Word that a
250-plus-pound yellowfin tuna had been caught prior to the first day’s scales
opening in front of the Wyndham at 2 p.m. created quite the buzz to kick off
the weigh in.
But it wasn’t
a big tuna that would be tough to beat to kick off the 2011 WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, but
rather that of a 55.5-pound wahoo for Team Checkmate that locked up the
wahoo/dorado optional that had $72,000 in the pool, with $36,000 of it going to
the eventual day one winners on the Checkmate.
over the 250 — and that it was caught by a team across the board in all the
optionals — filled up a good part of the dialog that Tournament Director Pat
McDonell was putting out over the microphone leading towards the first tuna of
the day to hit the scale. Team 65 made up of Scott Miley, Jeff Friemoth,
Antonio Gulvarte and Ted Higginbothan were the first to have a fish go on the
board thanks to the 96.6-pound yellowfin they caught on 60-pound test on the Alejandra.
day one, the team wanted to stay tight lipped about the location and details of
the catch, saying only it was caught on bait with 60-pound test. The team was
just in the $1,000 optional, so there were still plenty of slots to fill in the
optionals and leader board as a string of smaller fish came to the scales.
p.m. Rico Torres on radio control said that two fish were still hooked up
leading to the 4 p.m. lines out time. The team that had the rumored big fish —
which would go on to be called the “phantom tuna” by McDonell — was said to be
team 86, which was the Fortuna. A look on the check-in sheet confirmed that the team had
in fact entered across the board. But when the team, which called itself Bill’s
Toupee, came in it wasn’t a big cow that came up the ramp, but rather a 80.2
pounder that would have a short stay as the leader of all the optionals,
outside of the $1,000.
small fish started coming in, with the Bad Medicine and Marlin Queen coming in with 40.3 and 36.9-pound
yellowfin. Word was that the fishing on school fish was good. The Ohioans that
made up Team Tuna Chasers came in next, with team member Dale Braun reporting “We
had tuna all day on porpoise, just nothing big.”
100-pound fish of the event was up next at 4:56 p.m., and it wasn’t a huge
surprise that it was past winners of the 2009 event — in which they caught the
largest yellowfin tuna ever caught on a Mexican-based boat in the process, with
a 383 — Team Fisher Man. Most of the team stayed on the boat, but the
father-and-son duo of Augustin Pino and Hugo Pino checked in the 107 pounder
that Hugo caught.
in all the optionals, aside from the $10,000 that six teams went into.
stay at number one was short lived, as the first fish that looked like it could
be a cow over 200 pounds came up the dock being carted by Felipe Mago and Jolo
Villavicakio Garcia of the charter boat Angelina, as the crowd built around the
weigh station being manned by Jonathan Roldan.
the electronic winch to pull the big fish up and then clip it on to the scale.
The slow, steady drop had the pulley rope go slack, and McDonell announced the
team of Anna and Marty Griffith along with son Evan Villarruel told the crowd
that they hooked the fish on the troll just 20 minutes into fishing, and that
Villarruel was the one that grabbed the rod.
much a one-day tournament for us,” said Marty Griffith, who was already
figuring out how to cut up the check for the day one $500 and $1,000 optionals
between the family and the crew at weigh in. Turns out the family were in Cabo
for a wedding, and that they’d only be able to fish half a day on day two and
they’d miss the parties and weigh ins.
point it was 5:13 p.m. and anything could happen. The only optionals that were
locked down were the $500 and $1,000, and even those were vulnerable, especially
seeing how the buzz was still that there was a 250-pound fish out there
somewhere. One cow could change it all.
100-plus-pound tuna came in — including a 117 for Team Reina de Wahoo that
could have toppled the 107 on the Fisher Man IF they were in the big money
optionals — but in the end the only slot still open was the $10,000 optional as
the time started ticking down at 5:45 p.m. But then Captain Edwardo Liera slid
the Precision III
into the slip in front of the scale, and angler Mark Callahn asked if any fish
had been weighed in for the $10,000 optional. And just like that the day two
$10,000 optional worth $24,000 got filled. There would be no rollover money.
was huge by this point, with good music and beers and cocktails in everyones’
hands adding to the “Fish Hard, Party Harder” brand that the tournament is
where was this 250-pound tuna? Would there be some sort of last minute back
down and weigh in — which is synonymous with the tournament. Or was it all
six minutes to go, where’s this 250?” McDonell asked the crowd at 5:54 p.m.
Come the last seconds of day one a countdown ended with McDonell saying, “We
just gave away $154,000, and we’re going to give away even more tomorrow!”
Fisherman got the biggest chunk with $94,400. The big question leading into day
two was whether a cow would come to the scale and topple the 198.1 that earned
the team on the Angelina $35,800.
DAY TWO —
THE BEST SINGLE DAY OF FISHING IN THE HISTORY OF THE TOURNAMENT
for day two was set right after the scales opened, as Rico Torres on the
tournament control radio told McDonell that 11 boats were already coming in
with fish, the first of which being the Protocol.
Team 94 on
made up of Alex Rogers, Bruce Lynn, Greg Surgener, Rick Rohodes and Damien
Oswald had a good fish that looked over 120 pounds, and they were in all the
optionals. The same fish would have taken all the optionals from $2,000 to
$10,000 on day one, but this day had that feel of being a different one right
out of the gates, with reports of great fishing to go with the fact that there
were still 10 boats to get weighed in so early in the tournament. But the 126.7
for the boys on the Protocol set the bar early as the fish to beat. Still, team captain
Rogers seemed to know it wasn’t going to be enough: while the crowd cheered any
lip readers in the audience could tell he was thinking the fish would weigh in
of fishing being “good” would be an understatement, as a string of fish that
included 20 over 100 pounds and (spoiler alert) 3 over 200 started getting
Meal Money, Solomon’s Dream and Reina de Wahoo all had 100-plus-pound fish, but
it was apparent that it was going to take a fish closer being in the cow
category on day two. Still, Reina de Wahoo got a consolation in that of their
39.2-pound wahoo that they weighed in along with their 121.9-pound tuna being
good for the day two wahoo optional.
came the first cow of the tournament.
Line slid into a slip in front of the Wyndham, and it was immediately apparent
that the ante was getting bumped up. Ex pats John Buchan and Gil Leiendecker
now call San Jose del Cabo home after spending their working lives in Seattle,
and it was the waters around their new backyard — Punta Gordo to be exact —
where Captain Rodrigo Arce slow trolled up the cow that ate a “Chilly Willy”
the rainbow runner-like bait that can be caught on light line and small hooks
on top of the Gordo banks.
ended up going 205 pounds, good for the top slot in the overall — which paid
out 80 percent to first — and the day two leader in the $500 and $1,000
optionals that the Bottom Line team had ponied up for.
really started to ramp up as Team Hillybilly Yacht Club came in on one of the
Redrum boats with two fish that looked to be in the 150-pound class.
things started to go off. The Bill Collector checked in a 190.2 that ate
caballito fished in a pod of porpoise way up the Pacific side. The team had
chartered the boat from the Pisces Fleet, and all of a sudden Wayne Smith,
David Bick, Ed Sexton and Jim Brown were sitting in the top spots in the bulk
of the bigger money jackpots, save for the 10K. It almost looked like the fish
they caught with Captain Julio Gonzales and deckhand Estebon Boldoes could hold
on and get some of the big bucks.
big fish and break off were rife. Ed Tschernoscha of Baja Fish Gear had a good
grade fish well over 100 pounds, but he said it was the one that broke off that
could have put him in the money once again.
By now it
was 5:20 Reactor Time, and McDonell couldn’t believe the amount of
100-plus-pound fish — albeit none of them would qualify — coming up the ramp.
More than once he called the fishing and parade of 100-pound fish the best he’s
ever seen at the event. Plenty of stories started along the lines of “If we had
landed the one that we hooked…”
came Cabo Magic. The crowd had been introduced to Oroville and Cindy Henseler
at the day one weigh in, when Oroville weighed in a non-qualifying fish and
told McDonell and the crowd that fishing in the Tuna Tournament was on his “bucket
list.” A workplace accident last April in which led to Orville losing his leg
from the knee down is what led to the creation of this “bucket list”—and
Orville standing on his new prosthetic, Corona can in hand, next to wife Cindy,
while Roldan strung up a cow that looked like it was going to smash the Bottom
The fat cow
looked bigger than it was, but the scale stopped at three numbers that were
plenty big enough — 213 — to knock the Bottom Line out of the top spot in the
overall, but not the day two optionals, as the Henselers threw down the $800 to
enter, but not in on any of the optionals.
But after a
battle that went beyond epic, Orville couldn’t care less. It was all about the
experience of fishing in the tuna tournament he had read about on the Internet
back home in Pennsylvania.
He told the
crowd that is was over a 4½ hour battle on the 60-pound mono and a single speed
6/0 Senator and a no-name rod that looked more suitable for fishing 30-pound.
leader of 150-pound Seaguar Fluoro Premier saved Orville, creating a heavy
buffer between him and tackle that was down a few notches as being cow worthy.
that Captain Hector Aeala stopped the boat on a spot of porpoise and the boat’s
deckhands, Omar Aeala and Rafael Sanchez, dropped caballitos back into the
porpoise. Cindy hooked a 55 pounder; Orville got bit by the 213.
For over 4
hours she gave him waters and cigarettes, although the captain put a no smoking
ban into place after getting nervous that the cherry would hit the line.
Even in the
end, after fighting the fish with the prosthetic leg he still hasn’t become
used to wearing, Orville told the crew of the Cabo Magic that he wanted to gaff the fish
himself. Muy Loco.
celebration was short lived. For now. No sooner had the Henselers and the crew
of the Cabo Magic
gone back to the boat than did some of the big name favorites start to show up
with big fish. Not fish big enough to take the overall that would pay $35,040,
but fish plenty big enough to take some of the big money optionals from $2,000
on up. Maybe Manana, Wild Hooker, Hammer Time – they all had fish that were worth
weighing, and when the parade ended the Hawaii based team on Wild Hooker — they literally came over to Cabo
from Hawaii to fish the event — were sitting on the $3,000 and $5,000 optionals
with a 187.4 and the Maybe Manana had the 10K on lockdown with the fish that went 149.4. The
190.2 on the Bill Collector was sitting on the $500 daily worth $28,400 and the $2,000
daily worth $24,800.
cow holding an optional was the 205 that had Bottom Line looking like they were going to get
the $21,600 to go with $4,320.00 for second overall. But all the teams were
about to experience a huge swing from black towards red.
The crew on
the True VII was
sitting back in the slip, waiting for the other big yachts to weigh in. It was
pitch black by this time, and the buzzed-up crowd went crazy when the crew put
what had to be a cow over the rail and into the dock cart.
beat the 213 that the Cabo Magic has? It looks like we could have a sweep of the optionals…
they are in all the optionals!” said McDonell.
actually had two fish to weigh in. The big one would have done it, but the team
led by Captain Brett Eller had the smaller of the two weighed first. The 164
was good for the 10k optional, knocking the Maybe Manana’s 149.4 out. Then came the big
dude. It didn’t look bigger than the 213 on the Cabo Magic, but it looked like it was right
there with the 205 on the Bottom Line.
It was as
though what went on to be called Team True (drop the VII) knew they were going
to smash the optionals, and when the scale stopped at 206 — smashing most fish
out of the optionals and edging the Bottom Line by a pound — angler Chris
Fuller, Captain Eller, Tom Aland and local Cubby Pahl, Steve Geary and Rudy
Jimenez blew up in celebration along with their friends. And it wouldn’t end
until the wee hours of the morning come Sunday at Squid Roe.
was it. A two-day weigh in that had it all: working class winners in the
overall, a last minute weigh in for over $150,000 and the odds-on favorite team
Fisher Man getting a big chunk of the prize pool to go with enough winners to
make for plenty of checks to get cut at the awards ceremony come the next day.
it was time for that night’s fiesta hosted by Costa and Reactor watches.
WINNERS of the 2011
WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot,
Oroville and Cindy Henseler.
WEIGH IN WENT INTO THE DARK as some last-minute huge fish on the Maybe Manana, Wild Hooker, Hammer
Time and finally, True VII came to the scale.
broke out when Team True VII realized they had swept the optionals.
BIG FISH went 198.1
pounds for the Texas based team made up of, from left to right, team captain
Anna Griffith, Marty Griffith and Evan Villarruel and son/grandson, Huston. At
far right is Eat Me Lures girl Cindy Boyer, Kneeling are Angelina crewmembers
Felipe Mago, left, and Jolo Villavicakio Garcia.