Saturday, May 2, 2009

Grass Roots Tournaments

Tournaments in Baja are as common as empty cerveza bottles on Cinco de Mayo. When I received the announcement of the Circuito Copa Gobernador Tournament series several years ago, I have to admit that it didn’t end up on the top of the pile.

Left to right, Oscar Daccarett, President of the series, and Clicerio Mercado, Coordinator.

Emails continued to arrive, detailing one event after another, and what caught my eye were the off the wall places like Turtle Bay which is farther from Mex 1 than any other seaside village in Baja. It seemed odd that the organizers would expect anglers to trek over a hundred miles on an unfriendly dirt road to fish in yet another tournament.

Upon doing some research, I discovered that Baja Sur’s El Gobernador Narciso Agúndez Montaño and Oscar Daccarett developed this series of tournaments in August, 2006 to introduce sportfishing to the locals, involving not only the adults in the many small communities that dot the coastline of the state, but the children as well. The first Circuito Copa Gobernador Tournaments was held in Bahia Asuncion, a community that was established more than 63 years ago, as part of the festivities when the governor connected that area to the state electric grid.

To date there have been 46 events with over 12,000 participants held in many remote villages throughout Baja Sur. In addition to the cash prizes, ten 23’ pangas with 90-HP outboards have been awarded to locals.
Clicerio Mercado, Coordinator for the Bisbee Tournaments, was given the task of organizing the events with the local officials in each village.
The selection process is simple. Either the Mayor or Delgado of a given town contacts Oscar Daccarett requesting a tournament. Once the request is approved, Mercado goes to work.

Mercado designed the series to be turn-key. From registration to awards banquet, the details are standardized as much as possible. He oversees and assists the locals in arranging all the needed components.

Categories are determined by the surrounding fishery. Cash prizes are offered ranging from $25,000 down to $5,000 pesos. There are goodie bags with T-shirts for each contestant and the kids get fishing tackle. Entry fees are kept affordable to encourage as many participants as possible. The attitude is the more the merrier and no one is excluded. Visitors and tourists are all welcome.

I have attended several of the tournaments and the enthusiasm and excitement generated is infectious. Tournament participants or not, the entire village joins in the festivities.

Taking the lead from the big money tournaments, there is a shotgun start which is usually well attended by every government dignitary within a hundred miles, all raring to go but waiting for El Gobernador Narciso Agúndez Montaño and his entourage to arrive in a motorcade of SUV’s.
Excitement builds as the officials pile out of the vehicles and the locals clamor to be seen and heard by the dignitaries. The group strides to the pier where the tournament boats are lined up, the flare pistol is fired and boats roar off in different directions in search of the winning catch. In the meantime, families line the pier and shore, looking for their own winner.
Instead of the glitz and glamour of the high dollar tournaments which have become so common with tourists, Circuito Copa Gobernador Tournaments provide an exciting, fun-filled event designed by the people for the people.

The next event has a slightly different format. It will be held for the second year in Cabo San Lucas, has been postponed due to recent virus crisis.