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Sponsors Parties: $150,000 in drawings and gifts, casting contest and $23,150 in auction raised for Cabo charity

WON Staff Writer

CABO SAN LUCAS, BCS -- From casting contests to $20,000 trips to Costa Rica, the Mercury/ WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot is a multi-day opportunity to party, fish and win big.

Starting with title sponsor Mercury, which has been a part of all seven Cabo tournaments, on down to loyal tournament stalwarts like Owner hooks, an extensive list of sponsors makes sure Tuna Jackpot anglers not only eat, drink and be merry, but also go home with plenty of swag.

This year's event started off with team check-in at the Puerto Paraiso Mall and sweltering 100-degree temperatures at the 1 p.m. start time kept sponsors like Victor Castaneda of Mexicana Airlines under their canopies and the few anglers who hung around tucked under the Corona tents. That meant Bob Hoose of Berkley had lots of takers for his Berkley visors, and that Gary Schaeffer of G. Loomis and Marc Mills of Shimano and few takers in the Tuna Jackpot's first casting contest. Most anglers grabbed their Furuno goodie bags stuffed with items like a commemorative Guy Harvey t-shirt, official Mercury and Ford flags for the boats, Owner hooks and Berkley Big Game line and took off for air conditioning.

Lawrance Quigley and the Fishworks crew were on hand with official Tuna Jackpot clothing for sale and also provided certificates for Clipperton short, hat and t-shirt combos for the raffles later.

As the sun dropped behind the Pedregal and a breeze picked up, more and more folks showed up in anticipation of the $50,000 in prizes to be given away that evening. And more and more anglers tried to hit the target using a G. Loomis Pelagic rod and a Shimano Torium reel, (spooled up with Berkley Big Game, of course).

A total of $790 (at $10 a cast) was in the pool as qualifiers for the final round made their sunset casts. WON Editorial Director Pat McDonell was a surprise qualifier and said he would donate his winnings to charity if he prevailed.

As it turned out, McDonell was edged out of the final four. Mark Streahle of New Jersey took the cash, and along with Jordan Souza of San Diego, Jeff Wooldridge of Dallas, and local skipper Kevin Fall of the Success won the Shimano Torium/G. Loomis Pelagic rod and reel outfits used during the contest.

After Tournament Director Kit McNear read the rules, Mills, Let's Talk Hook Up! host Rick Maxa and Owner's Dennis Yamamoto proceeded to try and put a dent in the pile of goodies on the stage smack dab in the middle of the entrance to the Puerto Paraiso Mall.

There was so much to give away that prizes rarely were comprised of one item unless it was one of the $100 Cabelas or Melton gift certificates, and even then the lucky winner might get a Leatherman tool. For instance, Tammy Hagan won a Leatherman Pulse too, a gaff and a panga trip courtesy of Dream Maker Charters.

A handful of Yo-Zuri or Rapala lures made the perfect accompaniment to a Plano tackle bag, while the Plano rod tube winners could only hope they won a G. Loomis rod later in the event.

Furuno electronics, Shimano reels and Cannon downriggers always got the crowd's attention, and if the angler whose name was drawn didn't show up right away, they demanded another name be drawn. That got the laggards in the crowd moving quicker. Big prize was a trip to the Van Wormer family's Palmas de Cortez resort on the East Cape and Jerry Snyder of Seattle was the winner.

The second day of the event is the first day of fishing and the only party was a private event for the sponsors, including Continental Tire and AIM Marine, hosted by WON on the beautiful yacht Krystal, but you can bet Tuna Jackpot anglers kept up their side of the party bargain. Heck, we saw some out on the town after a late dinner at Solomon's Landing (which by the way has the best lobster this writer has ever tasted in Baja).

The tournament was all over but the shouting by the time the Mercury Party came around Friday night at the Costa Real Cabo, but there was plenty of shouting left to be done. Pat McDonell led all assembled in a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday for Mercury's Joan Schad. There was plenty of fishing talk, including stories of the first blue marlin ever caught by Phill Oliva of G. Loomis and the first striped marlin for Andrew Marks of Berkley.

The hotel staff kept the drinks flowing and hamburgers and carne asada kept the grill glowing. A highlight of the evening was video snippets from the first couple days of the tourney put together by well-known videographer Danny Jackson, who was on hand to put together a commemorative DVD of the Tuna Jackpot. That and another $50,000 in prizes.

Greg Davis was styling in his new Costa del Mar sunglasses, while Lori Jepson claimed a Foodsaver vacuum packer. Larry Rozunko and Arnie Schmidt won Shimano Torium reels, while the top prize of the night was a $1,500 Snugtop shell or tonneau cover won by Bob Walchli.

The next morning tournament staff, sponsors and winners assembled at the beautiful Melia Cabo San Lucas with its perfect setting on Medano Beach to take part in the Let's Talk Hook Up! radio broadcast.

A cool breeze made the marina side of the Puerto Paraiso Mall the perfect spot for the awards and the buffet dinner furnished by the mall's fine restaurants, which include Ruth's Chris and the Harley-Davidson Bar.

The winners came up to get their checks and the champions hoisted their David Wirth golden hook sculptures.

Minerva of Minerva's Tackle fame took the stage to detail the works of Los Ninos del Capitan, a local Cabo charity, then auctioneer and last year's big winner Don Presley went to work. With the bidding help of another former winner, Doug Collyer, they got Marty Burch of Burch Ford up to $7,500 for a golden yellowfin tuna pendant.

Then Matt Campbell of Calgary, Canada was the top bidder for the original Guy Harvey painting that graced the AFTCO t-shirts given away the first day, as he bid $4,250.

The giving wasn't over yet. Chuck Baird of Waterfall Resorts provided a trip for two to Waterfall and Gary Schaefer of G. Loomis anted up four G. Loomis salmon rods and it was Burch's turn to put the pressure on Collyer, who ended up bidding $6,000 for the package.

Then the Tuna Jackpot's local representative, Enrique Fernandez, announced that when Corona learned how much had already been raised, the brewer tossed an additional $5,000 in the pot.

When casting contest winner Mark Streahle donated $200 of his winnings and Flexx-Rap's Mark Henry threw in another $200, the total raised for Los Ninos del Capitan was $23,150.

Then it was the sponsors' turn to give again and Mills and Maxa went back to work. The evening ended with the remaining travel trips. David Sachs of Temecula, who last year won the free Tuna Jackpot entry courtesy of Mercury, jumped up when his team's number was called for the trip to Alaska's Kenai Peninsula with Phil's Smiling Salmon Guide Service. He knew his name was going to be called because his teammates had all already won prizes.

The Waterfall Resort gave away not one, but two trips for two to their fabulous fishing getaway in Southeast Alaska. Chris Irwin was the first angler to have his name drawn and he was followed by Penny Turner.

The final prize of the evening was the $20,000 trip to Crocodile Bay Lodge in Costa Rica. The fact the value doesn't include airfare shows you how incredible this trip is. The lucky winner was Greg Wall of San Juan Capistrano.

"I went to Crocodile Bay last year," revealed Wall. "My partner and I caught 64 fish in 3 days, including an 87-pound rooster and 23 sails we released in one day. And they have great food and drinks."

With that, Pat McDonell announced the Tuna Jackpot was concluded and invited everyone back for next year's Nov. 1-4 get-together in Cabo San Lucas.