Bisbee Black & Blue: Lightning strikes twice

  • Gary Graham, That Baja Guy
  • Oct 27, 2018

Dawn faded into early morning, and fewer clouds and calmer seas greeted the 114 Bisbee Black & Blue Teams on their final day of the tournament as they made bait near Cape Rocks.

For the fleet of competitors that had only managed to bring one qualifier to the scale in the first two days under tough fishing conditions, the cooperation of the small tuna and skipjack that were eagerly biting seemed like an encouraging sign.

The pop and glow of the 8 a.m. flare gun sent the boats on their way; once again most chose a course heading north up toward the Gordo Banks and beyond. Tournament control was eerily silent; the first hook-up wasn’t reported until nearly 9:30 when True Grit radioed that angler Jim Purcell was tight to a black marlin.  And only a few minutes later it was gone!

Throughout the morning, the calls trickled in – a bite here, a release there – everyone eagerly followed the day’s action on Dave Garcia’s “Catch Stat” live hookup page online.

Tournament Officials questioned the results as they came in as well. What if there were no more qualifying fish? And they mused, considering their options.

Chinito Bonito, a second-year Black & Blue Tournament veteran team, reported their first hook-up of this tournament – a black marlin with angler Charlie Lee in the fighting chair. No stranger to winning, they had landed a 442-pound blue marlin last year, their first year in the tournament, that had earned them $7,020.

When Lee’s battle stretched into the second hour, CatchStat and Tournament Control communicated with the weigh station crew, advising them to be on stand-by. One hour and thirty-seven minutes after the hookup, the angler and team boated their monster fish! The crew’s cheering and hollering almost drowned out the VHF radio call to Tournament Control, but they managed to figure out that the black was in the boat and they were headed to the scale.

Word spread like a California wildfire and a huge crowd lined the IGY dock as the Chinito Bonito tied up. Four of “Big Bob’s” tournament staff in their florescent orange shirts wrestled the prize off the boat and onto a cart to deliver it to the weigh station.

With both spectators and photographers crowding in and around the scale, bedlam reigned at the weigh station; the fish was measured, fitted with a tail rope and hoisted up to weigh. There was no doubt that it was a qualifier. However, as the scale settled, cries guessing the weight ranged from 300 to 600 pounds.  Seconds later, Weigh Master Jack Teschel hollered FIVE-HUNDRED-TEN-POUNDS; the team members were beside themselves as they hugged, high-fived and congratulated one another.

A bevy of photographers barked and screamed directions to the elated, but dazed team who posed while cameras clicked. Tournament director Wayne Bisbee announced that their prize was a real pot of gold worth over $2 Million if no larger fish was brought to the scale before 9 p.m.

It was a message not lost on this team … a blue marlin they weighed in on the first day last year was at the top of the Black & Blue leader board until shoved down the board by the final day, diminishing the cash they received.

They had barely finished the final video interview by Rich Christiansen, Tournament Videographer, when news that Team True Grit, angler Jim Putman had boated a blue marlin.

As the hours ticked by, it became clear to some that the True Grit blue might not be larger than the 510-pound catch of Chinito Bonito, especially since their team recorded another release, confirming that they were continuing to fish until lines out of the water at 5 p.m.

Adding to the drama were reports that the True Grit team had been knocked out of contention earlier this year in the East Cape Offshore by 32 pounds by Team Wild Hooker.  Consequently, both teams sweated, one hoping for a larger fish and the other hoping that a second fish couldn’t be found before lines-out.

When lines-out was called, the wait for the True Grit team to arrive began!

The same huge crowd peered over the IGY pier rail as the True Grit was tied to the dock.  Everyone was mesmerized as the blue marlin was lifted out of the cockpit and rolled to the weigh station. When the big fish was finally hoisted, the weight was announced by Wayne Bisbee – 308 pounds, not large enough to displace team Chinito Bonito.

For both teams, lightning had indeed struck twice, with completely different outcomes.


6 p.m. at A.P.I. Cruise Ship Pier, the Awards Celebration will begin with cocktails followed by dinner and a big screen presentation of the tournament video. 

Natalie Radzwilla, Fundraising Manager for Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund, stated that the BF&WCF is underway with another successful year.

Tonight’s evening entertainment will be Cabo Max's Benefit concert hosted by the BF&WCF. 

There will not only be the concert, but the raffle and the silent auction that will benefit the Green Scholarship Program and our BF&WCF Revolutionary RFID Tagging Program.

The fund will support funding four-year scholarships for 13 students studying marine biology as well as getting the BF&WCF revolutionary RFID Tagging project into its final round of production.

"It would not have been successful without our donors and sponsors, and for that we are grateful," Radzwilla said.

Building the fundraising program from scratch to sourcing the high value raffle and live auction items, to executing the sale, Radzwilla feels confident they will have another successful year for the Bisbee's Conservation Fund.