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Pat McDonell's Blog

WONews Column by Pat McDonell

Pat McDonell is the Editorial Director of Western
Outdoors Publications and has fished and hunted all over the world, from Brazil’s famed peacock bass waters to Morro Bay for albacore.

A graduate from San Diego State University in Journalism, he coordinates the staffs of the weekly newspaper and magazine. He was a founding member of United Anglers of SoCal. He’s an avid saltwater and freshwater angler and hunter. He is also the director of the annual Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament held each November in Cabo.  McDonell, 52, is married with two daughters and resides in Carlsbad.

Souza wins Bay Bass title
No Boat? No Problem. Souza does it himself

TONY SOUZA won $2,000 for first place, a pair of Daiwa setups, and the $1,650 optional jackpot on Saturday while fishing on a kayak in the two-person boat division. 

Wins 20th annual S.D. Bay Bass Open on a kayak after his boat could not be repaired in time and wins by staying close, scores $3,650 


WON Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO - In drag racing, you “Run what you brung.” Same in fishing tournaments, but in the case of former commercial fisherman Tony Souza, he went from fishing in his boat with his wife Barbie to going it alone a kayak and still won the competition held Saturday. 

He beat the rest of the two-man field of nearly 150 who were scouring the bay, and he did it on one of the toughest tournament days of fishing of its 20-year history by staying close to the launching/tourney area and bringing in 3 sand bass that weighed 8.20 pounds.

He edged the team of Joseph and Michael Israel who weighed in 3  sand bass for 7.41 pounds. Tom and Valerie Handzus finished in third place for the  third time in seven years competing in the event. They weighed in  three calicos  taken  from Zuniga Point at the entrance to the bay with 7.16 weight  topped by the event’s biggest fish, a 3.55-pound calico. All fish were caught on  MC Swimbaits. 

The Kayak Division, which Souza did not compete in for reasons to be mentioned soon, was won by three-time champion Ken Rosburg with 5.43 pounds. He has won the division three out of the four years he has competed.

The San Diego Bay Bass tourney, the premiere bay event in the state by far, was one tough cookie this year. Even with the catch limit dropped from 5 bass (any three species) to 3 fish this year by tourney officials due to the new statewide 14-inch minimum size for all saltwater bass (spotties, calicos and sand bass), the bite literally shut off at 8:30 a.m. most teams said. Like a light switch.

“We had to fill out our three fish limit with a spottie,” said Dennis Burlason, who usually is in the top 10 with partner Ed Howerton. Or, they win it as they have done three times. “The fish just stopped biting and we were like, ‘What happened?’ said Burlason. They finished 21st with 4.6 pounds. Said his fishing partner Ed Howerton, “It seems to get tougher and tougher every year.” 

The 14-inch minimum imposed last year is part of it, but it was just one of those days the fish locked up, perhaps the result of the storm frontal.  

Prefishing expeditions the day before were certainly promising, many teams reported. Plenty of legals, several bigger fish to 3 and 4 pounds. But that was Friday. The sand bass were on strike on tournament day.

Indeed, you never know with bay sand bass. This has been a crazy warm-water season, too. Whatever the reason, everyone was in the same proverbial boat except for Souza. His story was best told by Dwayne Patenaude, director of the tourney since its inception, but which is put on by the San Diego Anglers fishing club as its major fundraiser each year.

“Tony is a club member, who is a retired commercial tuna fisherman,” said Patenaude. “He normally fishes the tournament with his wife Barbie but his boat broke and couldn’t get the manifold part in time. He also owns a kayak. He called and asked if it was all right if he could still fish the tournament but in his kayak, but in the boat division. He had paid the full boat entry fee (not the reduced kayak entry fee) and wanted a crack at the $2,000 that Fisherman’s Landing Tackle had donated. We did not see a problem as long as he had paid the $140 entry fee. 

"He ended up winning the $2,000 donated by Fisherman’ Landing Tackle and the $1,650 jackpot made up of $25 optional entry, and also won the pair of Daiwa Lexa 300 reels and matching Lexa rods and did not have to split it with anyone!," said Patenaude, adding, "As a side note, he won the tournament on a Berkley 5-inch Gulp Curlytail grub in the new Penny color. It was the hot bait, we found out from one of his buddies!”

There were no surprises in the Kayak Division, sponsored by Fast Lane and Hobie Kayaks with a $500 top prize, That was Ken Rosburg. He won $500 and has always place in the top 25 of the entire tourney, even though he fishes out of a kayak, said Patenaude.

The largest spottie was 2.3 pounder by Matt McBride and Barry Chavez, the largest calico and overall bass   was a 3.55 pounder by Tom and Valerie Handzus, fishing Zuniga Point with  a MCSwimbaits, and the halibut optional was won by Rodney Thompson and David Chavez with a 19.59 pounder.  

This writer fished with friend and new partner Chris Wheaton and had one 2 ½ pounder and a 1 ½ pounder and 10 spotted bay bass under the 14-inch minimum, but we could not get another legal fish after 10:30, and did not weigh in, staying out to try to get a third weighable fish. The 4.1-pound 2-fish catch would not have been in the top 25, anyway, to cash a check. Bottom line, I didn't think 4.1 pounds would have been close to being in  the top 25.But it was tough, tough fishing.   

Next year. There is always next year and another great Open  to look forward to.


Go to for more on the event an club activities. 


KEN ROSBURG won his third Kayak Division title in four years at the San Diego Anglers Bay Bass Open on Saturday. He won $500.

KEN ROSBURG, Kayak Division winner the third time in four tries.

A CROWD ofseveral hundred friends, gamily, sponsors and anglers and an army of club volunteers gathered under the big top at Shelter Island for the announcement of the winners, a hearty lunch and dozens of drawings.


GREAT FOOD at the BBQ is given to guests and anglers alike by the club volunteers



Boat Division



Tony Souza /



Joesph Israel / Michael Israel



Tom Handzus / Valerie Handzus



Anthony Souza / Andre Sannmann



Justin Iacino / Jeremy Smith



Matthew McBride / Barry Chavez



Ken Lovsletten / Glenn Casale



Dean Jamieson / Brandon Buono



Thomas Aranda / Jeremie Wraight



Daniel Pena / Charles Evans



Lance Picotte / Michael Hill



John Forster / Mario Souza



Doug Kern / Rick Maxa



Mike Lane / Scott Pethtel



Tim Keeran / Chris Keeran



Neil Barbour / Joseph Menegos



Max Dennemeyer / Terry Hastings



Jeff Tiglio / Randall Fawley



Chad Fisk / David Myers



Phil Fitzgerald / Mark Warren



Dennis Burlason / Ed Howerton



William Karstens / Daniel Karstens



Roy Erlandson / Darren Erlandson



Richard Maxa / Chris Larsen



Brent Kearney / Tarin Barry



Kurt Williams / Eric Williams



Bruce Schram / Dan Vaughn



Nick Pandza / Dan Sachse



Travis Hargis / Tony Gilbert



Ty Ponder / Ty (TJ) Ponder



Dean Smith / Jim Medlin



Matthew Moyer / Jim Sammons



Paul Irvine / Brian Irvine



Steve Lowery / Henry Codiamat



Alan Ladd / Jacob Willhelm



Derek Marso / Cory Stenovec



Ed Lesh / Brian Lesh



Larry Williams / Dean Richetti



Ryan Rosu / Caleb Douglas



Charles Koeleman / Kristin Koeleman



Charles Koeleman / Kristin Koeleman



Jerry Poehlman / Craig Campbell



Darren Pasalich / Brandon Nelson



Tom Buckalew / Greg Leroy



Shane Harrison / Brandon Brenner



Kevin Stafford / Jason Andrews



Jim Francella / Jim Cavanaugh



John Sedgwick / Roger Lamberson



Arthur Anderson / Chad Hunt



Bart Hegeler / Barton Hegeler Jr



Chris Bagalini / Dylan Bagalini



Larry Heron / Bryan Davis



Chris Laurino / John Buso



Nick Meyer / Nancy Ortiz



Scott Sherman / Alan Clowers



Jason Walker / Robert Rendon



Michael Emerton / William Emerton



Adam Larson / Justin Larson



Rex Finney / Tim Foote


Kayak Division


Ken Rosburg /




David Easton /




Morgan Promnitz /




Jorge Gallegos /




Will Bowen /




Diego Gamboa /




Bryan Williams /




Kevin Gephart /




Victor Rangel /




Jimmy Van Evera /




Kevin Harvey /




Joe Cargel /




Rex McNamara /




Joseph Tuipala /




Kevin Nakada /



Largest Bass (Calico)

Handzus /Handzus


Largest Spottie



Largest Halibut



Giving back after tragedy
Paul Lebowitz's son James' memory lives on after organ donations


SUSAN AND HER SON JAMES LEBOWITZ. James, just 18 and a freshman at Cal Poly Pomona, passed away Jan. 13 and several of his organs, among them his heart and kidneys, were donated. Services are pending. A permanent endowment is being set up at the university in his name (see info  below). Here he is pictured at his high school prom with Susan.


Paul and Susan Lebowitz lost their 18-year-old son under the most unimaginable tragedy, yet his sudden death Jan. 13 has made life possible for many others. In a selfless, generous act in the midst of the worst possible family scenario, the Lebowitzs thought of others in desperate need of organ donations after James, a freshman studying computer science at Cal Poly Pomona, died from a brain aneurysm.

As many readers are aware, Paul is an accomplished outdoor writer, wrote a column on kayaking for years, is now editor of KayakFishMagazine and besides being an avid fisherman, he also served in Desert Storm as a U.S. Army linguistic-voice interceptor and represented fishermen in the most thankless job of all time, as one of the SoCal Blue Ribbon Task Force reps during the long, drawn-out MLPA process. He’s an SDSU grad and an avid Aztecs basketball fan.

Like many people whom we think we know, there are parts of Paul’s life I was not aware. He had quit his full-time job as an environmental consultant to stay at home to raise his autistic son who had Asbergers Syndrome. His wife continued to work at Qualcomm while Paul worked from home as a freelance writer.

The loss of his son is devastating. They were so close, and James had come so far.

Despite being an avid reader before 1st grade, he could not write. School so overwhelmed him at first he would curl up under his desk for hours.

“As you might imagine,” said Paul, “there were some teachers and administrators who didn’t appreciate having to deal with that in a classroom,” There were huge battles over the years with officials over whether James could be mainstreamed, but with the help of dedicated occupational therapists and special education staffers in the San Diego Unified School District, he proved many experts wrong.

“He was quiet, that is for sure,” said Paul. “But you would not have known James was autistic. I was so proud of how far he had come. He was going to college, living at the dorm, he had friends and was part of the campus life and community. I don’t think even he knew how far he had come.” On a recent 9-day trip in June, Paul recalls, one of many such summer trips over the years he and James took to amusement parks around the country, he told him how proud he was of him. Such long trips centered around roller coasters and amusement parks. It started at Disneyland.

“There’s just something about Disneyland that appeals to autistic kids,” said Paul. “He loved it. Especially the roller coasters. James was always so sensitive to noises. He loved the sensation of the rides, but hated the noise of the coasters, and would plug his ears with his fingers during every ride. Over the years on all those trips, we’ve ridden 300 roller coasters. I think we were at the point where we had run out of roller coasters to visit in North America.”

On Jan. 13, there was no indication there was anything wrong just hours before in a hour-long phone call from his dorm room at Cal Poly.

“We had just spoken with him on the phone from 8:30 to 9:30, he was happy and joking with his mom,” said Paul. In the middle of the night, a call came from the hospital. His son was unresponsive. They jumped in the car from their home in San Diego. The updates came as they drove two hours north in the darkness.

“The doctor said there was a very serious bleed on the brain and they were prepping him for surgery, but that it was very iffy,” said Paul. Imagine that phone call as a parent. “Then came another call from the neurosurgeon, that the aneurysm was at the brain stem and was catastrophic.” First comes hope. Then reality. Then came deep, unrelenting grief.

The decision to donate his organs was not difficult.

“It wasn’t really a decision the way it was posed in the Facebook posts,” said Paul. “When we arrived, there was our beautiful son who looked like he’s sleeping peacefully. Of course we insisted on a second opinion from a neurosurgeon, but once he confirmed the diagnosis and left, the first surgeon came back in and said, ‘You really should consider an organ donation.’ Of course, we said yes. James was such a generous sort, a really giving, loving kid, and he would have wanted to help others to improve lives. How could we say no to that.”

Doctors left James on life support to protect his organs as it was decided they would take his lungs, heart, liver, two kidneys and pancreas. Paul and Susan had 24 hours to say goodbye “before he was taken, and really gone,” said Paul. James was on a respirator for two days while they began looking for matches on the transplant lists. That is when the agency OneLegacy called. The agency serves hundreds of SoCal hospitals. 

Their work ranges from organizing transplant lists, to offering grief counseling for families, helping families deal with the tragedy and organizing the movement of donated organs. Organ donation, Paul found, has many rigid protocols. But this is a new world, and the internet creates a massive circle of friends in the fishing community. Paul is part of that network as a fisherman and writer and sports fan, and OneLegacy made a suggestion.

“They told us one option was to designate specific donations, and that was when I put the call out on Facebook, to tell people to please get in touch with me as soon as possible,” said Paul. “It makes so much sense to try to help people in our circle of fishing, even if that circle of people is with people often once-removed from ours.”

For the two kidneys alone, there were six immediate requests. The key is finding a physical match. It would not be easy, as James was 6-foot-6. Paul said Randy Ladue saw the post and called his friend Tommy Gomes, owner of Catalina Offshore Products, who is also a longtime friend of Paul’s. Their friend George Martinez, an avid fisherman, was in need of a kidney. The circle of Facebook friends was in action.

Martinez was once a lead counselor for those with substance abuse at the San Diego Freedom Rancho Camp. That is how he met a recovering Tommy Gomes who told the Union-Tribune in a story last week that as a counselor Martinez “saved my life.” Martinez now works with ex-prisoners as they transition back to society.

By the next morning, doctors said the kidney was a match. Martinez received James’ kidney on Friday. Before surgery, Martinez posted on Facebook:

“OK, waiting to be wheeled in to surgery. So now I have time to explain how this miracle came about. Unfortunately, James Lebowitz, an 18-year-old kid who from this point on and for the rest of my life I will call him my ‘angel,’ passed away on the morning of the 13th of an aneurysm. His dad, Paul Lebowitz, posted on Facebook about the tragedy and that he wanted his son’s organs to be donated to help others. My friends, Tommy Gomes and Randy Ladue, made contact with Paul and told him about me. Paul called me and we talked for a few minutes. He then made a decision that if his son's kidney was a match they would donate it to me. Please pray for the Lebowitz family.”

After the surgery came this message to the Lebowitz family:

“Paul and Sue, I want to let you know that all is well," Martinez wrote. "This is my second day with my angels present and all is well. As you can see sleeping is hard to come by with all these meds and all testing and checking. I keep thinking that when this is over you will allow me to sit down with you so I can learn more about my angel. Will call you guys soon. Love George."

OneLegacy did much for the Lebowitz family. Grief counseling, arranging for funeral home services. There are group therapy sessions planned. In 45 days OneLegacy will provide information on how the other organ recipients have fared. “So far so good with George,” said Paul, “and the 18-year-old boy who received James’ heart. They have to wait that long to make sure the transplants were successful.”

If one thinks making contact with the recipients would be too emotional over a long period, that is not a remote concern for Paul and Susan. ”It will be painful, but I want to keep the memory of my son alive,” said Paul. “It will be a good thing for me. I want to remember James. I still can’t believe he‘s not going to be with me the rest of my life.”

Two things Paul and Susan want to emphasize. That organ donation is done with compassion and respect. “OneLegacy proved that from the first moment with us and James that they care about their donor families is so many ways.” And they wanted to say how Cal Poly Pomona University treated their son as a member of their family. Paul doubted that talk of “family” at a university of 20,000 students when he first heard it at freshman orientation. But the way his son was cared for in the dorm and at the hospital, and then at the candlelight vigil for his son on campus -- with professors, the university president and students attending, it proved it was not just talk.

“And part of this story is that through various parts of the fishing community and contacts that there really has been an outpouring of love and support that has been so heartwarming,” said Paul. He added that Facebook proved it can be a community link. “Tommy Gomes, who I have so much respect for in how he has made a second life for himself, said it right in a story by outdoor writer Ed Zieralski did a few days ago in the U-T. Tommy said that Facebook is mostly drama and BS, but those social connections really shine through when something like this happens.”

Paul said services are in the planning stages for a remembrance and paddle-out at La Jolla, with an informal shore lunch to follow, sometime in March or April. They will also arrange boats for those who prefer.

“We want to send him off in grand style with family and friends. I hope you'll come help us celebrate our lovely young man,” said Paul. “But if you can't we know your thoughts will be with us. Spreading his ashes there at least I know I will always be out there on the water with him the rest of my life.”


Endowment being set up in James Lebowitz’s name

Paul and Susan Lebowitz are working to endow a permanent annual Cal Poly scholarship in James' name and are asking people, in lieu of cards or flowers, to please consider making a donation in James' name.

The address:

In Remembrance Of James Lebowitz

Please hold for a scholarship endowment

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Gift Processing Department

3801 West Temple Ave., Pomona, CA 91768

For more details about the organ donor agency OneLegacy, see its website at

JAMES LEBOWITZ as a youngster fishing in Big Bear. (Paul Lebowitz photo) 


Yellows: Why this year?
The S.D. Bay Bass tourney is coming up, and like others who will be competing on skiffs, prefishing for the annual tourney on the 24th has not been a priority for me. The yellowtail on the entire Baja coast, the Coronados and our SoCal coast is the target for many of us, and there’s no way I’m going to chase after sand bass in a bay for any reason when 20- to 30-pound plus yellows are a few miles away on a sportboat or on my skiff.

This past week the yellowtail bite that has been a pick at spots 4 miles off Mission Beach, off Del Mar and Leucadia, Box Canyon, the Ventura/L.A. County line and a lot of other 100 to 300-foot hard-bottom structure spots inbetween – well, those spots went ballistic Friday and Saturday. Who knows why the switch got flipped, but it did.

SUM FUN ANGLERS anglers Carlos De Los Santos, Doug Lash and Adam Ferguson show off a portion of their yellowtail score from Saturday.

Sum Fun Capt. Brian Woolley has been thorough in his weekly reports for us. Great stuff. His Dana Point-based sportfisher these three months has centered on Box Canyon in 230 feet of water, and a few weeks ago worked off San Clemente Pier in 100 to 120 feet of water and outside in 150 feet. Box Canyon was the star this week.

“Another great week for us,” reported Woolley on Sunday. “Crazy!”

The key on this winter bite for the big yellows is water. Clean, warm water, and bait. It’s warm for wintertime, and as divers report, the temp is solid all the way down, so any storm that blows through may cause upwelling, but to no effect. The fish have stayed on to snack on small rockfish, sardines, mackerel, red crab and a growing web of squid nests.

“The water has been really nice 61 to 61.8, pretty steady all week,” reported Woolley. “Lots of life from spots of sardine to big spots of red crab. The deep Box Canyon hard bottom was still the main center of focus for us with the yellows. The amount of fish there has been downright impressive.”

Woolley said the week started off slow, and even some sculpin drifts were made to fill the sacks between efforts at the yellows. They were there, but not biting. He said, “It was brutal seeing this stuff in good volume and not getting a shot at it.”

On Friday, the scene changed. “I'd get the boat around on a sonar mark and we'd get a few dippers of sardine into the circle and the fish would come up from 40 to 20 fathoms and the school would blow up and break apart real nice.” They scored 49 fish on the dropper loop and the other half on the blue/white or scrambled eggs 6-ounce iron, and with rain expected Sunday, a fleet of skiffs swarmed the area Saturday when the Sum Fun scored 97 fish on an all-day bite.

“The skiffs were a nightmare,” said Woolley. “It was real hard to get on some of the schools with the skiffs on us. A few times it was just straight up ridiculous.”

A good set of tips for skiffs I’ve found are this:

— Find structure in a productive area, and drift off that. Stay away from the sportboats. It doesn’t work, and finding your own fish is more rewarding.

— In water 150 to 200-feet or more, use a reverse dropper loop (use loop for sinker, single line below for hook) with the fish now chasing red crabs in the mid-water-column. The reverse DPL keeps you off the rockfish and lings, too during the 2-month closure. We were slammed on the 270 Spot last Thursday off Mission Beach with bocaccio and lings before we re-rigged to the reverse DPL. (Note: In 100 to 120 feet or so, use regular DPL for yellows to get a shot at big halibut now showing.

— Use as light a sinker weight as you can depending on the current. Best is 6 ounce, the most is 12 ounces. Use 30 to 40-pound fluoro for the dropper rig, and use a swivel to connect it to the main line to eliminate twisting.

— Nose-hooked macks or ’dines should be brought up slowly. I got two fish on the retrieve in recent weeks. A nice surprise any time that happens.

— Throw iron as often as you can. I like the 6xjr in scrambled egg. The standard 6-ounce size is a lot of jig to grind up all day.

— Throw jig away from the boat with DLPs out, retrieve a third of the way, drop back down, bring up half, drop back down, bring back all the way. Repeat. It covers more of the water column. It beats sitting around while staring at a dropper loop rig in the rod holders.

Finally, I just installed an electric downrigger on the skiff. Just another tool for various uses but also to get down to those incredible winter yellows, while they stick around. So far they don’t seem to be any hurry to move on, so get on ’em!

Clear the desk for the holidays
On “deck” for 2015 are four saltwater tournaments, 30 WON saltwater charterboat trips in SoCal, three major travel trips, two WON BASS issues of WON and about the same number of special supplements.

Just keeping track of these events is a task in itself because someone has to host or cover them. In some cases, that is me, but usually it’s a small army of trusted freelance and staff writers. In 2015 I plan to be more active than in 2014 for a variety of reason but there is a limit to how many I can host or direct. Someone has to be in the office.

This time of year is when I update the schedules and confirm dates and begin the process of marketing. It never ends. As the director of the Cabo, Catalina and San Diego tourneys, early December is when I recover from the Cabo tourney and the extensive follow-up it entails. You step off the plane in San Diego after nine days in Cabo, it’s flat-out intense.

It’s a good thing the tourney turned out to be a success. No disasters, a good vibe, a turnout that shocked even me. I thought maybe 120 and that was ridiculously optimistic after Hurricane Odile crushed Baja. And we had 131. Truly crazy is that teams are already signing up and giving us jackpot money, and reserving team numbers. Amazing. I’m thinking 150 teams easy and a record amount of jackpot money, well over the $511,200 from last year that eight teams split.. See more at

Anyway. There’s some fun stuff on the new wall calendars in front of me in my office, dates and places. If you love to fish and travel, this gig is pretty good.

First up for me is the Vessel Assist San Diego Bay Bass Open, Jan. 24. I missed it last year with hip surgery, two of ’em, but that’s done and I’m feeling great. I’ve got more metal in me than a Avet reel and just as smooth running. My goal is to finish in the top 10 among 150 teams in the bay tourney, but being in the top 25 and getting my name on the board among some great talent is more realistic. This year there is only a three-fish weigh-in, not 5, due to the 14-inch bass limit. Not sure it was needed really, but a kicker fish is now even more critical. And, Fisherman’s Landing Tackle’s Doug Kern is now the biggest sponsor, kicking in the $2,000 first prize, Kern adding $500 from previous years when recently sold Drew Ford paid it out. Doug is always a competitor with Rick Maxa. I think they finished eighth last year. Ed Howerton and Dennis Burlason won it – again. It’s limited to 150 teams, paydowns to 25 places, free BBQ lunch, Ballast Point Beer, bring a chair and sit under the tent and win some prizes. There’s also a Kayak Division this year, sponsored by Fast Lane in Mission Bay. $500 for first place, paydowns to third. Great fun. Website is, contact director Dwayne Patenaude at

That brings up our own event, the Catalina White Seabass Tournament at Two Harbors May 16-17 and there are no changes in the schedule from last year when we had an earlier check-in and release, a flare gun start on both sides of the Isthmus and an all-islands format. More time to fish was appreciated, and the 10:30 release for teams after the short meeting Saturday morning at 10 a.m. was more relaxed. And having teams show numbers on the water to check in like Cabo, and the flare gun start was pretty exciting. It was the first time it has been used at Catalina. “More fair,” “more exciting” were the comments I heard.

This year there are two important changes to perk up the event.

The first change is that after always having a one-fish weigh-in for the overall standing (1st to 5th) there is now a two-fish weigh-in for a total weight. Teams can use any of the three eligible species of WSB, yellowtail and halibut. Two WSB, one WSB and a halibut, a yellowtail and a halibut. The nine optionals, $100, $200 and $300 for all of those three species for a total of 9 payouts remains a one-fish weigh-in, and still a 90 percent payback.

The second 2015 change is that along with the 2-fish weigh-in there is a Yamaha $1,000 Big Fish Bonus. You may not win the tourney with your single big fish, but it will definitely win the optional money if you are entered in any optionals, and you'll get that $1,000 bonus check.

Why the 2-fish weigh-in this year? Why not? The minimum number of anglers on a team is two (no limit on how many team members, though), and the limit on white seabass is one fish per per person that time of year, so it is within the 1-WSB limit. It makes it more of a skill game for all of the species. Over the years the top seabass anglers whined it was a tournament of luck. It is now less so.

The Catalina tourney schedule is on the new entry format (blog). The payouts are first through fifth, starting with $5,000 for first, and then $1,500, $500, $300 and $200 for a total $7,500 payout. Then there are the nine optionals, the drawings both days (90 percent of them Sunday at the awards BBQ), the casting contest Saturday morning, and the barbecue on Sunday before you head home.

The other saltwater jackpot I direct is the third annual WON/Yamaha San Diego Open that is set for Sept. 4-5. It’s all about tuna and yellowtail, three-fish weigh-in at Dana Landing Fuel and Market, the entry is still $50 a person and if you run a Yamaha, your entry for up to two people on the team is free. Nada. Same as last year when we had 41 teams. First place is $2,000, Plus there’s $300 for second, $200 for third place prizes, another Furuno Early bird drawing, and $100 big fish optionals for yellows and tuna. The weigh-in in front of the market is a like a mini Cabo Tuna Jackpot. Great venue, free gifts, a BBQ and tons of sponsor product drawings — all for $50 bucks or “free?” Get outta here!

Then there is the La Paz Slam June 16-20. Just crazy fun. Three days of panga fishing for up to 24 anglers, capped by a one-day big-fish tourney and it’s all centered at La Concha Beach Hotel on the bayfront, and at Jill and Jonathan’s Roldan’s three-story sports bar, Tailhunter. Interested? Contact

There's more coming on the event in the coming months, but mark those dates on the calendar.

Hitting the Cabo Curveballs
If someone told me seven weeks ago that the 15th annual Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament that I direct would attract 131 teams, give away $511,000 in prize money to eight teams, would avoid another hurricane and raise $50,000 in charity to rebuild charter crews’ homes I would have said this: Why not?

On Sept. 14 the biggest hurricane ever to hit Cabo reduced the place to rubble, and all the planning for the event over 10 months, all the projections for a 150-team field the most prize money ever – were tossed out the window. It was plan B. As it turned out, it emerged as Plan A + when all the forces of generosity and cooperation that often accompany disaster bring people together.

THE FLARE GUN START — After all the threats of weather, no flare gun cartridges, no available start boat in Cabo after the storm — ended up being a perfect official beginning of two great days of fishing. The field climbed to 131 teams, and eight of them won $511,200. PHOTOS BY DANNY MATTHEWS

The Nov. 21 issue will have a supplement devoted to the event, and the websites will have a lot of gallery pictures, hundreds, eventually posted. But the bottom line is this: Every curveball tossed at the event was knocked out of the park. It was partly nature giving us all break finally when Hurricane Vance had its legs cut off by wind sheer and cold water. The threat of rain and wind – and even a direct hit on Cabo — was very real two days before.

Let me just say, cancellations were few and far between, and many more teams actually tried the event for the first time to support the area and keep people working. We had 135 teams in 2013, and even after the hurricane and cancelled and rerouted flights for everyone, we were signed up 131, just 4 teams off. Most people predicted we would have 90 to 100 teams. No way. I thought 120 was possible, a huge success.

THE “FAT FARMERS” TEAM OF BART SCHOFIELD and gang of happy anglers on the Bob Marlin won some bucks for the second year in a row, $107,600, with a day 1 yellowfin of 181 pounds that took the first three tuna optionals.

The key thing here to mention is this: So many people came through on so many levels here in the U.S. and Mexico to make the event run smoothly. Sponsors, staff, volunteers, and the anglers on teams themselves. The regularly chartered Cabo Escape start boat could not get out of Mazatlan as planned. The Cabo Mar, another beautiful ship, was asked for help and literally donated the boat both days so we could have a stable ship for staff and dignitaries and for the charity charter on the second day that drew 130 people.

We had great fishing, several fish close to 200 pounds and one 293 pounder by the Dona Meche that was the fourth biggest tuna in the event’s history.

We set records in smiles, volunteering and thank yous and donations, eventually raising $50,000 for rebuilding at least 15 charter crewmen’s homes destroyed or damaged by the hurricane. Staffers, including this writer, went on trips into the devastated areas to help relief workers distribute food, medicine, shoes. It was disturbing and emotional. It’s how commitment and compassion are forged. You can’t ever forget that good people live in such conditions, made 10 times worse by not having a window or a roof.

So, yes, it was a lot more than fishing this year. More than just money and partying. If you get a chance, click on the slide show on You Tube ( I did. It is a tribute to Cabo’s rebuilding. It can be easily found on the Facebook page link at

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