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 Migriño 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.?