In tournament fishing, success most often occurs when preparation meets opportunity. A healthy pinch of good luck never hurts, either. Here’s the story of how one young team emerged victorious.
Diesel fumes and saltwater spray filled the warm air off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, as we eagerly anticipated the shotgun start for the 2017 Bisbee’s Black and Blue. With $3.2 million in tournament payouts on the line, 120 vessels jockeyed for position, each wanting to be first to their designated fishing hot spots. Our 40-foot Cabo Express Chinito Bonito had the speed to lead the pack, clipping along at 40-plus knots, once the flare went up. The team included Capt. Evan Salvay, 25 years old, mate Sam Long, 27, and myself, 23.
Within 15 minutes, we arrived at a small bank along the Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas. With the adrenaline still flowing, Sam Long and I deployed the jigs, teasers and dredge. Based on the visuals on the Furuno sonar, we knew we had selected a good spot: An influx of bait and yellowfin tuna had moved in overnight, which would hopefully attract our target species, a black or blue marlin over the minimum qualifying weight of 300 pounds.
As Capt. Evan moved us from the deeper edge to the shallower side of the bank, a 442-pound blue marlin decided to turn our tuna mudflap teasers into an easy meal. Once we saw the explosion of whitewater on the teaser, Sam dropped back a rigged ladyfish that the marlin took an aggressive whack at. Still determined to score a meal, the blue opted instead to demolish the short rigger jig, a purple Marlin Magic Bog Eye lure.
The sound of a reel clicker is music to every fisherman, but the sound of the clicker on a Shimano Tiagra 130 that has line screaming from it is at the same time concert-deafening and exhilarating. One of the boat’s owners, Davis Ahn, situated himself in the chair and strapped into the fight of his life. Capt. Evan kept the line taut with good boat positioning as Ahn bumped up the drag and made quick work of the marlin. Long was the designated wire man and smoothly walked the fish up to the surface where I stuck it with a flying gaff. As we slid the fish through the transom door and onto the wetted deck, it was apparent we were headed to the scales with a solid qualifier.
By the end of the three-day tournament, the fish had earned us fifth-place honors overall. More importantly for us, we became the youngest team in tournament history to podium in the Bisbee’s Black and Blue.—By Zach Zorn, as told to Sam White