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Feature Article: Jackpot Turns 21

Los CaboTuna Jackpot turns 21, cards say teams will win big!

New Sponsors, New Jackpots, New Contests

BY RICH HOLLAND/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Oct 25, 2019

Tournament Director Pat McDonell predicts the total Tuna Jackpot payout will top $1,000,000 for the first time

CABO SAN LUCAS, BCS — The Cabo fall tournament season is well underway and the 21st edition of WON’s Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, Nov. 6-9, promises once again to deliver the biggest field of boats, multiple cash winners, the biggest tuna, the best prizes and the biggest party of any of the events centered around Land’s End in Baja!


New sponsors, new daily jackpots, new contests, new rules to make it easier to weigh fish and the same “Fish Hard, Party Harder!” attitude promise to make this year’s WON Tuna Jackpot one of the most memorable in a long line of great events, said Tournament Director Pat McDonell, who predicts the overall payout could top $1,000,000 for the first time.


biggesttunathe
THE BIGGEST TUNA the second day of the 20th WON Cabo Tuna Jackpot was this 266-pound yellowfin caught on the Bad Medicine by Tyler Brookfield of Overland Park, Kansas, James Jagels of Golden, Colo., Nathan Younger of Fairway, Kansas, and Brady Nelson. Not in the daily jackpots, they claimed second place in the overall Tuna Jackpot and made it into the Top Ten list of the biggest yellowfin in the event’s history.

“First of all, the fishing has been great for yellowfin tuna from 200 to 260 pounds,” said McDonell. “The wahoo are all 30 to 50 pounds and there are finally lots of the bigger dorado around, so we shouldn’t have to worry about reaching the 30-pound minimum in the wahoo and dorado daily jackpots.”


McDonell noted that a significant change to the venue has resulted in the tournament weigh-in stage/scale being moved so it backs up to the marina and faces the Tesoro, the Tuna Jackpot’s host hotel.


“The Tesoro built a new restaurant in the fountain area,” McDonell said. “It’s actually very nice and will act as a natural amphitheater for those who want to have a drink or a bite to eat and watch their favorite weigh a big fish and win money!”


Finding ways for more Tuna Jackpot teams to have a shot at more cash and prizes has always been a goal of the WON tournament staff.


The centerpiece of the Tuna Jackpot is and always will be the phenomenal fishing for giant yellowfin tuna found by the boats of the Los Cabos fleet of charter and private sportfishers. A whopping 5 yellowfin tuna over 300 pounds and up to 383 pounds have been weighed in over the years. Last year, Cloud Nine and Hooray each won well more the $300,000 for their cow yellowfin, thanks to winning “across the board” in the daily jackpots.


A new daily, the Gray Fish Tag Research High Roller $20,000 Jackpot has been added to the mix. To enter, teams must already be signed up across the board. WON will make a $1,000 donation to Gray Fish Tag Research from every $20,000 Jackpot entry.


bringondorado
BRING ON THE DORADO — Leading into the 21st Tuna Jackpot, sign-ups for the $1,000 dorado daily jackpot are slightly ahead of entries in the $1,000 wahoo daily jackpot. Team Fillet’n Finz captained by John Tavares of Idaho shows off their dorado catch in last year’s WON Cabo Tuna Jackpot aboard the charter boat Ursula IV. PHOTO BY RICH HOLLAND

Capt. Dave and Nancy Marciano of Wicked Tuna will join Bill Dobbelaer of Gray Fish Tag Research for a tagging trip Tuesday before the tournament on a sportfisher provided by our longtime sponsor, Tracy Ehrenberg of Pisces Sport­fishing. Tracy often goes on the trip to make sure they catch a fish.


Catching a big tuna is the first step towards fame and money in the Tuna Jackpot, but you can’t win if you don’t get your tuna back to the scales in front of the host hotel Tesoro in time for the weigh-in. The cutoff time is 6 p.m. (lines out is 4 p.m.) Huge fish caught miles way and mechanical breakdowns add to the drama of whether teams will make it back in time. Last year, the Cloud Nine barely made it to the inside harbor before 6, winning all the cash the first day. The second day, the Tejas and a monster tuna were too late.


Now, boats only have to be inside the outer harbor. Teams running late just have to make sure they are seen and recognized.


“This year we will have a boat with a prominent banner stationed at the outside jetty to check in returning boats as time runs out,” said McDonell. “We’ll have a video camera running from 5:45 to 6:15 to record every boat that passes.”


Speaking of video, every team weighing a qualifying fish is expected to have time stamped video of the fish caught that day.


“We will only go to the video if some question about the catch arises,” stated McDonell. “If we do go to the video, I expect to see a gaffed, bleeding, moving fish. It’s a common tournament requirement and everyone these days has a phone with video.”


bestdressed
BEST DRESSED — The Tuna Jackpot Best Dressed contest is once again sponsored by Fishworks and Baja Cantina. Here’s Lawrance “Squig” Quigley of Fishworks sporting the finest of tuna apparel, a 303-pound yellowfin caught off Puerto Vallarta on the Legend.

In an effort to open up more opportunity and money for all the teams, this year the wahoo and dorado daily jackpot has been broken into separate competitions. That’s right, every day of the two-day tournament, wahoo and dorado each have their own $1,000 optional pots. The minimum weight is 30 pounds for both species the first day. If no dorado that size is caught, the pot will roll over to the second day and the minimum size will be reduced to 20 pounds.


“The change has proven popular with the teams and so far the entries for the dorado daily jackpot are exceeding the wahoo daily jackpot,” noted McDonell. “I believe that’s because dorado are more likely to be caught while targeting the competition’s number one target: yellowfin tuna.


“Anyone pulling a lure or soaking a bait has a chance at getting a big dorado,” he added. “Most of the dorado caught over the years weren’t brought to the scales because the wahoo have always been bigger.”


As in a 57-pound wahoo by Team Tuna Tickler II last year, capping a stellar catch of 40-pound-plus wahoo brought to the Tuna Jackpot scales each day.


“The wahoo optional has become a tournament within a tournament, with teams in smaller boats specifically targeting areas known to hold wahoo,” said McDonell. “It will be interesting to see if the addition of a dorado optional gets more of the smaller boats involved.”


wahooajackpotWAHOO! A JACKPOT OF ITS OWN — Lynn Jones and Shawn Walston, both of Hemet, weighed in this 33-pound wahoo in last year’s WON Tuna Jackpot. Now wahoo has its own $1,000 daily jackpot and is sure to be a popular choice as teams ponder how to cash in during the tournament. Jones and Watson, for instance, were also in both the $500 and $1,000 tuna daily pots.

New sponsors kick up the party level


Tuna Jackpot time is party time and new hook sponsor Gamakatsu is cranking up the volume at the Friday Fiesta at Maria Corona’s with a Karaoke Contest. Sign up at the Wednesday Check-in with your favorite song and five individuals (or teams) will be drawn from the entries to compete in the finals. Hosted by Baja Cantina, the Friday Fiesta features great food, drink and entertainment, not to mention prize drawings and awards for the other tournament contests.


As usual, the tournament kicks off Wednesday afternoon with the check-in that takes place along the marina side of the Tesoro. The line for check-in will be in the same place as last year, although the sign-up table will be farther back because of the restaurant expansion. (Those who would like to get a head start can take advantage of early sign-up Tuesday afternoon in the Tesoro Conference Center.)


Tuna Jackpot sponsors will be manning booths with their latest products to display during the event and to answer questions and help you catch more fish. The sponsors all have provided lots of swag, so be sure to thank them.


New for this year, teams that check in with at least two lady anglers officially listed as team members will be eligible for the Accurate big tuna contest which will give four pink Accurate Valiant 500 reels for the biggest tuna taken over the two tournament days by a qualifying team. The ladies must be on the boat each day.


areyoureadytoparty
ARE YOU READY TO PARTY? Bob Hoose of Costa and these festive gals on the Costa Start Boat party are having a great time rooting on teams from multiple countries and states. Sign up for both the Thursday and Friday morning trips at the Costa Booth during the check-in, with all proceeds going to the Smiles International Foundation. PHOTO by RICH HOLLAND

Providing for the local community has always been a major part of the Tuna Jackpot and for years now, the tournament has supported Smiles International Foundation, an organization that brings in volunteer doctors to repair the cleft palates of young boys and girls. In fact, a clinic will be held the week before the event.


The Tuna Jackpot raises money to pay for the surgical and other supplies necessary for the Smiles International doctors and their teams to do their job.


For the first time, the Silent Auction items will be on display during check-in Wednesday at the Smiles Foundation booth. Tuna Jackpot competitors and cohorts will be able to vie for the best price on items such as beautiful 24 karat gold tuna pendants crafted by Jon Pettey Goldsmith, a free trip to Alaska to fish with Kingfisher in Sitka, and a spectacular Chuck Byron original double tuna/marlin painting that was given by the artist to Tournament Director Pat McDonell.


The Wednesday afternoon check-in is the time to sign up for one of the biggest fund­raisers, the Costa Start Boat Party from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. each morning of tournament fishing (Thursday and Friday) on Cabo Wild’s Cabo Escape. The cost is $30 per person and tickets (available at the Costa booth) for the first day usually sell out early during the check-in. All net proceeds go to Smiles International.


Sponsored by Costa sunglasses, the party features morning party beverages including Cinco Perros tequila shots, breakfast bites catered by Captain Tony’s restaurant, drawings for great Costa products including dozens of sunglasses, a DJ and dancing and the chance to see your favorite team pass by the big double decker to check in before the 7 a.m. flare gun start in the waters just off the famed Cabo Arch.


jamminthestartJAMMIN’ THE START BOAT Cabo Escape in order to check in before the shotgun start off Land’s End, boats of all sizes and descriptions make up what has been the largest field of the fall Cabo tournament season the last few years. PHOTO by RICH HOLLAND

You’ll also get to watch first hand as Costa’s Dave Bulthuis judges the “Show Us Your Costas!” contest. Inventive boats vie to be the most creative in their attempt to catch Dave’s eye and win four pairs of Costa sunglasses. The only way for family and friends to have more fun than the Start Boat Party is to watch their team weigh in the winning fish! Costa will be negotiating “fair price” sales of their booth’s items, with proceeds again going to Smiles.


Minerva Smith of Minerva’s Tackle is an original local sponsor of the Tuna Jackpot and she and her team will be selling all of the 2019 Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot official clothing and flags from her booth during check-in. The booth will remain open both days during the weigh-in and all proceeds will go to Smiles International.


Also, when you check-in, be sure to “Guess the Weight of the Biggest Fish” and earn a chance at a free trip to Sitka, Alaska with Kingfisher Charters.


Many other sponsors have provided product for the tournament swag bag that goes to every team. Some of the top items include waterproof backpack bags featuring Gamakatsu and Tuna Jackpot logos courtesy of Gamakatsu, official tournament hats from Baja Cantina and a long sleeve, performance-fabric Costa shirt with the names of all the winners from the first 20 years of the Tuna Jackpot. New sponsor Techron Marine, made by Chevron, will provide free basic entry into next year’s tournament for the team catching the largest wahoo and dorado.


Fishworks and Baja Cantina will once again team up to sponsor the Best Dressed Team contest, which awards gift certificates for food and Fishworks clothing to the teams and their supporting entourages that sport the best Tuna Jackpot look.

National Rental Car is sponsoring this year’s National Tuna Jackpot Sticker contest. Team boats that display their team number and the sticker during pre-start check-in will be registered to win a free car rental from National.


Immediately following the Wednesday check-in, new sponsor Nomad lures will host the Welcome Party in front of the marlin statue between Capt. Tony’s and Solomon’s, our two sponsor (and favorite) restaurants and bars. Our new tequila sponsor, Cinco Perros, will be handing out free shots.


doradotambienDORADO TAMBIEN — Siempre Liston team captain Eddie Rodiack of San Mateo and Phoenicia Friese of Palm Desert on the Lolita Tambien were one of many teams in smaller vessels that signed up strictly for the wahoo and dorado daily jackpot in 2018. This year, dorado and wahoo have their own separate $1,000 daily optionals, creating two possible ways to cash in for panga-size craft. Just don’t forget that the first Tuna Jackpot champion tuna was caught on the panga, Estrella del Mar, so it’s all on the table. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

Besides lots of lure giveaways for the party raffles, Nomad is providing a $500 product package to the biggest tuna each day of the competition and to the biggest dorado and wahoo of the tournament.


The final party of the tournament is the Awards Dinner Saturday night, which will be held on the covered cruise ship walkway (not the actual dock as in the past — it is under repair).


The ultimate moment of the awards dinner is handing out the fat checks and crowning the Tuna Jackpot Champion team — which besides the money gets carved wood circle hook trophies, 8 Tuna Jackpot Champion shirts for the team crew, cigars and a humidor from Cabo Cigar Co., 8 custom Champion Hats, and a free mount of the winning fish from Gray Taxidermy.


The final highlight is the $10,000 Grand Prize Charity Drawing, which includes a free entry to next year’s event ($1,000 value), four of everything (one for each team member) from what our sponsors have provided — Tesoro Hotel gift certificates, Seaguar fluorocarbon leader, Gamakatsu hooks, Costa sunglasses, Accurate reels, CalStar rods, Yummee Lures, Nomad Lures, and AFW/Hi-Seas wire and crimping sets. Siren Marine will also be awarding one of their systems for largest tuna, wahoo and dorado.


Every team member gets a ticket for the Grand Prize at check-in, while additional tickets can be purchased by team members beginning at the check-in and then up until the drawing all four days of the tournament. Tickets are $5 each or 5 tickets for $20. Again the charity that benefits is the Smiles International Foundation. Check them out at smilesinternationalfoundation.com.


Then have a great time at the 2019 WON Cabo Tuna Jackpot! See you there. Haven’t got your entry form, docs and money turned in yet? Contact lori@wonews.com for assistance and you can also check out the tournament website loscabostunajackpot.com for extensive information on the event and how to participate.


Also, be sure to check out the Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot and Western Outdoor News Facebook pages for the latest updates and posts. The Tuna Jackpot blog on wonews.com will also be updated regularly leading up to and during the tournament.


biddingonsilentBIDDING ON SILENT AUCTION items  this year will begin during the Cabo Tuna Jackpot check-in Wednesday at the Tesoro Hotel. All proceeds from the auction, which will feature Jon Pettey Goldsmith 24K gold tuna pendants and an original Chuck Byron painting, go to the Smiles International Foundation. PHOTO RICH HOLLAND

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