The past four-plus decades of the Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot have not only witnessed the unprecedented growth of the event, but that of the surrounding community of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, as well.
Bob Bisbee founded the tournament in 1980 when he and 10 friends challenged each other to a friendly competition in their favorite Mexican destination, located at the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula. As the original event became established, the Bisbee family added the Los Cabos Offshore in 1997, and then the East Cape Offshore in 2000. Over the years, and under the direction of Wayne Bisbee and the Bisbee family, the three tournaments have paid out more than $104 million in prize money. Bob Bisbee died in 2018, but the family continues his rich legacy, which is now poised to go to an entirely new level.
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In 2021, the Bisbee’s series displayed remarkable growth in each of the three events. The 22nd annual East Cape Offshore, held in Buena Vista on the Sea of Cortez north of Cabo San Lucas, showed an increase of 35 percent, hosting 96 teams. As a result, the total jackpot increased by more than 42 percent to more than $1.5 million.
The big winner at the East Cape was the team fishing on Tiger Spirit. Angler Hugo Pino wrangled a 597-pound black marlin to the boat, putting his team in first place in the big-fish division. Chip Shapley landed the second-place fish, a 487-pound blue marlin, on Buena Fortuna, while Jim Arthaud’s 410-pound black on Second Wind was good for third.
Next up was the Los Cabos Offshore. Held just prior to the big show, it’s often referred to as the “Little Bisbee’s,” but this year’s event hosted a very respectable 128 teams, fishing for more than $1.9 million. That’s a 35 percent increase in both categories, topping the $1 million prize purse for the third consecutive year. Reaping the lion’s share of the cash was angler Ron Kawaja, representing Team Pelagic, who landed a 319-pound black marlin; as the only qualifying billfish, it swept the majority of the tournament categories, earning the team a check for $863,480. Pelagic was captained by Victor Julio Pizarro.
With the first two events complete, everyone’s attention turned to the main event: the 41st annual Black & Blue. However, the fishing conditions remained extremely unsettled due to the passing of Hurricane Pamela, which veered past Cabo San Lucas en route to making landfall on the Mexican mainland.
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With 198 teams fishing for an incredible prize purse of more than $9.7 million, the anticipation was off the charts. However, the difficult fishing conditions prevailed, and just two qualifying marlin were boated over the course of the three-day tournament. Winning first place was Braniff, a first-time winner, with Andres Pineda in the chair. The team boated a 489-pound blue marlin, winning $1,134,350. It also marked the 20th time in the event’s 41-year history where it paid out more than $1 million to an individual team. In second place was The Brass, winning $732,550 for a 305-pound blue marlin landed by JC Siddoway. Reel Pushy won the top release team jackpot, good for $110,500.
“This year’s tournament knocked it out of the park,” says tournament director Wayne Bisbee. “We were blindsided by this year’s extraordinary attendance and jackpot increases, in spite of the challenges from the pandemic.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2022 print issue of Marlin.