Bisbee’s Black and Blue Goes Down to the Wire

Challenging fishing for this year's event
Aerial view of a massive fleet of sport-fishing boats cruising out of the bay.
An aerial view of the kickoff to this year’s tournament. Courtesy Bisbee’s Black and Blue

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Whether or not you enjoy the spectacle, there is little doubt that the 2022 Bisbee’s Black & Blue was a truly remarkable tournament. The 42nd anniversary event, held October 24-29 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, attracted 223 teams to compete for a staggering cash purse of $11,651,300—the largest ever offered in any tournament in the world. Any blue or black marlin exceeding the tournament minimum of 300 pounds landed during the three days of competition could be worth a considerable sum of money.

On the first day of fishing, Team RV Rentals on Vida Loca had the first shot at a qualifier. Their blue marlin, landed by angler Michael Ciardullo, weighed 344 pounds and was briefly in the lead. Though the team of Capt. Alan O’Brien, Ciardullo, Eligio Baron, Matt Parsons and Steve Wilson was not in all optional jackpots, they would be eligible for a substantial payday if their fish held up.

The next morning, the fleet spread out far and wide in search of productive water, but it was clear throughout the day that a change in the conditions had a detrimental effect on the fishing. Just 22 billfish had been released by the call for lines out at 5 ­p.m., and none were deemed large enough to meet the minimum requirement. With the daily jackpots now rolling over to the third and final day, the anticipation levels were higher than ever.

All that changed around ­midmorning when the team aboard the 63-foot ­Hatteras El Mexicano called in a hookup for angler Adrian Ponce de Leon. He wrestled the blue marlin on an 80-wide in a fight lasting more than two hours. Once they had finally secured their prize in the ­cockpit and headed for the scales at Puerto ­Paraiso Mall—now filled with spectators awaiting their arrival—the team of Adrian Glief Cervantes, Ponce de Leon, Francisco Garcia Rodrigues and Alan Ponce de Leon screamed, hugged, and fist-bumped as tournament director Wayne Bisbee announced the blue marlin’s weight at 461 pounds. A new leader had emerged from the fleet, and time was running out.

Several sport-fishing teams celebrating at an awards ceremony while holding up over-sized checks.
Each of the top three teams won more than $2 million in prize money, thanks to the optional daily jackpots. Courtesy Bisbee’s Black and Blue.

The event had one more surprise awaiting the participants when the team of boat owner Kevin Burke, Capt. Juan Francisco Cessena and angler Dion Beckner arrived at the weigh station with a hefty black marlin that Beckner had bested in a fight lasting more than two and a half hours. When weighmaster Jack Teschel announced the weight at 449 pounds, there seemed to be a sigh of disappointment in the crowd when they realized it would not be large enough to overtake the leaders on El Mexicano. However, Burke smiled broadly knowing that the catch would be worth seven figures in prize money nonetheless.

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While the conditions proved ­challenging, the event produced a total of 70 billfish: 60 blue marlin, four black marlin and six striped marlin. Perhaps even more amazing was that despite several jackpot levels being unclaimed, the tournament still awarded three teams prizes in excess of $1 million. For third place, Team RV Rentals on La Vida won $1,590,975. In second was Burke and Happy Ending, taking home $2,533,250. And the largest payout was in the hands of the winners on El Mexicano, with $3,263,700. There was also $176,800 paid out in the release division, with ­Freebird winning $114,900 for first place.
The net payout of $7,564,725—after deducting the unclaimed jackpots—was still the largest amount ever awarded in the event, and a far cry from the $8,000 purse offered in that first-annual tournament 42 years prior.

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