The 24th anniversary of this event produced indelible memories for its participating anglers, captains and crews, including a nail-biting final-day finish. Cabo San Lucas proved to be a superb backdrop for the event, producing outstanding competition amid near-perfect seas and weather.
With 53 teams fishing the 2022 Los Cabos Billfish Tournament, the stage was set for some epic late-fall marlin fishing off the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. And while there’s always an interesting mix of participants—from seasoned pros on multimillion-dollar private rigs to first-timers out for a good time on local charter boats—this year’s event produced an unlikely winner amid the backdrop of beautiful scenery that is Cabo San Lucas.
The team fishing on La Chingona, a 46-foot Viking captained by Antonio Bojorquez, started the tournament in a big way when they returned to the weigh station on the first day of fishing with a 349-pound black marlin caught by Sergio Aviles Cota. The big-fish leaderboard had its first entry, and the daily jackpot went to La Chingona.
The following day, Capt. Evan Salvay led the team aboard Stella June, a 46-foot Jarrett Bay, to a money fish. Jazz Morehead landed a 389-pound black to take the lead. But it was a temporary celebration; a short while later, Reel Cast pulled into the weigh station. Angler Bill Pino relates the tale: “I had originally met Capt. Zach Morrow during the El Salvador International Billfish Tournament a few years ago. Since then, he followed his passion and bought a charter boat, named it Reel Cast, and relocated his family to Cabo. A few days before the start of the tournament, he asked if I wanted to be a guest because his charter didn’t have enough anglers. I said, ‘Sure!’ and bought my ticket.”
Unfortunately, as he was en route to Cabo, he received a text from Morrow that his charter party had canceled the trip outright—the boat had a broken air conditioner and Morrow wasn’t sure he could have it fixed in time. With the free fishing trip now turning into a more expensive proposition, Pino nearly reversed course and headed home to Maryland but elected instead to stick it out and roll the dice. After arriving in Cabo, Pino and Morrow ran into Doug Berg at a local pizza joint in town. A self-described snowbird from Minneapolis who had been wintering in Cabo for the past few years, Berg preferred to pursue tuna or dorado rather than marlin, but he was game to join the fun. Reel Cast now had a crew, and Morrow even had the air conditioning working.
The first day, Pino and Berg released a pair of striped marlin and two sailfish—they were on the board. Day Two dawned in similar conditions as the boat headed to some familiar fishing grounds off Cabo.
“We’d had a good morning, and around midday, we released a blue that was close to the 300-pound minimum but not quite enough,” Pino says. “I got out of the chair, grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler, and took a big swig. When I turned around, staring back at me was a very nice blue marlin as it piled on the right short.” After about 45 minutes, their prize was boated and Reel Cast was headed for the scales. When tournament director Dan Jacobs verified their blue marlin’s weight at an even 500 pounds, the cheers echoed across the harbor. When a larger fish didn’t materialize on the third and final day of the event, the team realized that they had won, and the celebrations began in earnest, champagne flying. With 1,225 points from one weighed blue marlin and one blue marlin, five striped marlin and two sailfish releases, the team won a total of $354,000, plus an invitation to fish the prestigious Costa Offshore World Championship in 2023. Morrow took home a new Garmin Quatix 7 smartwatch as the event’s top captain.
“I really have to credit Capt. Zach for sticking it out,” Pino says. “Most people would have just called it a day when their tournament charter cancels at the last minute, but he kept his head in the game and worked hard to make it happen on the water. We were just able to take advantage of the opportunities that we had during the trip, even if it ended up being a pretty unlikely team.”
With the tournament’s point structure based on release as well as points per pound for weighed blue or black marlin, it’s entirely possible to win big for all release as well. Guy Yocum’s El Suertudo team scored 1,000 points from two blue marlin and 16 striped marlin releases to place second in the tournament. The El Suertudo team also picked up a daily release jackpot and first-place overall release team honors, earning a total of $94,800. The Salty K team scored 925 points from three blue marlin and one striped marlin release to finish third in the tournament, another team that was able to take full advantage of the release points to place in the money. The teams fishing aboard Quitena and Right Rigger finished in fourth and fifth places; neither team weighed a billfish during the event.
The fleet caught and video-verified 138 billfish, including 91 striped marlin, 26 blue marlin, 19 sailfish and two black marlin. The 2022 Los Cabos Billfish Tournament awarded a total of $862,350 in cash, with the winners also receiving beautiful trophies and plenty of sponsor prizes. The awards banquet took place at the Playa Grande Resort beachside terrace, featuring the traditional filet mignon and lobster dinner for the participants. With a first-class atmosphere and superb fishing, it’s no wonder this tournament has been a must-fish in the Cabo region for more than 20 years.