers, 2 crew, no guests

--26-30ft: 3 anglers, 2 crew, no guests

--31-55ft: 4 anglers, 2 crew, 1 guest

--56-70ft: 4 anglers, 2 crew, 2 guests

It might loosen up by November. But as of now, all boats in Cabo are under these guidelines. As a general rule, just adhere to the max number allowed on the boat. How you designate them on the roster is up to you. A 24-foot boat might designate ALL 4 people allowed as team anglers, not crew.

THE TNT TEXAS BOYS came to have fun and won the Gamakatsu Karaoke Contest on Friday night at Maria Corona restaurant and received a tackle package of bags, hooks, and these custom outfits.

DRAWINGS AND CONTESTS: The tourney will still be fun and competitive. While WE won't be having parties, Cabo is still a party town. Be assured the tourney will still be a good time. The side contests like Show Us Your Costas, Kingfisher GuessThe Winning Weight, National Rental Car Sticker, Fishworks Best Dressed, and the Smiles Grand Raffle will go on. Sign up for those at the checkins at Capt. Tony's. There will also be a table of silent auction items.

That area at Capt. Tony's will be manned by SmilesInternationalFoundation.org and is not part of the tournament. Please wear a mask and distance from others. There will be some clothing for sale, and you can bid on silent auction items during those two checkins only. All contests and results of drawings will be posted on FB, and CatchStat.com and prizes can be picked up ONLY at the Pisces office, likely the day after the drawing.

As for the start boat, there will be a Cabo Escape/Smiles Costa Start Boat charity charter, with a limit of 100 tickets per day to be sold during checkin hours at tables at or near Capt. Tony's by SmilesInternationalFoundation.org personnel. The cost is $40 and tickets will be sold by Smiles at their booths at the events. The generous Wild Tours folks will host the two-hour charters from 6-8 a.m. out of their beautiful cruise facility, all to benefit Smiles. In past years we boarded at the fuel dock, so plan accordingly with walking or taking a taxi to the malecon area in front of the Breathless Hotel.

START BOAT: Because tournament start boats are limited to two tourney personnel and three Mexican officials to shoot off the flare and contact the boats both days, the Pisces Contessa yacht will be the "official" start boat, but teams will still be asked to go by the Cabo Escape to show off their stickers, their team numbers for photos, and say hello to their friends aboard the Wild Tours party boat. And don't forget to Show Us Your Costas!

BOAT PROTOCOLS: All teams will be given a list of health protocols for the boats at checkin. Essentially, under current guidelines, you will need to wear a long sleeve shirt, mask or buff, and close-toed shoes on all competing boats. Again, watch and listen to the Facebook Live Captain's Meeitng at 6 p.m. Wednesday on the Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Facebook Page. It will stay posted for later viewing of course.

"This is an unusual year but it is still a tournament and we will hold the competition to the highest standards and we have the most experienced and largest staff ever on hand to ensure that every rule and detail is dealt with thoroughly," said McDonell. He added, "The health of our anglers, vendors, crews and people of Cabo are a high priority. So is having fun and catching big fish."

THE CHAMPIONSHIP team of Sirena made all the right moves the first day with this 345-pound yellowfin that gave the boys a real tussle at the end, and it paid off with a title and a record single team payoff of $420,235.

There are many other announcements pending as we work with Mexican officials and vendors in Cabo on aspects of the tourney events and sites that will enhance the tournament experience. Stay tuned at catchstat.com and cabotunajackpot.catchstat.com and FB.

COMING OFF A RECORD BREAKING YEAR: No matter where things shake out, we are set for another great year in Cabo. We expect 120 teams. Of course, last year was a record breaker. It attracted 154 teams and paid out $1,016,700 to eight teams, including two teams that won over $300,000. Team Sirena was our champion with a first day with a 345 pounder and cashed in $420,0235, a record payout, and Team Southern Comfort pocketed $356,400 for its 248 pounder the second day.

"This is my 22nd year and it's obvious at the scale the fish are getting bigger," said director Pat McDonell who has directed or co-directed it every year. "Either that or we are getting better at catching and landing the bigger fish with heavier line through the use of kites and balloons. Last year when the dust settled from two days of weighins, 10 yellowfin over 200 pounds had been weighed in, topped by a 345 pounder the first day, third biggest in the history of the event.

"One team, on the Outcast, snapped up $80,000 for catching a 21.4-pound dorado, and two teams, Pendejadas and the TNT Texans on the Spicy Tuna, each won $40,000 for their biggest wahoo each day."

As an aside, it should be noted that the TNT team donated $10,000 to Smiles toward the purchase of a backup generator for the local hospital that donates surgical facilities for the two annual Cabo clinics. $10,000 was matched by the Rotary, and the hospital is getting its new generator. Smiles provides surgical support for Baja children through SmilesInternationalFoundation.org. ALL proceeds from the Grand Raffle, the Silent Auction and the Cabo Escape/Costa charter go to purchase surgical supplies.

THE PARTY for non anglers was on the official start boiat Cabo Escape, of Wild Tours, and there were two of the charters 6 to 8 a.m., both benefitting SmilesInternationalFoundation.org. Music, dancing, raffle drawings, food and open bar got things started as teams checked in with their numbers and were cheered on, then blew out of the starting gate.

"There are always a lot of tourney highlights like the above, but one for me - and for others at the tournament was the participation of Dave and Nancy Marciano of Wicked Tuna fame," said McDonell. "It's a great show and Dave and Nancy are fantastic people, family people and great fun. They were part of the Pisces Tag team that landed a 185 pounder the first day. Hard to believe, it was their first yellowfin tuna after decades of bluefin fishing. They were a blast to have at the event. Due to COVID, they will not be attending this year, but they are always welcome."

So, yes it was a great event in 2020, going over the $1 million dollar mark for the first time, paying out to eight teams, having a 345-pound tuna take the title, and not having any major glitches besides some Cabo-typical power outages at parties in town, and no protests. Requiring video of catches for the first time helped immensely and provided some great You Tube footage by many teams, especially the champs, Sirena.

"Those were all highlights and records," said McDonell, "but the biggest moment came at the awards dinner when - after a power glitch - a Smiles International Foundation video (created during the clinic the previous week in Cabo on the iPhone of Executive Director Maribel Moses) didn't leave too many dry eyes in the crowd. Every dollar goes to surgical supplies for the two annual clinics in Cabo, and these cleft pallet surgeries by volunteer medical personnel change lives."

McDonell added, "There were some other big moments and this year we will have more, I promise, despite having no parties. The FB live broadcasts of the weighin will provide many, we are sure. The people who come to compete and party always ensure good times.

***

INFORMATION! Be sure to see updates on our Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Facebook page. There is link is at www.loscabostunajackpot.com. For any questions about the tournament signup procedure, contact Lori Twilegar at lori@wonews.com. To contact Tournament Director Pat McDonell about the event itself, email at pat@wonews.com for a prompt response. And be sure to get the latest information on the tourney via our new catchstat.com app and the website cabotunajackpot.catchstat.com

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