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How a Californian created the largest fishing tournament in Mexico

In the realm of competitive fishing, the Bisbee Tournaments stand as a testament to the passion, community, and unwavering commitment to the sport. The story of these tournaments begins with Robert (Bob) Bisbee, an accidental entrepreneur whose vision transformed a simple fuel dock into the world’s largest independently run Big Game Fishing Tournament. His journey, spanning 85 remarkable years, left an indelible mark on the fishing community, especially in the scenic coastal town of Cabo San Lucas.

Bob’s story starts in 1933, when he migrated from Excelsior Springs, Missouri, to Orange County, California. In 1975, he leased the Shell Fuel Dock on Balboa Island, California, and rebranded it as “Bisbee’s Marine Fuels” and a tackle store known as “Bisbee’s Sportfishing Headquarters.” Bob’s innovation didn’t stop at providing fuel and fishing gear; he set up a land-based marine-side-band radio, becoming a lifeline for boaters communicating with their families and relaying essential messages among the boats along the Baja coast.

Bob’s story starts in 1933, when he migrated from Excelsior Springs, Missouri, to Orange County, California.

The turning point occurred in 1981 when Bob met Luis Coppola, a former U.S. Air Force pilot and owner of  Hotel Finisterra in Cabo San Lucas, and Bill Baffert, his son-in-law and manager of the hotel. The need for shipping goods from the States to Cabo led to the birth of the first Bisbee Tournament.

Baffert and Bisbee decided to begin the first Bisbee tournament for fun and to help promote the fuel dock and tackle store on Balboa Island, so he did it for “sales promotion.” Bisbee’s boat was already in Cabo with his son, Bob Jr., as captain, so he quickly recruited five additional boats to participate in a loosely run tournament for May of 1982. However, the number of vessels doubled at each event.

Unfazed, the tournament had tremendous support from Bisbee’s buddies, who would later start the Marlin Club in Cabo. The modest event went off without a hitch. Subsequently, Doner purchased and refurbished Finisterra’s Tortuga Fishing Fleet.   

Jack Williamson won the US $10,000 purse aboard Bisbee’s boat! “My team won the first tournament,” Bisbee said. “I won my own money back.”

Bisbee placque.

The tournament gained momentum with its unique “Calcutta” format and enthusiastic participants. By 1983, the Bisbee Black and Blue Tournament had firmly established itself, drawing competitors from around the globe.

As the tournaments evolved, they became a Bisbee family affair. Bob’s son, R. Wayne Bisbee, took over day-to-day operations in 1995, expanding the events to include marlin, dorado, and tuna categories. Sister Tricia joined him in 1997, managing sponsorships. Their collaboration transformed the tournaments into a worldwide attraction, drawing teams from 50 states and various countries.

The Bisbee family’s dedication extended beyond the sport itself. In 2011, Wayne initiated the Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund, supporting projects in Baja and promoting sustainability. The fund aided Cabo after Hurricane Odile in 2014, providing relief, repairs, and encouragement for the sport fishing industry (community).

Moreover, the Bisbee family actively participated in charitable initiatives. They collaborated with Hope for Los Cabos, donating fish to the “Fishing for Food” program, contributing over 20,000 pounds of fish annually. The family’s focus on catch-and-release angling and supporting local communities showcased their commitment to responsible fishing practices and community welfare.

The Bisbee Tournaments exemplify the power of passion and community.

The Bisbee Tournaments also achieved remarkable milestones in terms of payouts. Over 43 years, the tournaments awarded cash prizes exceeding US $100 million. In 2006, Team Bad Company received the most significant single payout in sport fishing history – an astonishing US $3,902,997. Such substantial rewards elevated the tournaments and highlighted the dedication of participants and organizers.

Bob Bisbee Sr., patriarch of the Bisbee’s Black & Blue Tournaments phenomena, peacefully passed away on June 14, 2018, at age 85. Still, his legacy lives on, inspiring generations of anglers and fostering a sense of camaraderie among fishing enthusiasts. The family’s commitment to innovation, community engagement, and responsible fishing practices turned an obscure idea into a global phenomenon. The Bisbee Tournaments not only celebrate the spirit of competition but also exemplify the power of passion and community in the world of sport fishing.

Black and Blue Three Winners.

A total of 219 teams competed for an historic US $11,651,300 in 2022, with a final payout of $7,387,925.

This year’s Los Cabos Offshore Tournament will be from Oct 19-22, followed by the Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot Tournament, which will be in Cabo San Lucas from Oct 24-28. 

More information is available at Bisbees-Program-2023.pdf

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