Tournament Director, Wayne Bisbee, kicked off the morning by announcing the final cash jackpot for the 2018 Bisbee Black and Blue that had settled at $4,038,625, second only to its biggest overall cash payout of $4,165,960 in 2006! The 2006 Bisbee Black and Blue jackpot remains the largest payout in sportfishing history!
In the beginning of the early dawn as a bright full moon set on the Pacific, the 114 sportfishers milled about behind the imaginary start line stretching from Cape Rocks to Gray Rock at the opposite side of the outer bay. Each jockeyed for a clear position for a running start across the start line.
Although the threat of “Willa” was becoming a fading memory, its remnants lingered. The waters surrounding the Baja peninsula were still unsettled with strong tides, rough water and the sea was covered in white caps.
Captains and crews alike were wondering what would be the effect on the bite and what about the full moon that had brightly shone, possibly allowing the fish to feed throughout the night?
Taking a different tack than they had in the LCOT held the week before, most of the fleet favored the east end of the starting line, indicating a course toward the “Gordo Banks,” although others were headed farther up.
It was a tense 1 and ½ hours before the first VHF radio call was received by Tournament Control’s crew Axel Valdez and Jill Christensen – a blue marlin hook-up. Tournament veteran angler Jim Purcell aboard Por Que No was hooked-up to the blue marlin in Grid G-4 which he successfully released a short time later. A brief flurry of radio calls as four teams hooked and released billfish by 10 a.m.
Later, Brian Walley, owner of the Reel Energy noted on Facebook: “Today started off well with a blue marlin hooked in the first 45 minutes but it fell off 10 feet from the leader. Although it wasn't a qualifier, so it was going to be released … very, very, rough sea conditions!!
Action continued to be at a slow pace and of course in addition to the incredibly bright full moon, some anglers observed that the cause might be the unsettled conditions.
Finally, at 1:21 p.m., the 25th billfish of the first day, a black marlin was hooked, and a short time later was boated by Team 4 Yahoos’ angler Max Briggs aboard “Reelin’ & Deal'n/.”
Although they were sure that their catch was a qualifier weighing over 300 pounds, they weren’t sure by how much, and rather than continue fishing they raced to the weigh station, arriving just a few minutes after the opening at 3:00 p.m.
Spectators were lined three deep, crowding the Malecon rail overlooking the dock, as the boat tied up. The big black marlin filled the starboard side of the boat’s cockpit as angler and team posed for the photographers.
Moving the big fish from the boat to the scale, first-time weigh-station staffer Kay Wirth Odom, from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, led the procession of additional members of the florescent orange-shirted staff and dock crew as they muscled the first billfish of the 2018 tournament to the scale.
As the big fish was hoisted, the crowd gasped while angler Max Briggs confirmed the zeroed IWS Weighmaster scale and waited as Bert Merritt paused until the numbers stopped. Then he roared … Three Hundred Ninety-Five Pounds as the Team 4 Yahoos high-fived and hugged one another exuberantly.
The winning fish was worth $645,425 to Briggs and the Team 4 Yahoo members in prize and jackpot money for DAY ONE.
Frankly, the rest of the afternoon the number of bites and releases slowed and by 5 p.m. lines out of the water, there were only nine more hook-ups reported.
Other first day winners were Team Mi Novia aboard the “Mi Novia” with anglers Jose Astrain and Mike Marks winning $85,195 for the first marlin place in the Release Category and Team Fantasma, with anglers Jose Alfonso Sierra and Mario Pueblo on “Fantasma” taking home $22,567.50 for the second place in the Released Category with Team Overtime, anglers Ryan Moser and Brett Eller, on board the “Overtime,” taking the third place jackpot of $12,537.50.
Everyone wants a reason, of course! Was it “Willa’s” influence or was it as others implied, the curse of “full moon madness? Who knows.
Thursday morning was a new day. As the moon was once again setting, there were 114 teams jockeying for position, eager to cross the starting line and search for their own BIG BILLFISH that might lead the to the scale and their own “POT OF GOLD.”