Friday, April 22, 2011

Cabo's Third Annual Sierra Beach Tournament draws 300

Long before the sun began its climb and journey across the cloudless southern Baja sky on March 27th, a crowd had begun to gather on the beach.  Pick-ups, SUV's, ATV's and dune buggies, with headlights glowing, rolled to a stop on the sandy berm overlooking the pounding surf at Playa MigriƱo to compete in the Sierra Beach Tournament, the largest event of its kind ever held in Baja.
his morning the crowd that swells to more than 300 as dawn turns to morning, has surf fishing tackle of every description, from professional-looking outfits to tackle that appear to have been assembled hastily the night before.

Stephen Jansen, owner of Jansen Inshore Tackle in Cabo San Lucas, the main sponsor of the event,  along with coordinator Roberto Real, marvel at the size of the crowd surrounding them and their crew. Folding tables are set in place, the PA system is hooked up, and prizes are piled high on the tables along with copies of the rules in both Spanish and English.

The speakers crackle when Real flips the mike switch on as more than three hundred fishermen press close. After greeting the anglers, he carefully reviews the rules, answers all the questions and then with a shotgun start, fishing begins at 6:00 a.m. sharp.

Serving as mobile tackle boxes for the competing anglers, vehicles jockey for preferred spots along beach as far as the eye can see. The surf is high, driven by a brisk wind from the west. Using only  artificial lures, the goal of each angler is to fling the offering beyond the crashing waves where the sierra lurk waiting for an easy meal. Sea birds glide above the waves, swooping ever so often for a tasty morsel as the sierra drive the baitfish to the surface.

The excited bellow of 'hook up' can be heard over the noisy surf as rods bend and anglers follow their fish into the surf, often right into chest high waves that push them back up onto the wet sand to safety.

The three-hour event passes quickly and the 9:00 a.m. lines out announcement is welcomed by some and cursed by others. Clutching what they hope will be a winning fish, anglers sprint to the scale, not wanting to lose even one ounce by delaying the weighing in of their catch.

Judges extend the weigh-in time by ten minutes to allow the anglers farther down the beach extra time to reach the scale. Thirty seconds after the Judges declare the scale closed, Jose Coatzil arrived breathless with the largest sierra of the tournament, 4.5 pounds. If only Jose had run just a few strides faster.

Tallying up the catches, the top 20 winners were announced and prizes were awarded. First place belonged to Nestor Castro, who received a Shimano Stella 10000SW spinning reel valued at $900 for his winning sierra 3.9 pounds.

The food tables piled high with hamburgers, salsa, chips and condiments were a welcome sight for everyone after the event ended. Of course fish stories of the morning are told and retold as everyone enjoyed the mid-morning camaraderie.

After receiving his Shimano Stella 10000SW spinning reel valued at $900, Castro, who probably had never owned such a fine reel, presented it to Jose Coatzil who had caught the largest sierra but failed to make it to the scale in time. Smiling broadly, Castro handed his prized Stella to Coatzil, "You caught the largest fish and you deserve to have the prize for your catch."  

2nd Rau Flores Medina Shimano Biomaster 8000
3rd Jesus Ramon Garciglia Jansen combo( spinning reel model sierra 100 and a  spinning rod  short caster 11´ Jansen Inshore Tackle)
4th Roberto Cota Jansen Inshore Tackle rod x-power plus Baja 100 spinning reel.

Each participant was a winner receiving a commemorative T-shirt and snack. The entire catch of the event and two hundred dollars cash donation from several anglers from Alaska was donated to a local orphanage.
Roberto Real, El Coral Restaurant owner, organized the first sierra tournament three year ago to encourage others to enjoy his passion…surf fishing from the beach.  That event was attended by 19 participants and El Coral Restaurant, the only sponsor.  The word quickly spread in the local Mexican fishing community and the following year the participation grew to 124 anglers and doubled in 2011. According to Roberto Real, Coordinator of this popular and growing event, the list of organizers and sponsors continues to grow each year.

So while the International press and the locals play " we say/they said " about all the wrong things, over three hundred anglers,  mostly local,  Mexicans and a few gringos sprinkled in, came together sharing a common passion for the challenge of fishing from the beach, and an act of kindness overrode any egos that usually accompany tournaments.

How much do you want to bet this story doesn't make it to the main stream press in the U.S.?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sea of Cortez…rewind

More than a half a century ago, I made my first cruise on the Sea of Cortez.  My uncle Charles, who had already established himself as my fishing mentor, invited me on his annual Sea of Cortez fishing trip. That he would even be willing to include a still wet-behind-the-ears sixteen year old nephew along on his only vacation of the year spoke volumes.

The trip began with us speeding down the Mexican coast in a 1951 Olds Fiesta hardtop, windows down and a 16' Wizard outboard on a trailer behind, all the way to Guaymas which seemed like it was on the other side of the planet…the adventure was priceless.

That rush was one of many firsts--my first sailfish, my first dorado, my first Cerveza which ultimately led to my first hangover. What I didn't understand at that time was that exciting trip with Uncle Charles would be the foundation for a lifetime of Sea of Cortez and Baja adventures.

For more than five decades following that trip I traveled to Baja towing a variety of different boats ranging from a 14' skiff to a 26' Blackman, spending any free time I had cruising, camping and exploring the impressive gulf that was described many years ago as a giant fish trap.

Over the years, in some areas marinas sprung up surrounded by luxury hotels and obscured the attraction of cruising that impressive gulf.  Small, remote, uncrowded bays providing idyllic settings with remarkable fishing not far outside the anchorages were forgotten as older generations with that had been there and done that attitude sought more and more creature comforts and the younger generations had never known the uninhabited gulf.  

I recently received an email, complete with chart, from Joe McGinnis, a member of Vagabundos del Mar, describing an upcoming Baja cruise organized by Vagabundos that joggled my recollection of my many similar trips and all of the memorable hours my family and friends had logged over the years exploring the waters surrounding the Baja peninsula.    

It was exciting to read that the adventure of cruising was not gone or forgotten. Joe's email reeked with excitement and enthusiasm as he described the upcoming trip.

The chart, with hand written notations and markings where the boats would launch, fuel stops along the planned route, all with carefully added lat/long numbers, stirred my imagination once again.   

Tentative plans at this time are that the California contingent led by McGinnis that has already grown to six boats ranging in sizes from 24' to 28' will depart the third week of April trailering their boats to San Felipe. Then they will continue sixty-five miles south to where the pavement ends on the road to launch their boats.

From there the group will cruise down the Baja coast to Bay of Los Angeles, heading east to the west coast of Mexico and continuing down the coast to San Carlos near  Guaymas. There they will hook up with another Vagabundos group led by Captain Dan and Shirley Atkinson.

The two groups will merge and travel together down the Mexico coast and across to Agua Verde and on to Puerto Escondido before turning  up the east coast of Baja past Loreto and stopping for a local Festival. Then  on to Mulege and Conception Bay before they continue to Santa Rosalia for yet another Festival arriving at Punta Chivato where the two groups will split up and head for home.

Cruising along the Baja coast in small boats is a time-honored tradition dating all the way back to Ray Cannon's early years of visiting Baja. This trip will provide an opportunity to those who have longed to take a closer look at Baja's Sea of Cortez from the deck of their own trailer boat while tagging along with a group of similar boats crewed by seasoned Vagabundos del Mar members familiar with the areas that will be visited on the cruise.  This is a great introduction of some of the best that Baja has to offer!

For information contact the Vagabundos del  Mar office at (800) 474-2252 or visit their web site at  They can provide you contact information for the Cruise leaders who can supply you with details and a complete itinerary of the cruise.