By Gene Kira, March 15, 2004, as orginally published in Western Outdoor News:
Sometimes, nice guys don’t finish last.
And last week, I spent a quiet, very pleasant afternoon with one of the nicest guys of all, Don Tony Reyes Baca of San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico.
Tony turns 81 years old this June. He’s still young and vigorous and full of fun (and his mother lived to the age of 113), so things are looking good for at least a couple more decades of a life that was already a legend before many of today’s Baja anglers were even born.
As we floated around the calm San Felipe marina, taking pictures of the family’s new panga mothership, Tony stood up in our panga and pointed a gnarled finger at the camera. “Gene!” he said in that soft, gravely voice of his. “Tell everybody for me! This is my dream come true!”
That dream--the purchase of a larger, faster, steel-hulled panga mothership for his family’s future--has been one hell of a long time in coming.
All afternoon, Tony made us laugh again and again, as he described many episodes from his early life that could make a tough guy sit down and cry. But not Tony. No matter what curve balls fate has thrown him, he seems to have loved every minute of his amazing adventure, and especially the success represented by his new boat.
The recent purchase in San Felipe of the awesome Capitan Villegas panga mothership--soon to be re-christened the Tony Reyes--is nothing less than an act of cosmic poetic justice for a man who once rowed customers out to fish for $2.50 per day, and lived under highway bridges and picked vegetables in the U.S. during the off-seasons to make ends meet.
This is a man who has the classiest reputation in all of Baja California, a man who has earned his success with 53 (yes, fifty-three) years of honest service to the sportfishing industry.
At the San Felipe marina, we climbed aboard the soon-to-be named Tony Reyes, and I was again impressed by the luxurious accommodations and fishing ability that this boat has. In fact, this platform is so nice (and fast) that it will undoubtedly be used for all kinds of combination activities, ecotourism, and sightseeing, in addition to straight fishing. It’s an all air-conditioned boat perfectly suited for a future that is already here, a kind of boat that the Reyes family has been trying to buy for more than ten years.
Don Tony, his son (and the ship’s new captain) Tony Reyes Jr., and his son, five-year-old Tony Reyes León, took obvious pleasure in showing me around the boat, and Capt. Tony Jr. described his plans for replacing some of the outside bunks with additional air-conditioned staterooms. Over the coming seasons, I’m looking forward to many happy trips on this luxurious boat.
But as the sun set behind the mountains and I drove up the highway toward Mexicali (with about 25 pounds of jumbo shrimp), I was thinking not of the new Tony Reyes, but of my coming August 15th trip on the original, wooden-hulled Jose Andres, fresh with its new paint, bottom work and engine overhaul, floating beside its larger stable mate and ready for yet another San Felipe mothership fishing season on the Sea of Cortez.
This year, I’ll be fishing on the venerable old boat again, for weird bottom species, and I’m looking forward to the familiar outside bunk, the long, beautiful days in the panga, and especially, standing on the bridge at night and watching it all go slowly by.
I’ll be photographing different fish species on this trip, the more the better. All weird bottom anglers interested in going can email me, or call The Longfin at 714-538-8010.
Congratulations, Don Tony! Your dream has come true, and mine too!
(Related San Felipe articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main San Felipe information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the San Felipe area in "Mexico Fishing News.")