The Million Dollar Marlin: Pisces Wins Bisbees!

Team Braniff and Crew of Pisces 58′ Dona Homa at the weigh in on Day One – Pic Rebecca Ehrenberg

This year’s Bisbees was a historical one any way you put it. Not only was it the largest pot of monies ever, 9.8 Million Dollars total (more than doubling last year’s pot of $4 Million). But it was also a historical day for Pisces, as it is the 1st time we have won 1st Place in the Black & Blue Tournament (well there was one other time when 28′ Karina placed and then…. well that’s a different story).

Not only this, but we were pleased to see another local charter boat take 2nd place, and that both winning teams were outfitted by local Captains and Mates.

Lastly, both teams were made up of anglers competing in the Bisbees for the first time ever. Our anglers, Team Braniff, aboard Pisces 58′ Dona Homa are from Mainland Mexico and Team The Brass aboard Rantin and Ravin, a 31 foot Bertram, are from a small town in Idaho. To top it off, we had another Pisces vessel in the winners circle as well, Pisces 48′ Viking Listo, which took 2nd Place in the Release Division.

A little bit of a background info

Jack Duvall & the Pisces 48′ Viking Listo – Pic by Billfish Foundation

Pisces 58′ Dona Homa is Captained by Lupe Gomez. He has been a Captain with Pisces for nearly 20 years now and has been captaining aboard the Dona Homa just this year. Previous to this he was the Captain on the 48′ Listo, with deckhand Ray Romero, who now captains that boat and who has also been with Pisces for almost 20 years.

The Listo sold to a new owner this year, who kept Ray on as the Captain. Former owner of the Listo was Jack Duvall, two time Billfish Foundation Chairman, and one of the most legendary fishermen out there. He caught more than 4,000 billfish in his lifetime. Jack Duvall is a member of the IGFA’s Billfish Royal Slam Club and tallied eight billfish grand slams—including two on consecutive days. Both Lupe and Ray learned a lot from Jack. Sadly, he passed away this year in January. (You can read the story of Jack’s his life and accomplishments HERE. )

Where to fish for the Big One?

Shotgun Start Bisbees Black And Blue – Pic Rebecca Ehrenberg

With the shotgun sounding off the start of the Tournament, onlookers saw the majority of the 199 boats participating head off in the direction of the Sea of Cortez. A large part also headed toward the Pacific, and a few headed in different directions.

Captain Lupe and Captain Ray knew exactly where they would go, and it wasn’t where most were heading.

“Ray, you copy?” , Captain Lupe asked over the radio to his former deckhand.

“Loud and clear, Lupe”, he responded.

“You going to fish Jack’s favorite spot?”, Lupe said.

“Yeah, He would have liked us to fish it for the tournament”, answered Ray.

Both Captains reminisced for a moment and then wished each other luck, fishing only a short distance from each other, at Jack’s favorite fishing grounds. It was only about 10 mins after speaking that Captain Lupe saw the Green Koya Lure he was trolling get hammered by a Blue Marlin which quickly took to the air.

“It looked very big when it jumped. I knew it was a keeper as soon as I saw it.”

The moment Team Braniff boats their 489 lbs Blue Marlin – Pic Tomas Braniff.

Angler Andres Pineda fought the fish for just over an hour until he got it to the boat. As soon as they pulled it into the cockpit, Lupe stated, “Its 400 lbs, at least.” The team aboard, made up of friends, uncles, nephews and even grandparents all screamed in excitement, knowing that with the jackpots they entered their fish for Day One was worth over $600,000 USD.

Angler Andres Pineda was the only one onboard that had fished this tournament before, and that was in 1998, when him and a few buddies decided to go for it and pooled their money together, $8,000 dlls at the time, that were needed to enter the Bisbees.

Since then, he has fished mostly in the Gulf of Mexico, and has competed in other National tournaments, but he had had not returned to fish the Bisbees until this year, making it a family affair. It was the 2nd time he has fished with Pisces; he chartered the 31′ Rebecca last year.

The Weigh In

Our Fabulous Pisces Crew with the fish! – Pic Rebecca Ehrenberg

I had been sitting at my computer working and obsessively checking CatchStat every two minutes, to see if any fish were boated. I had a strong feeling Pisces could be in the winners circle this year. I clicked “Refresh” and there it was, at 3:46 PM, Team Braniff aboard Dona Homa had boated a Blue Marlin. I immediately told everyone in the office, and they all squealed with excitement. Gaby, one of our reservation agents said, “Doña Conchita was right! She said they were going to win it!”. Grandmother on board, Concepcion Braniff, or “Conchita” had checked in at our office the day prior to the Bisbees and spent some time talking with the girls. She had even asked if she could rent a yacht on Sunday to celebrate the win she was sure they would have and invite all her grandchildren.

When I arrived at the dock to wait for the boat, there was a crowd beginning to gather. I had called Lupe as soon as I had read the news and asked him his ETA. About 45 mins. The boat was now in front of me. The bow pointing towards me, Captain Lupe slowly started turning the boat to back it up to the dock. The music was blasting, it was Queen “We are the Champions”. The team was ecstatic, dancing and singing, Doña Conchita included. The buzz in the air was real, and the crowd at the dock now numbered in the hundreds.

Live Video from the WEIGH IN on Day one of the Bisbees! Pisces 58′ Dona Homa.

I went Live on Facebook, and gave a play by play of what was happening as best I could. I spoke with Alejandro Gonzalez, one of the youngest anglers aboard, and he told me about how long it took for Andres to land the fish and how excited he was to be here. In a few minutes, they had the fish at the weigh station. When the “489!” was yelled the crowd went wild and the team jumped and screamed with excitement as the waterfall of fireworks poured down at the stage.

The Winners

Team Braniff celebrating their Victory on Awards night – Pic by Gary Graham

In the end, after a 2nd day of fishing where no fish were weighed, it came down to Day 3. There was a heartbreaking weigh in for Team Will Rise, as angler Ramiro Chavez brought a 293 lbs Blue Marlin to the scale; just 7 lbs under for it to qualify. They were in all the pots, so seven pounds more and that fish was worth 6 Million Dollars that day. See the Live video of that weigh in Here. Just as Will Rise’s fish was being weighed, another was boated, team The Brass headed to the scales and just squeezed over the 300 lbs mark, weighing a 305 Blue Marlin caught by JC Siddoway. This gave them 2nd place overall, as no other fish were weighed afterwards.

At awards night, the monies won by all teams were finally revealed, resulting in the Bisbees awarding its 20th check over a Million dollars.

Captain Lupe and Crew, with Tracy and Marco Ehrenberg. Pic by Gary Graham

1st Place Pisces 58′ Dona Homa – Team Braniff, 489 LB Blue Marlin earning them $1,134,000 USD!

Top Captain award was given to Captain Lupe Gonzalez of the Dona Homa, for $32,175 USD.

2nd Place Rantin n Ravin – Team Brass 305 LB Blue Marlin $732,550

Team LISTO – 2nd Place Release! Pic by Gary Graham

1st Place Release Division – Reel Pushy with Four Blue Marlin Released $110,500 USD

2nd Place Release Division – Pisces 48′ Listo with Two Blue Marlin Released $38,250 USD

3rd Place Release Division – Bull Rider with Two Blue Marlin Released $21,250 USD

So what happened to the other 7 Million or so dollars that were not won?

Bisbees will refund the money not paid out, minus a 15%; or anglers have the option to keep money for next years entry and add it to the pot. Of this year’s 9.8 Million, about 8 million was solely from entries in 2021, the other 1.8 Mill was rollover from the year prior.

Boats lined up for the Shotgun Start – Pic Rebecca Ehrenberg

A BIG CONGRATULATIONS to ALL the Winning teams and all others participating for another great Tourney.