|Over many years, I have spent the months of August through November at a procession of high-stakes fishing tournaments from East Cape to Cabo San Lucas where some of the finest anglers in the world compete. Their targets are species varying from billfish to tuna, with dorado and wahoo added to the list.
Along with many other tournament followers and actual competitors, chances are that much of our time was spent listening, observing and learning from the moment we arrived, and chances are better still that it made us better anglers, mates or captains, or at the very least, it gave us a more intimate knowledge of the fish being pursued.
THE WEIGH-INS for these events are open to the public, and a great learning tool for anglers who listen carefully to even the most guarded comments. GARY GRAHAM PHOTO
I caught my first calico bass on the Mascot III in the early 1950s but equipment, methods and techniques have since changed and are constantly changing in the angling world. Keeping up with those changes has always been an important factor for the competitive angler.
Relocating to Baja where the fishery promises big fish in bigger waters, anglers can often find themselves intimidated. A crash course, of sorts, that offers insights into who are the best local anglers, mates and captains, where they fish, best techniques, best live bait, lures, methods, (trolling; kites; downriggers, etc.), is information needed for the “newbie."
The weigh-ins for these events are open to the public. Providing a marvelous opportunity for anyone interested to add to their local fishing knowledge in so many ways.
Hanging around these tournaments each summer and fall, especially around the scales, the amount of information available is astonishing. The clever listener can come away with valuable fishing information not only from the teams who have fought the fish but from other spectators killing time while waiting for the next qualifier to arrive. In addition, most of the events have grid maps which require location be included with each hook-up reported, introducing “hot spots” for the new arrival to Baja waters.
Most major Baja tournaments post a complete roster of boats, owners, captain and crew for review. Often they include prior years archived; a little homework with those lists can give you an inkling of who are the local teams and captains (and visiting teams) to watch before the first fish is ever hooked — local teams usually have the advantage.
When a team arrives with a fish it gets interesting. Most events require that the angler bring the tackle used for the catch to the scales. The set up — line, top-shot, leader type, length, hook type, even the lure size, style and color — is there for anyone to see, a definite learning tool.
Chances are the weigh-master will interview the angler and team of qualifying fish — sometimes an awkward moment when the angler tries to respond and say something without saying anything; but listen carefully, in their excitement, a nougat of unintended but valuable information can slip out inadvertently.
At last week’s Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot on the first day of the two-day event, one team, while weighing in a 200+ yellowfin tuna was asked by Pat McDonell, Director, “Where did you catch your fish?” Obviously, he expected only a vague answer with one day left in the event.
“We fished around a large group of boats for a little while before running straight out to sea; we only fished three hours.” the tired angler replied thinking he gave a pretty evasive answer.
However, he had offered several important clues. Interpretation: “Gordo Banks was slow (a large group of boats went to Gordo Banks) and the tuna was caught with porpoise way offshore (He drove straight out from Gordo Banks and back so the three-hours time gave everyone the approximate distance). The next/last day, the bulk of the qualifying catches came from offshore where his tuna had been taken.
I’m often told by anglers, “I have no interest in tournament fishing!” I get it. However listening, observing and learning from those who do can provide valuable insight into Baja sportfishing — well, it may be beneficial to you.
I’ve often told of fishing the beach at East Cape early mornings. Many new arrivals in outboard tin-boats would pass in front of where we were catching fish. We could hear the clicker on their reels howl when they were bit. We watched as they stopped to reel in their fish before trolling on down the beach. Several hours later they would return, trolling, and sure enough have another bite where we had caught fish all morning.
Listen, observe, and learn…