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Go Fish! Bisbee’s record breaking prize lures best anglers to Mexico

A week-long trip to the southern tip of Baja Mexico conjures up images of sun, surf, and relaxation. However, if you’re an avid fisherman and it’s the last week of October, it’s a completely different adventure.

Boats heading off at sunrise

For the past 42 years the best anglers on the planet have made the pilgrimage to Cabo San Lucas for the Bisbee’s Black & Blue. First held in 1980, and the brainchild of American businessman Bob Bisbee, it has grown to just over 215 teams and a record setting prize purse of $11.6 million dollars. The goal? Catch the largest Black or Blue Marlin and successfully bring it to the scales for a UFC-like weigh in.

Known as the Marlin capitol of the world, explorer and scientist Jacques-Yves Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez, “The World’s Aquarium”. The three-day tournament runs the gambit for participants. From locals on a shoestring budget to international teams spending tens of thousands of dollars just to get to day one. With the ceremonial shot gun start, attended by local politicians and dignitaries, day one kicks off.  The race is on to land the largest fish in these Mexican waters.

Boats heading off at sea-level

Your winnings vary depending on your registration status and your check book. Teams can opt into daily pools as well as additional one day jackpots for bringing in the largest catch of the day. So, if you and your team are across the board for all the added bonuses, and you bring it the biggest fish over the three-day tournament, you are looking at a potential payout of more than eight million dollars. Not a bad return on a three-day stay in Cabo.

Billed as “The world’s richest fishing event”, “The Bisbee” or “The Black and Blue”, as it is commonly referred to, has grown, and even thrived despite natural disasters and a worldwide pandemic. It was even given the Hollywood treatment in 2021 with the release of the film “Blue Miracle” starring Dennis Quaid and Bruce McGill.

Crews have from 8am until 5pm each day to get a fish “hooked up”, and then deliver it to the scales before the 9pm cutoff. Each year, well-funded teams bring in new technology to help them find and land the big one. But locals tend to lean on their knowledge of the area and past hot spots for Marlin. The beauty of this tournament is that the least funded team has the same chance of bringing in the largest marlin as some of their billionaire competitors on the most luxurious crafts.

One of the most important rules is that to be a qualifying fish it must weigh over 300lbs(136kg). This is tricky as the team is forced into a split-second decision whether to “boat” a fish that looks close to the 300lb limit or release and wonder, “what if”?

Teams from Mexico, Japan, Canada, and the United States made up the bulk of the entries for the 2022 edition. A far cry from the first season which had 6 teams battling for a total payout of $10,000. Over the span of the 42 years it’s been held, the Bisbee’s Black and Blue has paid out more than $120 million in prize money.

Make no mistake, 9 hours on the open ocean in blazing sun can be a tough day at the office, but the potential payout makes it seem worthwhile. And while most teams came up empty, I never heard one word of regret. On the contrary, most said they’d be back next year to win it all! All the fish that are brought to scale are immediately taken to local fish markets where they get prepared for delivery to local orphanages and homeless shelters. This year’s catches generated more than 2,400 meals to local organizations feeding those in need.

After 3 days of fishing the podium looked like this.

3rd place and a check for $1.59 million went to Michael Ciardullo and his team from Scottsdale Arizona for their 344lb(156kg) Blue Marlin.

2nd place and a check for $2.53 million was claimed by Dion Beckner and his team from Texas, with a 449lb(203kg) Black Marlin.

And the big prize winners with a payday of $3.26 million and change went to a father and son team from Vera Cruz Mexico. Adrian and Paul Ponce de leon. The winning catch, a 461lb(209kg) Blue Marlin.

So, if you are in the market for a big payday, but playing the lottery, the stock market or heading to Las Vegas seems a bit too risky, then maybe try your hand at the 43rd annual Bisbee’s Black and Blue.

Who knows? You could find yourself at the winning end of the catch of a lifetime. And if not, you are almost guaranteed to have the time of your life in Cabo San Lucas Mexico.

And that’s no fish tale!


  • Todd Harris

    Todd Harris is an American "Ex-Pat" living in London and still trying to understand Cricket. With more than 3 decades of broadcast journalism experience, he is keen to cover and listen to just about any story out there. He's not just a "stick&ball" reporter. Mix in boards on land, water and snow and many other niche sports and he's your guy!