By Gene Kira, Feb. 4, 2002, as published in Western Outdoor News:
Tanned, blond, and boyishly handsome, Wayne Bisbee looked up from his breakfast at the waterfront Cabo Cantina restaurant last week, and he made the understatement of the year: "I've been busy."
We were having our juevos y papas al fresco together with Bisbee's director of Mexican operations, Clicerio Mercado, at an outside table facing a spectacular row of yachts (one with a mast twice as high as the Hotel Plaza las Glorias), and across the Cabo San Lucas Marina we could see the pier where the huge cash awards will be presented this October for the 22nd Annual Bisbee's Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot Tournament.
The Bisbee's Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, of course, is the world's richest fishing tournament. Two years ago, it made history's largest single pay-out, $989,910 won by the 72-foot After Midnight, which, incidentally, happened to be tied up just a few berths away from our table.
Last year, 1,000 outdoor dinners were served on the Cabo San Lucas pier during the Bisbee's awards ceremony, and at its conclusion an impressive fireworks display lit up the sky above the historic Hotel Hacienda at the harbor entrance.
But for Wayne Bisbee, the tournament itself in recent years has been an incendiary mix of big money, big egos, and big controversy that seem prone to crop up when the giant checks are presented and the cameras start flashing. That record-setting, $989,910 prize two years ago, for example, is still being contested by local IGFA representative, Minerva Smith, and her husband, Bob, of Cabo San Lucas, whose boat the Minerva III actually caught the largest fish, but was disqualified when a lie-detector test was interpreted by Bisbee to indicate that the deckhand had touched the line illegally. With the passage of time, that legal battle has deteriorated to a bitter shadow-world of memories and hearsay about who-said-what-to-whom, and it remains to be seen whether or not it will ever be settled satisfactorily.
During our breakfast, Wayne Bisbee was filling me in on a new twist to the Black & Blue that is now being announced and posted on the tournament website (bisbees.com). The 2002 tournament will bow to the increasing demand for catch-and-release fishing from conscientious anglers by adding a new cash division for released fish. The entry fee for this new "All-Release Cash Jackpot Division" is $2,000-$2,500 per team, and 90 percent of the entry fees will be paid out in prizes for the first, second and third place boats releasing the most fish. Teams may elect to fish the All-Release Division only, or in combination with the rest of the tournament.
With perhaps 200 boats fishing, and regular daily jackpots already topping half-a-million dollars, the prize money for the new All-Release Division is sure to soar into the healthy six-figure bracket--through sheer momentum if nothing else--and as Bisbee explained the rules, I couldn't help envisioning more episodes of Great-Big-Controversy that may hound him in future years.
The Bisbee's format relies on basic human honesty and one person's (Wayne Bisbee's) interpretation of lie detector tests (as administered by an outside expert) to confirm that the winner didn't cheat. With such enormous cash prizes at stake, it seems arguable whether or not such a simple system is capable of producing reliable, consistent results. Even the CIA admits that lie detector tests are highly error-prone--even when administered by their own experts--and as for basic human honesty when there is fame and a million bucks at stake? Common! Gimme a break!
With the new All-Release Division, there will be no corpus delicti (dead fish) to weigh, no observers, no carry-aboard cameras, nor any other supplemental means to ensure that the rules have been followed, and the stage seems set for plenty more "fireworks."
Whatever happens, Cabo San Lucas's Bisbee's Black & Blue is the biggest, richest, most spectacular show of its kind, and--controvery or not--Wayne Bisbee will be at the eye of the hurricane. Bring it on!
(Related Cabo San Lucas articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Cabo San Lucas information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Cabo San Lucas area in "Mexico Fishing News.")