Monday, November 07, 2011

Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot 2011 report.

This Years WinningTeam with their 213 lb Tuna.  Foto Mario Bañaga

This year’s Western Outdoor News Jackpot Tuna Tournament could be considered the best to date. Great participation made it the largest tournament of the year on the Cabo calendar with 108 boats participating. Many of the anglers returned from previous years, with some even fishing it since its inception thirteen years ago.

What is so nice about this tournament is that it is accessible to anybody. You don’t have to be a millionaire to enter or own a fancy boat. In fact the first year Estrella de Mar a panga from San Jose took first place.  Although only costing $800.00 to enter there are optional multi-level jackpots which can pay off some serious money.

I cannot say enough about this tournament, the organization, the fun element, the giveaways by the sponsors, the great parties. Most tournaments just do an awards dinner, this one gives the anglers at least two fully catered dinners, fun events, a casting competition and the rules are easy.

Day one of the competition saw boats streaking out of the harbor after the 7.00 am shotgun start with probably seventy percent heading to the Pacific and the rest to the Sea of Cortez and the Gordo Bank. Around 10.00 am we got a call from “Fisherman” one of the tournament favorites, who reported that they had lost a propeller and were on one engine. This was the team that set the tournament record with a 383 lb fish, in 2009, so definitely one to keep an eye on, even with only one engine.

The afternoon weigh in, which started at 4.00 pm showed some nice fish showing up. We all took notice when Captain Jobe Villavicencio arrived aboard Angelina; he is a past winner and the first to break the 300 lb barrier, when he weighed in a 318 lb’er several years ago, taking first place. Of course Jobe weighed in a nice fish, 198.10 lbs and went into first place; this team however was not entered in all the jackpots, leaving quite a bit of money on the table. Nevertheless it looked as if team Angelina would get a payday of over $35,000.00.

Day 1 Big Fish Aboard Angelina 198.10  lbs .photo Brandon Hayward
The team aboard Precision III showed up with a less than impressive fish weighing in at only 48.1 lbs, but they had put up some jackpot fees and were in the $10,000.00 optional daily jackpot, one which few boats has entered and as it turned out they ended taking that jackpot this day giving them a tentative payoff of $24,000.00 if nothing bigger came in for a team entered in this same daily optional.

Team Fisherman limped in to port on one engine, barely before the allotted time to be in the harbor  by 6.00 pm, but they were not down, they had a nice fish on board 107.7 lbs to be precise, which would be worth $94,000.00 come Saturday nights awards.

No dorado were weighed in that could make the 30 lb minimum on day one but team Checkmate did bring a 55.5 lb wahoo to the scale assuring them of a $36,000.00 prize come Saturday night, or to look at it a bit differently that fish was worth $654.00 per lb!

Day two saw hopes high for most teams as the wind had died down and seas looked more comfortable as boats took off again at 7.00 am. A few more headed towards Punta Gorda as everybody knew that team Fisherman had caught their fish in that direction, but others decided to stick with their game plan of the Pacific.

It wasn’t long that boats started to show up with big fish, some even before lines were out and soon the first 200 lb plus fish was weighed in, Bottom Line headed up by team captain John Buchan from San Jose del Cabo was thrilled to learn that his fish weighed 205 lbs, putting them immediately into first place, but seeing as they were not entered in any jackpots, the big prizes were still up for grabs.

Lots of fish came to the scales over 100 lbs; Pisces Bill Collector, with a  beautiful 192 lb’er  and they were in nearly all the jackpots, so angler David Bick waited around, hoping  nobody else would bring in a bigger fish. He was on edge, as Cabo Magic pulled up with a sizeable tuna looking a lot like his, it was only 30 minutes before the scale closed and a roar went up from the crowd as Pat McDonnell called out the weight of “213 lbs”, however this team was not in the jackpots either.  We wondered how this angler had managed to pull such a big fish in on a 6/0 Senator Reel, pretty much obsolete these days in tournament fishing.

Team True with their 206 lb Fish that Earned  $158.520.00 photo Brandon Hayward
There was a line of boats waiting at the dock that still needed to weigh their fish and one in particular that got our attention, True XII, they had a nice tuna on the deck, but also gave us a sneak peek at an even larger one they had in the refrigerated fish box, below deck. It was hard to guess the weight but it looked good. 
This boat could not have had a more experienced team aboard, Steve Geary, a charter boat captain that has run boats under the Pisces banner,  a very very good fisherman and a proponent of kite fishing ,fairly new to this area, who has been teaching a lot of the guys here how to fish this technique. Also aboard were Brett Eller, captain of True, Tom Aland, Rodalto Hemeniz and Chris Fuller and Cubby another captain who has been here forever. They had clubbed together to get the entry fees together and were fishing for themselves.

Team True, teased the crowd, choosing to weigh their smaller fish first, which turned out to be 164 lbs, before pulling out the big guy, who tipped the scales at 206 lbs, causing immediate celebration on the part of the team as they had entered across the board. We asked them how and where they had  caught their fish and they told us that they were fishing 7 to 8 miles off of Gaspareño on the Pacific 10 miles north of Golden Gate and had caught it on a flying fish lure attached to a kite.

After the scale closed and they were setting up tables for the dinner on the marina boardwalk, we had a chance to speak with the angler of the 213 lb winning fish, Orville Henseler from Springtown, Pennsylvania. He was looking very pleased so we wanted to get some insight into how he caught his fish. We asked him if this was his first tournament and his answer kind of surprised us when he said, “Yes” and that it was his “first time in Cabo”. 
He told us that it was really hard to reel in his fish, which they had found straight off the Old Lighthouse and hooked on a live caballito (google eye), with 60 lb test on a Senator 6/0 reel, in fact it took him four hours and forty five minutes to bring to the boat. It was hard not to notice that Orville was missing his leg from the knee down so we asked if that was a factor, his answer moved and surprised us. He told us how eight months ago he had been involved in an industrial accident, when his shoelace had been caught in machinery and he had been terribly mangled by the large Harley rake that had grabbed his leg and destroyed it. He had had to cut himself free of the machine by cutting through it (the machine). His laborer saved his life by calling 911 and he was air lifted off the job by helicopter. Orville was in and out of hospital for months until the leg finally succumbed to infection and had to be amputated from the knee down. He has only had his prosthesis for three months and does not find it easy or comfortable yet, but he told us that after the accident his whole view of life changed, he and his wife came up with their “bucket list” and one of the things on it was to fish in Cabo San Lucas.

Even though they couldn’t really afford it they booked a vacation to Cabo San Lucas and put it on a credit card. When they saw that a tournament was to be held the week after they were supposed to leave, they called and changed their dates so that they could enter the fishing competition. They never thought in their wildest dreams that they would win. 
The captain added some insight and said that “Orville was so tenacious, that he would not release the rod, even when it was time to gaff the fish, he wanted to do it himself while still hanging on to the rod” he told the crew “Don’t touch my fish, I can do this on my own, I do this in Alaska”, but salmon are a bit different than a large tuna, so they ordered him to sit down, while they quickly dispatched the fish and got it on board. Orville was still clutching his rod as he made his way to the weigh station.

Orville his wife and even the captain were overcome with emotion as they took their place on the stage to receive their trophies and check at the Saturday night’s awards banquet, with “We Are the Champions” played over the sound system, tournament director Pat McDonnell recounted Orville’s story to the crowd, while a few tears escaped the teams eyes.
Team Cabo Magic along receive their check.
Fishermen were not the only ones honored that evening, Admiral Felipe Solano was asked to come up with the medic from his base to be recognized for keeping Cabo seas safe and for saving the life of Hollywood screenwriter Kay Alden in a dramatic rescue that she calls a miracle and was awarded a handsome Reactor Watch.
Sponsors and anglers were also generous and raised $17,800.00 for charity to be given to a local kid’s shelter.

That’s why we love this tournament, its fun, it’s real and there are a lot of fish.  It’s amazing to think that a first time tuna fisherman and visitor to Cabo could beat out the likes of the fishing greats of team True. Not only that but one day after the tournament “Shambala”, captained by TJ Dobson, also a past winner of this tournament, boated a 210 lb tuna  - that’s Cabo for you.
See below details of tournament payouts:

1st Place  Cabo Magic  213 lbs Orville Henseler                  $36,720.00

2nd Place  True XII 206 lbs Tom Aland/Chris Fuller           $158,520.00 with jackpots

3rd Place  Bottom Line 205 lbs John Buchan                          $2,160.00

Day One Jackpots
Fisherman  Hugo Pino 107.70 lbs                                         $94,400.00
Angelina  Marty Griffith 198.10 lbs                                        $35,800.00
Precision III Mark Callahan 48.20 lbs                                    $24,000.00

Wahoo/Dorado Category:
Day 1 Checkmate 55.50 lbs wahoo  Ed Dona                        $36,000.00
Day 2 Reina del Wahoo 39.20 lbs wahoo Miguel Angeles     $36,000.00       
Report by Tracy Ehrenberg