Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Baja Tournament Time
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Bob Bisbee Sr., a Baja Legend

Returning to my roots
Before I begin my account of my recent trip to Loreto, I would like to comment on a very sad happening some 450 miles away. I join with others in expressing my outrage at the tragic news of the recent homicides in Bahia de Los Angeles. Hopefully, the perpetrators of this horrible crime will be apprehended quickly, and peace and calm can be restored to this community. My sympathy goes out to the families of both Jo Anne Butler and Ray Ball.

At the end of May, I was invited to tag along with the Sportfishing Association of California (SAC) team, Ken Franke, Edwin Reyes, Pete Gray, and Rick Cutler, along with Celia Conditt and Captain Art Taylor of Searcher Sportfishing.

THE MOST FASHIONABLE is the La Mision, a 70-room hotel located on the Malecón offering extraordinary views of the glistening Sea of Cortez, located just a few short blocks from the launch ramp and Marina.

The entire team was headed down to Loreto to take part in the 6th Gastronomic Festival of the Almeja Chocolata, which would include a live broadcast of Pete Gray’s “Let’s Talk Hookup” on Saturday morning following the Yellowtail Tournament flare gun start at dawn.

As most of you know, Loreto was where my Baja journey first began decades ago, and this was an opportunity for me to return to my roots. On this trip, we used the Cross-Border Xpress as our port of entry, and less than 45-minutes from our arrival at the border we were at the Aero Calafia gate awaiting our flight.

I have visited Loreto countless times. What seemed like a small village on my first visit, has by comparison to other cities in Baja Sur retained that small-town atmosphere despite the many changes over the years.

Ed Tabor is long gone, as is his Flying Sportsmen Lodge where I stayed on my first visit. However, some colorful hotels now line the Malecón. The most fashionable is the La Mision, a 70-room hotel located on the Malecón offering extraordinary views of the glistening Sea of Cortez, located just a few short blocks from the launch ramp and Marina.

Before dinner our first evening, we had a meeting with the members of the event committee, along with business owners and visiting government officials, to determine the subjects that they would cover during the radio program.

We were later joined for dinner by representatives of SEPEDA and CONAPESCA. The hotel chef outdid himself with an impressive array of local seafood dishes. The team and visitors bantered over who would catch the largest fish on Friday with the winning angler/team earning a dinner at the expense of the loser.

On the morning of the tournament, light wind and nearly flat seas greeted the teams as they topped off the bait tanks with live bait and headed north to San Bruno where a handful of boats were already fighting fish.

The morning passed quickly. Only a handful of yellowtail were caught with Celia Conditt and Art Taylor each scoring one. Ken Franke and Pete Gray failed to match them which provided Art and Celia with bragging rights all weekend, plus a free dinner. Then it was back to the hotel for lunch before part of the team headed for a guided tour with VIVE Loreto, Rafael Villegas, and Maria to Mission San Javier, one of the oldest and best preserved of all the Jesuit missions in Mexico and the U.S., located only 32 km outside of Loreto on a paved road through the foothills.

BY THE END of the day, the largest fish of the tournament was a 28.2-pound mossback belonging to Team Harker.

Later that evening after strolling through the quiet street in front of the Mission in town, we had dinner at the popular Mi Loreto, a family restaurant known for its truly authentic traditional Mexican foods, only steps from the Mission de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó.

The following morning began before dawn on the jetty surrounding the Marina as local anglers and government officials gathered to signal the start of the fishing tournament. The flare streaked over the Bay, and 22 teams raced toward their favorite spot in search of the largest yellowtail.

The two-hour live radio show, “Let’s Talk Hookup” was broadcast from the 4th floor of the La Mision Hotel overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Throughout the show, a steady stream of government officials, locals representing hotels, sportfishing, diving and other companies involved in tourism popped in. Pete and his guests fielded callers’ questions about what Loreto had to offer its visitors during their stay.

From 12 noon until 3 p.m. there was a parade of boats returning to weigh their catches. Over thirty yellowtail were caught, but only sixteen fish were weighed as the largest fish only scored. By the end of the day, the largest fish of the tournament was a 28.2-pound mossback belonging to Team Harker.

The centerpiece of the weekend was the 6th Annual Gastronomic Festival of the Almeja Chocolata which also included the award ceremony for the fishing tournament. The Gastronomic Festival attracted hundreds of tourists and locals alike who gathered to taste the traditional Loreto cuisine.

“The cuisine of Baja California Sur is recognized worldwide for the authenticity and deliciousness of its dishes, making it an important tourist attraction,” Secretary of Tourism, Economy and Sustainability (SETUES), Luis Humberto Araiza López, declared.

The secretary emphasized that this traditional festival internationally projected the vast and rich variety of Loreto cuisine, which in addition to its natural beauty and historical richness, attracts hundreds of people from different countries each year to taste the dozens of dishes made from local clams, fish, and seafood.

Following dinner, the cash awards, along with invitations to compete in the great Final SEPESCA 2018 series to be held August 10-11 at Loreto, were distributed to the winning teams.

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