Fishing was big in Los Cabos long before the first tourists arrived. The first regional inhabitants, the Pericú, fished the offshore waters for thousands of years, and for most of the 20th century the principal source of employment in Cabo San Lucas was the Productos Marinos cannery and its fleet of fishing boats.
Los Cabos tourism, too, was built on fishing. Before the Transpeninsular Highway was completed in 1973, travelers came to the peninsula’s southernmost region by boat or plane, and the reason they came was to fish. From the 1950s onward, pioneer resorts catered to tourists drawn by the region’s burgeoning reputation for big-game sportfishing; in particular, trophy-sized blue and black marlin.
The region’s charms have multiplied exponentially during the past 50 years, from pampering spas to championship-level golf courses, but fishing remains king. The charter boasts lining the Cabo San Lucas Marina are a testament to this fact. So too are the big-money fishing tournaments that draw anglers from around the world.
One doesn’t necessarily have to earn an over-sized check – literally and figuratively – to establish their local bona fides, but annual tournaments like Bisbee’s Black & Blue have turned more than a few fishermen into legends…
The Black & Blue reigns as the longest-running tournament – the granddaddy of them all, the Sea of Cortez Fishing Tournament Internacional, was held only twice, in 1968 and 1969 – but nowadays there are plenty of opportunities to fish competitively for cash and prizes in Los Cabos.
Here are the top 5 fishing tournaments in Los Cabos in 2018:
Cabo Summer Slam/Pelagic Triple Crown of Fishing Tournament
Fishing in Los Cabos is a year-round proposition. There is no bad time to cast into the local waters, just variability in terms of what one might expect to catch. But what might be called the Los Cabos tournament season – the period when visiting anglers are not only seeking fish, but also cash money and valuable prizes – begin in early June and continues through early November. This five-month stretch sees a host of tournaments, large and small, and not coincidentally comes during the time of year when huge billfish like blue and black marlin are most abundant.
Much of the summer tournament action is centered around the Los Cabos municipality’s beautiful, less developed East Cape, but Cabo San Lucas is always a focal point when it comes to the biggest sponsors and most lucrative payouts. That’s certainly true of what qualifies as the first major tournament of the 2018 season, the Cabo Summer Slam, AKA the Pelagic Triple Crown of Fishing.
Pelagic, a Newport Beach based company, is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to lifestyle apparel and high-performance gear associated with watersports like fishing, boating, diving and surfing. So it’ll come as no surprise that the Cabo Summer Slam offers some high stakes prizes and jackpots. Over $200,000 is on the line for the 5th annual tournament in 2018 – slated for June 7 to 9 – meaning it’s the biggest Cabo San Lucas based tournament until Bisbee’s big money competitions in October.
For those who love fishing but also crave a complete lifestyle experience, the Stars & Stripes returns with its 22nd annual golf and fishing tournament from June 28 - July 1. Participants stay at the luxurious Hilton Los Cabos; go big-game sportfishing for dorado, wahoo, tuna, sailfish, swordfish, and black, blue and striped marlin; play golf at some of the world’s best golf courses; and enjoy spectacular live entertainment nightly. It’s all for a good cause, as well. Since 1997, the tournament has raised over $26 million dollars for youth-oriented charities.
Bisbee’s East Cape Offshore
As summer temperatures heat up, the fishing tournament scene migrates to the Los Cabos municipality’s gorgeous East Cape. No less than two separate single-day tournaments – the East Cape Dorado Shootout and Gold Cup Wahoo Jackpot – give away new fully-loaded automobiles to winners, but the region’s summer headliner remains the Bisbee’s East Cape Offshore.
The ECO is the first of three Bisbee’s sponsored fishing tournaments that take place in Los Cabos each year. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three qualifiers in marlin, tuna and dorado categories during the 2018 edition – scheduled for July 31 to August 4 – with the awards celebration taking place afterwards at the Hotel Buena Vista. Base entry for the event is $1500 per team, with additional fees for daily jackpots. Prize money is based on entry fees received, with 60% going to the billfish winners, and 20% each to top tuna and dorado anglers.
Los Cabos Billfish Tournament
Just as September is El Mes de la Patria, the “the country’s month,” in México, October is the month of the fishing tournament in Cabo San Lucas. Bisbee’s two cash-rich tournaments – the Los Cabos Offshore and Black & Blue – get most of the publicity, but the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament also sends out a siren call to big-game fishermen eager for big-money prizes and jackpots. The three tournaments combined last year to pay out over $4,735,000 to the winners. The 20th annual LCBT – slated for October 14 - 18, 2018 – again features three entry levels: a $5,000 base entry for each 6-person team; daily jackpots for the largest tuna, wahoo and dorado; and daily billfish release jackpots.
Bisbee’s Black & Blue
Oft billed as “The World’s Richest Fishing Tournament” and “The Super Bowl of Sportfishing” thanks to its million-dollar payouts, the Black & Blue marlin fishing tournament originally premiered in 1981, and remains to this day the highest profile annual event in Los Cabos. The $4.165 million payout in 2006 was and still is the largest in sportfishing history. Base entry for this millionaire maker is $5,000 U.S. per team, and requires a $71,500 U.S. outlay across all categories, jackpots and challenges. Prizes are awarded for the top five catches of black and blue marlin, assuming they meet the minimum standards (300 lbs.).
Commonly known as “Little Bisbee’s,” to differentiate it from the “Big Bisbee’s” Black & Blue marlin fishing tournament that also takes place each October in Los Cabos, the Los Cabos Offshore dates back to 2002, and is considered a more laid-back, charity focused endeavor than the Black & Blue. Cash prizes are awarded to the teams with the three biggest qualifying fish in the game and billfish categories at the LCO, and large amounts of money are always donated to local causes.
The 2018 LCO will take place October 18 - 21, with the Black & Blue to follow soon after: Oct. 23 - 27.
WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot
The Western Outdoor News has a long history with Los Cabos, dating back to the 1950s, when Baja columnist Ray Cannon’s rave fishing reviews helped put the area on the destination travel map. Cannon’s 1966 book The Sea of Cortez remains a classic time capsule look at the region and its signature activity, and the WON writers who’ve followed him on the Baja beat have continued to burnish Los Cabos’ reputation as a sportfishing mecca. The WON Tuna Jackpot honors that heritage with one of the larger fishing tournaments in Cabo San Lucas, a fixture of the autumn sporting calendar that follows hard on the heels of the Los Cabos Billfish and Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore and Black & Blue tournaments. The 19th edition in 2017 saw 147 teams competing across 11 events for over $677,000 in prize money. Even bigger things are yet to come, with the 2018 tournament scheduled for November 7 - 10.
Saludos from Co-Founders...
Chris Sands - Writer and Michael Mattos