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It's about the planning, then
adapting when adversity hits

The inside look

Our event is over and I can reflect on how it all went, and I guess I would have to agree that our team of staff and volunteers here and in Cabo hit a home run. And we all needed a round-tripper, especially Cabo and Mexico in general.

But we had to take a lot batting practice to make it happen. It takes an army to put on this event. A tournament in a foreign country is no easy task. Computer schematics have to drawn of each venue for permits. Collecting money, paying it out and paying Mexican and U.S. taxes. I always say it's like putting on four weddings in four days. A party each night, a check-in, two shotgun starts, two weigh-ins at a new marina venue, the building of a new weigh scale with a winch, a new marina ramp for the teams to walk up, Cabo beer war that complicates every venue decision, and then nature took its swings.

After perfect weather leading up to the tourney, 35 mph winds erupted just after the shotgun start. The wind launched our 20-foot WON Events EZ Up tent we used for the stage area at the captains meeting on the pool patio was lifted and flung over the rail of the pool patio, landing three stories down, without hitting anyone.

The event was a miracle in progress. Nine teams won money, we had a dramatic finish with a fish over 200 pounds take the championship, and the weather - except for fishing - was beautiful. No boat sank, no one got lost, no protests, no one was robbed or got hurt, unless you count a hangover, which I define in Cabo as a good party leaving the body.

The tourney tied a record for teams sharing the money (nine), we were up $100,000 in money over last year, and we were, for seven out of the last eight years, the biggest tournament of the year in Cabo. And for the third year we went up in participation, from 97 in 2008, to 104 last year and 118 teams this year.

Indeed, it was not merely a home run we all hit, it was a miracle. Someone special Up There saw to that. I know that now. I have to believe that.

The most satisfying aspect of the event was that we raised a hair over $20,000 for two children's charities in Cabo. A concept, an idea, just gained steam over 4 days. The support from sponsors and anglers was beautiful.

What was also rewarding was how we were received in Cabo. Baja's California Sur Governor Narciso Agundez Montano, Cabo Mayor Oscar Rene Nunez Cosio and the Port Captain Luis Jorge Ochoa were among those who attended the first day's shotgun start for 118 boats off the famous arch. We were all on the huge dive boat Oceanus. In addition to staff, and media, there were a number of bodyguards who snapping pictures of the dignitaries like the rest of the media, but were packing more than a camera. It was all very casual and yet exciting.

You have to hand it to the governor for coming to the start. He had to get up at 3 a.m. in La Paz and drive two hours in order to get to the 6 p.m. departure of the start boat.

Okay, there were a few glitches. Our free angler welcome bags ran out. We were short about 80 bags from the 400 we ordered, and that ticked some people off, for good reason. I thought the quality was poor as well, but then the supplier sent the wrong bags to the embroiderer and it was too late to change the bag after several delays. Changes will have to be made on that front. Also, our beer sponsor reneged on their commitment at the last minute, and I had to scramble to get 500 chairs and 100 tables for two parties.

And, there was the wind, a mean-spirited viento that beat up teams for two days, yet it didn't seem to slow the fishing, which overall was the best-ever for quality tuna over 100 pounds. In all, 27 yellowfin were weighed in over two days, and of course the 208 by Reel Deal with minutes to go.

But there is an enormous amount of planning and promotion over the year for the tourney, site banners, ads, mailings, website, e-blasts, the building of a new weigh scale, meetings in Cabo, hundreds of e-mails and phone calls and shipping of everything needed from tools to lights to extension cords and sponsors prizes to Cabo a month before. That it all happens is a testament to planning and teamwork across the border, and isn't that the way it should be?

There's a lot of people to thank in Cabo, but none more than Tracy Ehrenberg of the Pisces Fleet, who with her husband Marco and their staff is our liason with government in all aspects. At the awards, she was honored on stage by Baja Sur's sportfishing council's Oscar Daccarett for her untiring conservation work, as was WON for its promotion and coverage of Baja for five decades. In a surprise move, I also received a beautiful trophy cup from Senor Daccarett for the tourney and charity work, which I promised the crowd I would bring into Cabo as my personal shot glass. That got a laugh.

In 12 years of organizing this tournament with others here at WON, I've made so many friends in Cabo, and hundreds more among the ranks of anglers. I always know Minerva and Bob Smith of Minerva's Tackle and charters are there for me, and the tourney. This year we had a team from Madrid, Spain. Great guys, and I hope they will be back. Another new friend is Anders Oldenburg of Helsinki, Finland. He and his two teammates came the farthest, and were given a free entry into next year's tourney. Anders didn't get a free bag at check-in, but he won the Lowrance radar, GPS/Fishfinder worth $4,000. The tourney was like that. Problems got solved, or they solved themselves.

Finally, I have to say it was an emotional week for me in a dozen ways, but none more because my mother passed away the morning of the Saturday awards banquet. She had been in ill health for four years, and after a massive stroke two months ago, was in hospice, at her home in San Clemente with a view of the Pacific Ocean from her bed. I hoped she'd hang on until I returned, but knew she'd pass on her own schedule, and told her so before I left. She said, in a whisper, she understood.

I was given the word by text from my sister it was imminent just before the shotgun start on Thursday, and Saturday morning she died peacefully at 4 a.m. surrounded by family. Her terms, her time, in her home. No regrets. I had to be in Cabo and she said understood. She was the reason I became a writer and journalist, working many nights with me in my bedroom to type my school reports as I dictated them to her from high school though junior college until I learned to type (not very well). Over the years she's read every word I've written. She's reading this, I know.

Many thanks to all who helped WON put on the event and attended. We'll do it again next year. Same time, same place.

Pat McDonell is editor of WON, and director of the Cabo Tuna Jackpot and the Catalina White Seabass tourney held in May. He can be reached at