Every year Cabo hosts the richest fishing tournament in the world: The Bisbee’s Black and Blue. How did a contest that started out with a couple of guys drinking a few beers turn into a brand known world-wide? We’ll tell you all about it!
In 1994 Wayne Bisbee stood on the stage with a million dollar check in his hand. He was about to award the biggest prize in the history of the Bisbee tournament and he was trying to make sure the picture came out perfect. “I was convinced this was the biggest check I would ever write and that it wouldn’t happen again!” he said. That was the moment Wayne realized what he and his family had created: the biggest fishing tournament in the world. How did a contest that started out with a couple of guys drinking a few beers turn into a brand known world-wide?
It all started with Bob Bisbee. Before all the luxurious hotels and mansions, Cabo was a small fishing town. The streets weren’t paved and everyone knew each other. Life on land was slow paced, however under the sea it was a different story. It was billfish paradise, unlike anywhere else in the world! So when Bob Bisbee set his eyes on Cabo San Lucas for a small tournament as a strategy to promote the fuel dock and tackle store he owned on Balboa Island in California, history was made. In May of 1982, six boats signed up for the first tournament with a 10,000 dollar prize. Over the years, the number of teams and the size of the jackpot grew until 1995, when Bob Bisbee turned over the torch to his son Wayne.
Wayne Takes Over
“It started as a marketing vehicle for a tackle shop, so when my dad retired and the store closed, the tournament was over ” Wayne told us. “We were all young, me and my buddies kind of liked going to Cabo. So, my dad said “Two things: one, it’s never made any money, it’s always been an expense and in order to make money it has to grow. Two, I’m not giving you a marketing budget. So we all went down to our local pub where we liked to hang out and tried to figure out how to make it grow. ” The key to success ended up being reaching out to other tournaments around the world and teaming up with them. Wayne soon realized the Bisbee’s Tournament was one of the big kids on the block, with the biggest prize and longest mailing list.
“We teamed up with the Tahitian International Billfish tournament and we teamed up with the Saint Thomas Boy Scout Tournament in the Virgin Islands. They had a good east coast crowd and when we approached them we realized they had 45-50 boats and we had 80-90 and our mailing list was twice as big as theirs so we exchanged and when the teams in these tournaments found out we had more on the table and were bigger already, they came our way.”
The Magic of Bisbee’s
Back in the day, when Wayne used to get on a plane to come to Cabo he knew everyone on the flight because they were all coming down to fish. As Cabo grew, so did the fishing culture. The Bisbee’s tournament put our town on the map. There are a couple of things that make this event so special, the luck factor being the most important. Although it’s important to have certain skills in order to compete, half of it is strategy and the other half is pure luck. Which is why along the years the winners have ranged from expert teams to underdogs who were competing for the first time ever. It has grown organically and the rules have evolved over the years. For example, they came up with the Daily Jackpot to keep contestants motivated during the tournament, whether or not they won the big prize. If you ask Wayne what the biggest challenge is, he’ll tell you all about what it takes to keep thousands of clients with very specific personalities happy. The upside? They’re all already in a good mood because they’re here to fish and have a good time.
What it Takes
Managing a tournament this size, with so much money on the table is no small feat. Clicerio Mercado, who’s been in charge of taking care of all the logistics since the early nineties, knows it all too well. The planning never stops! It’s a full-time, year-round job that entails seven permits. Since the tournament hasn’t stopped growing, every year brings new challenges such as the 2020 edition, which concluded without a winner. The solution? The Let It Ride Division, which basically consisted of cutting and pasting the award matrix into the 2021 tournament and giving the contestants another bite at the apple. Or giving them a refund, which meant writing out a lot of checks.
The “little tournaments” as Wayne calls them don’t fall too far behind. From August 2nd to the 6th you can participate in the Bisbee’s East Cape Offshore Tournament, and from October 20-23 in the Los Cabos Offshore Tournament. Both of these events started out small and have been growing nonstop! The main event, Bisbee’s Black and Blue, happens in October from the 25th to the 29th.
The Land of Abundance
What does the Bisbee’s Tournament mean to Cabo? Not only does it bring important economic benefits year after year that affect everyone in town, from stores, to spas and restaurants. It also brings an incredible sense of pride! We are home to the richest tournament in the world. It means we have thousands of tourists coming to visit our beaches, to fish, to enjoy and fall in love with our destination. The Bisbee’s Tournament is proof that this is the land of abundance. The amount of boats that sign up to compete multiply year after year. The size of the prize keeps breaking records. Every October, our ocean greets the visitors with clear water and plenty of fish. We are one of the few municipalities in the country that has two airports and three top notch marinas! Cabo is home to this tournament because Cabo is special.
Where can you find Wayne Bisbee any given day when he’s in Cabo? When he’s not fully immersed in huge spreadsheets, you can find him with a beer in his hand on a boat in the open sea. The further the better. Why? No cell reception. He still fishes, although not as much as he’d like. But it’s an important reminder of why we’re all here, to look out into the horizon with the endless ocean ahead and an abundance of billfish swimming underneath.
Want more information about the tournament? Visit their website by clicking here.