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Feature Article: Big Fish Recap

WON Big Fish Challenge: Grand prize packages awarded to six overall winners

BY MIKE STEVENS/WON Staff WriterPublished: Nov 07, 2018

SAN CLEMENTE — Winners of the annual Western Outdoor News Big Fish Challenge started dropping by WON headquarters last week to pick up their grand prize packages. It was the third running of the very popular 10-week competition that puts all levels of salt angler on a level playing field with minimal entry fees.

A PORTION OF A GRAND PRIZE package awarded to one of six WON Big Fish Challenge winner.

Ojai angler Ron Folgner was the first to arrive and is a familiar face for WON staffers. He was a grand prize winner last year (white seabass category), but this year he finished atop the lingcod leaderboard. Folgner fishes aboard his own boat, Hot Rail, and he made his winning catch in Week 8 when the 18.28-pound ling ate the mackerel he sent down off of Hollister Ranch. He’s become a big ambassador of the Big Fish Challenge, and has no reservations about creating competition by getting his buddies involved.

“I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this,” he said. “Next year, I might have a rule where you can’t get on my boat unless you’ve entered!”

Corey Scott was in next as the overall winner of the white seabass category. He managed that with a 48.1 pounder he caught aboard his boat, Purist, and registered at Sea Landing in Week 5. It was a close call for Scott, because he also weighed in a 45.3 ghost in Week 3 that he was feeling pretty good about but it was quickly bumped off, so he had to get a bigger one. Scott did his fishing off the Santa Barbara Coast.

Jorge Villegas of Norwalk was next, and he’s no stranger to stopping by WON for a literal truckload of Big Fish Challenge winnings either. He is the only 3-time winner (in the inaugural event, he won TWO species categories and scored two grand prize packages), and the fact that he’s done it from a kayak is a true measure of the “every man” nature of the event. This year, he took top honors in the halibut category after setting the high-mark back in Week 2 with a 43 pounder, and no one could touch it.

The 182.2-pound bluefin hauled in and weighed at Dana Point Fuel Dock in Week 4 of the event by Chip Cone was good for the Grand Prize in the tuna department. That was a kite fish that bit 100-pound off Cone’s boat, Afishonado, and participants in next year’s Big Fish Challenge won’t have to worry about going up against Captain Cone as he is now in­eligible as a new WON staffer!

Two winners were unable to make it to the office to pick up their spoils by press time — Bennett Salvay, and his son, Daniel. Both were very active in the event turning in a variety of species, and for Bennett, it was a 35.4-pound mossback that won all the marbles in the yellowtail category. He led with a 29.6 pounder for a spell but got bumped off and had to play catch-up.

Daniel Salvay swung in at the Week 10 buzzer in the new bonito/barracuda category with a solid 9.7-pound bone that popped a trolled cedar plug off the Salvay’s boat, Profishent.

The WON Big Fish Challenge has grown every year both in participation and in prizes. The basics of how it works is: there are six species categories, and the grand prize winners are who sits atop each when the dust settles after the 10-week event. Entry is only $10 per species, or $40 for all of them. Official weigh stations are conveniently located throughout coastal SoCal (some are actually on party boats) where fish can be weighed and photographed, and the photo is uploaded to The biggest fish of each category each week receives a weekly prize package, and the biggest of each species at the end wins a grand prize package worth north of $5,000 that likely requires a truck to haul home.

To read the details of the 2018 competition and prizes, see photos of the entries and read rules so you’re ready for next year, visit

Grand Prize Package

The WON Big Fish Challenge participants with the biggest fish of each species at the end of the 10-week event will receive a grand prize consisting of the following prizes from key sponsors:

 Six Species – Grand Prize packagesApprox. value for each overall winner
 Mercury prize money
 Avet Reel
 Costa Sunglasses
 Global Fish Mount
 Calstar Rod
 Plano tackle bag
 Overnight trips  $250
 976-Bite membership
 Yo-Zuri saltwater lure assortment   $200
 Yo-Zuri Super Braid, (300 yd. spools)   $75
 Rapala saltwater lure assortment   $180
 Fred Hall Show - (2) 2019 VIP Passes
 HI-SEAS Fluorocarbon
 Gamakatsu hooks
 Terrafin 1-year subscription
 Engel HD 30 soft cooler   $199
 Engel 80-quart cooler
 Fishworks clothing
 Studio Abachar print   $150
 Allen GMC
 Lowrance Hook2
 Kill Fish gaffs
 Hogan’s Bait & Tackle   $80
 Angler’s Marine Service Certificate   $500
 Quality Performance Marine Service Certificate

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