As 2020 continued to be a year of chaos, it came as no surprise, or at least not much of one, that it carried over to the tournament action in Mexico. For the first time in its 40-year history, there were no qualifying blue or black marlin weighed in during the prestigious Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot. We’ll circle back to that one.
The three-tournament Bisbee’s series got underway in early August, where 72 teams joined the Bisbee’s East Cape Offshore. By the time the three-day tournament ended, three records fell: the largest turnout, the event’s first million-plus-dollar prize purse and the largest marlin landed in its 21-year history. Just a few weeks earlier, the event was still awaiting approval from the Mexico government to move forward, but after ensuring that all coronavirus-related precautions and safety practices would be followed, the tournament directors received the green light to proceed.
Striped marlin dominated the first day of competition. With 62 billfish released, the majority were stripeys, and no qualifying blue or black marlin were landed.
Day Two’s activity landed in the lap of True Grit’s owner and angler, Jim Putman, who weighed a black marlin that exceeded the 300-pound minimum weight by just 6 pounds, earning his team $559,870; no billfish were weighed on Day One, so the daily purses rolled over to Day Two.
There were two blue marlin weighed on the third and final day of fishing. The first was Mike Darden’s fish on Dos Tejas, a 386-pound blue marlin that led briefly. Then Chachalacos, with Capt. Carlos Almanza at the helm, arrived at the scales with a blue weighing 704 pounds—a new tournament record, worth $240,284 in prize money.
In the release division, the El Suertudo team once again found the top spot, good for a payout of $44,200. Hooray placed second, and Reel Texan finished in third.
Next up was the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore Tournament, a two-day event that precedes the big show and is often referred to as the Little Bisbee’s. This year, 127 teams and 769 anglers turned out to fish for a cash purse of $1,457,000. However, the Little Bisbee’s isn’t so little these days, with this being the second year in a row where the purse has exceeded $1 million.
Earning the lion’s share of the cash was Sporty Game: Capt. Dan Lewis, Steve Kaiser, George Landrum, Filipe Robles, Carlos Rodriguez and Jacob Rodriguez. They weighed a 514-pound black marlin that was worth $837,816. Pocket Aces, captained by Angel Salvatierra, had the second-largest fish, also a black marlin. Their 424-pounder was worth $293,544. True Grit weighed a 228-pound yellowfin to win $138,760, and NsatiaBill was the top release team and was awarded $59,670.
Now all eyes turned to the Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot, perhaps the most highly anticipated event of the fall season anywhere in the world. This year, 127 teams and 883 anglers lined up to fish for a cash purse totaling $4,649,350.
Cue the dumpster fire. As the three-day tournament kicked off, conditions changed dramatically as the sea temperatures soared to nearly 90 degrees, currents erratically switched directions, and the Pacific Ocean turned inhospitable to man and marlin alike. Although there were striped marlin, sailfish and small blue marlin released each day, everyone struggled to find a marlin exceeding the tournament’s 300-pound weight minimum. A few undersize fish were brought to the scales, while others hooked and lost some that would have qualified, but in the end, the marlin won this round, making it the first time in the event’s 40-year history where not a single qualifier was weighed. In the anticlimactic release division, Shoe won $62,985, Overtime $21,802 and Carpe Diem $12,112, along with trophies.
But the story doesn’t end there. After the conclusion of the event, organizers Wayne and Tricia Bisbee emailed participants with an offer to refund 100 percent of the unclaimed prize money, even from the base entry fees. They offered participants the option to receive a full refund, or to roll their entries into the Bisbee’s event(s) of their choice in 2021. But the third option was perhaps the most interesting: Roll their cash into a last-chance division for 2020 participants only, where they would have a shot to win multiple jackpots in the 2021 tournament. Should that happen, it could potentially result in the largest cash payoff to date in sport fishing.