What is the Bisbee's Black & Blue Tournament?
Bisbee’s Black & Blue Tournament has been dubbed “the world’s richest fishing tournament,” with 38 years of tradition to back the claim and tens of millions of dollars dealt out in prizes.
The tournament was established in 1981 in Cabo San Lucas thanks to the legendary angler, Bob Bisbee, and his love of fishing the prolific surrounding waters. Each year, hundreds of fishermen flock to the southern tip of Baja California Sur to land the Billfish of their life and a hefty cash prize that comes with it.
The reason why Black & Blue is the most prestigious fishing tournament on the planet is the sheer amount of money winners take home. In 2018, the best fishermen of the tournament were handed just over a whopping four million dollars. The deadliest catch on steroids, indeed!
This fishing spectacle is named after the targeted species that thrive in the area – Black and Blue Marlin. Participants hunt the largest specimen and bring it for the weigh-in (unless they’re competing in the Release division). There’s a point system in place that helps determine the most successful teams of the tournament. Release-only fish also include Sailfish, Striped Marlin, Swordfish, and Spearfish.
One of the best things about Black & Blue is that there are no restrictions regarding who can participate. Hundreds of seasoned fishermen and amateur anglers enter this fierce competition every year, hoping to be the next Bisbee champion.
When is the Bisbee's Black & Blue?
Black & Blue always takes place in the third week of October, but the exact days change every year. The tournament lasts five days, and three of them are strictly reserved for fishing and weigh-in.
The first day of the tournament is dedicated to registering the boats and team members in person. After that, it’s time for the Captains Meeting and the opening ceremonies that include a lot of music, a visit from the Mexican Naval forces, and mingling with fellow anglers.
The fishing starts every day at 8:00 a.m. sharp, and competing teams should be on their boats at least 15 minutes before the “shotgun start” that signifies that the hunt can begin. Lines should be out of the water by 5:00 p.m. The weigh station is open every day from 2:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.
The last day of the Bisbee Black & Blue is for celebrating! Tournament winners receive their award checks and proceed to bask in their success with cocktails, dinner, and great entertainment program.
What divisions can you compete in at the Bisbee's Black & Blue?
There are two divisions you can participate in – The Base Entry and the Release Division.
The Base Entry grants you the ability to keep your biggest catch (up to two fish per boat per day) and bring it in for the weigh-in and a chance to win Daily Jackpots and top places on the scoreboard.
In the Release division, everything you catch must stay in the water, but you need to follow a specific set of rules that includes taking photos where the catch is clearly recognizable. You should have the whole fight on video, as well as the release of the catch.
You can also participate in the Daily Jackpots. The sum of money that every team in the tournament contributes to a particular jackpot category goes to the angler who catches the biggest Marlin of the day.
Participating in the Daily Jackpots is optional. There are several options to choose from, starting with the $500 daily jackpot and all the way up to $10,000. Bear in mind that if you enter any of the daily jackpots, you will need to apply for all three days. For example, if you enter the $1,000 daily jackpot, you will pay $1,000 per day for a total of $3,000.
In case you’ve got $71,500 to spare, you can buy the “across the board” entry and have your team up for all daily jackpots. If you’re competing in the Release division exclusively, you can’t participate in the daily jackpots.
The base entry to be in the tournament is $5,000 and it allows you to keep your biggest catch of the day. If you’d prefer to compete in the catch-and-release division, the fee will be $2,500. There’s an option to compete in both categories, in which case the cost is $7,000.
What prizes can you win at the Bisbee's Black & Blue?
There are no set prizes at the Black & Blue, as the money is divided among the best anglers based on a specific point system. The eligible species are exclusively Blue and Black Marlin weighing over 300 pounds. For every pound over the 300 mark, a team is awarded with one additional point. Up to two fish can be kept per boat, per day.
The team(s) that brings in the heaviest catch gets the daily jackpot and is put on the scoreboard that keeps track of each team’s progress. On the final day of fishing, all the points are added and the winners are declared and awarded.
The Black & Blue also organizes an Early Bird Drawing, which gives teams a chance to win a free entry to the next year’s tournament. If you apply for the tournament and pay the base entry before August 31, you are automatically in the running for the Early Bird Drawing. The earlier you submit your entry, the better your chances of getting that free pass to the next tournament. Remember that the free entry is only valid for the following year and it can’t be transferred.
What if you don’t have a boat, but still want to participate in the tournament?
If you want to test your skills in the Black & Blue but don’t have your own boat (or don’t want to take it all the way to Mexico), it’s okay! There are charters in Cabo San Lucas which specialize in tournament runs and you can team up with them.
The local captains that run these charters know where the fish hide, know the rules of the tournament, and can help you with everything you need. You don’t even have to bring your fishing equipment, they will provide everything.
Bear in mind that you need to establish with the captain how the prize money (if any) will be divided and which division you plan on entering. That way, you’re on the same page about your expectations.
Bisbee’s Black & Blue Rules
There are many rules that need to be studied carefully before you hit the water to fish for monster Billfish. Here are some of the most important ones to take into consideration before entering the tournament:
There are no specific qualifications to enter the Black & Blue. As long as you know you’re becoming a part of “the deadliest catch on steroids,” you have a boat, equipment, and $5,000, you’re welcome to join.
Your boat must be between 30–40 feet long.
You’re allowed to fish within 40 miles of Cabo San Lucas.
If you’re competing in the Release division, you need to take digital photos of your Marlin catch. Before that, you’re required to supply your own camera with the correctly adjusted time and date stamp.
You can have as many team members as you’d like, but they must all be registered. Everybody in the team is considered an angler, the captain and the first mate included.
If you plan on fishing with live bait, you can buy it or fish for it up to 15 minutes before the fishing day starts. After that, no lines are allowed in the water until the fishing has officially started.
In case you’ve hooked a fish just before the fishing day is officially over, you’re allowed to fight your catch until you’ve got it into the boat or it’s released.
When you’re competing in the Release division, keep your Billfish in the water at all times. Your catch is officially released when you wind the leader to the tip of the rod or when another team member gets in contact with the leader.
The final task before a team receives their big check is a polygraph test. The tournament officials will pick one team member who was directly involved in catching the record fish and will have them take the examination. In case the angler doesn’t pass the test, the team is momentarily disqualified from the tournament.
Bisbee’s Black & Blue Tournament is the stuff of legends, and many fishing legends have participated in it. The wonderful thing about this angling bonanza is that it gives back to the community of Cabo San Lucas in various ways.
The Bisbee’s foundation works closely with the local orphanages and charities, and all fish caught during the tournament are donated to people in need. Also, the Bisbee’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund raises money every year to help protect endangered animal species and marine life. So, if catching monster fish is your calling and you’re a passionate conservationist, Black & Blue is the opportunity of a lifetime.