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Monster marlin tips scale in favor of Lake of the Woods-area angler on team fishing lucrative Mexico tourney

Jack Arnesen, of Roosevelt, Minn., was a member of “Feelin’ Azul,” the fishing team that won the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore Charity Tournament held Oct. 21-22 out of Cabo San Lucas, a resort community in the Los Cabos region of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

Winning sailfish.jpg
Members of team "Feelin' Azul" stand by their 555-pound black marlin Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022. Pictured (from left): Jim Rosenwald (kneeling) of Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota; Charles Bird of Rochester, Minnesota; Roberto Beltran and Juan Guillermo Amador of San Jose del Cabo, Mexico; Jim Koby of La Crosse, Wisconsin; and Jack Arnesen of Roosevelt, Minnesota.
Contributed/Jim Koby via Gary Graham, That Baja Guy
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CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico – Jack Arnesen grew up fishing Lake of the Woods both commercially and by hook-and-line, but few days on the water have been more memorable or rewarding than the two days he spent in late October as part of a team competing in a lucrative fishing tournament in Mexico.

Arnesen, of Roosevelt, Minn., was a member of “Feelin’ Azul,” the fishing team that won the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore Charity Tournament held Oct. 20-23 out of Cabo San Lucas, a resort community in the Los Cabos region of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

The four-day event included two days of fishing – Friday, Oct. 21, and Saturday, Oct. 22.

Team Azul – Spanish for “blue” – weighed in a 176-pound yellowfin tuna on the first day of competition and a 555-pound black marlin the second day to win the tournament, one of three Bisbee’s tournaments held annually in the Los Cabos region.

The three tournaments are the Bisbee’s East Cape Offshore in July, the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore – also dubbed the “Little Bisbee’s” – in October, followed a few days later by the Bisbee’s Black and Blue Marlin Tournament, also known as the “Big Show” of the three tournaments.

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Named after the Bisbee family that founded the tournaments in 1981, the Bisbee’s events are billed as “the world’s richest tournaments,” according to the tournament’s website, bisbee.com.

Teams participating in this year’s Bisbee’s Black and Blue competed for more than $11.6 million in prize money.

Global competition

More than 180 teams from around the world fished the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore tournament, which featured a total payout of nearly $2.2 million. The “Feelin’ Azul” team won $74,529 for landing the largest billfish, $38,220 for landing the heaviest tuna and $62,900 for landing the heaviest tuna on the first day of the tournament, for a total payout of $175,649.

Besides Arnesen, other members of “Feelin’ Azul” were Jim Koby of La Crosse, Wis.; Jim Rosenwald of Marine on St. Croix, Minn.; Charles Bird of Rochester, Minn.; and local San Jose del Cabo anglers Juan Guillermo Amador and Roberto Beltran, who were mate and captain, respectively.

They fished the tournament in Koby’s 36-foot Yellowfin boat, Arnesen says.

A Wisconsin attorney, Koby has a townhouse in San Jose del Cabo and got to know Arnesen during trips he made to Lake of the Woods. They go pheasant hunting and fishing together whenever the opportunity arises.

Arnesen’s family founded Arnesen’s Rocky Point Resort on Lake of the Woods.

“I’ve been going down there with him for a number of years and fished a lot of tournaments – and won quite a few tournaments,” Arnesen said. “But nothing that’s as prestigious as the Bisbee.”

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They fought the big marlin for 5½ hours, Arnesen says. By “they,” he means Juan Guillermo Amador, the youngest and probably strongest of the crew.

“He spends a lot of time at the gym, let’s put it that way,” Arnesen said with a laugh. “Without him, it would have been pretty ugly, I think. I’ve fought a lot of marlins, the (striped marlins) up to about 150 pounds, but that’s a far cry from a 555-pound black marlin.

“This one was – ugh – he was there for the duration, I’ll tell you what.”

Sailfish 2.jpg
The big black marlin was longer than the width of Jim Koby's 36-foot boat. From left are Koby, of La Crosse, Wisconsin; Juan Guillarmo Amador of San Jose del Cabo, Mexico; and James Rosenwald of Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota. Amador battled the 555-pound marlin for 5½ hours.
Contributed/Jim Koby

In a phone interview, Koby said the Feelin’ Azul team could have won even more if they’d entered the jackpot for largest marlin. Instead, they paid the base entry fee of $1,500 for entering the tournament and $3,500 for the tuna jackpot, since that was their target species.

The plan was to fish tuna “almost exclusively,” Koby says, since they had the best handle on where to fish tuna.

“If we’d have gotten into the marlin jackpot as we had in the past, we would have cleared well over a million dollars,” Koby said. “Of course, we won the Day One big tuna, and we wound up winning the overall tuna.

“The plan on Day Two was to go out and catch the Day Two big tuna and ace the tuna category across the border. And out of the clear blue, we wind up with this big marlin and wound up taking top place in both tuna and marlin.”

“I need a bigger boat”

They hadn’t loaded the boat with marlin gear because that wasn’t their target species. Amador is a “real muscular young guy,” Koby says, but the fish still gave the strong young fisherman everything he could handle during the 5½-hour battle on tackle that was lighter than they normally would have used for marlin.

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“His arms were cramping up so bad that we had everything we could do to maintain control of the fish,” Koby said. “There were three times where the fish was under the boat, and Juan was over the side of the boat. We had the rod tethered to him, and him tied to the tower of the boat.

“Three times after five hours, it looked like there was no chance that this fish was coming in the boat.”

Once Amador battled the fish to the boat, the next question was how four guys in their 70s from Wisconsin and Minnesota were going to help their younger Mexican team members get the fish onboard, Koby says.

His first thought: I need a bigger boat.

“We wound up getting three gaffs into the fish and then we were able to get a rope on his bill,” Koby said. “Between the six of us, we were first able to get his head in, and then we all got on the rope and pulled.

“The thing was still kicking and thrashing when it came in, and it put its bill through the bolster on the other side of my boat – it was all hands on deck to get him in. It was dicey across the board.”

By that time, it was starting to get dark, and they had about an hour to make the 35-mile run from their fishing spot in the Sea of Cortez back to the scales at Cabo San Lucas by 9 p.m. – with nearly 600 pounds of extra weight onboard – to avoid being disqualified, Koby says. They also knew a 507-pound fish had been weighed in.

“And then the question is – we’re trying to use the old tape measure routine – is this going to beat 507 even if we do make it back in time?” Koby said. “So, we were pretty pleasantly surprised.”

Day in the sun

Landing the fish would have been tough without Amador’s strength and stamina, Koby says.

“He was the youngest and the strongest and when we got back to the scale, all the folks at the tournament wanted to know which one of the famous gringo anglers caught it,” Koby said. “I told them right away, this is Juan’s day in the sun and he deserved the win.”

Sailfish selfie.jpg
As Roberto Beltran of San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, snaps a selfie, Jim Koby of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and Juan Guillermo Amador of San Jose del Cabo kneel beside the massive black marlin they landed on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, to win the Bisbee's Los Cabos Offshore Charity Tournament in Mexico. Amador battled the 555-pound marlin for 5½ hours before they finally got it into the boat to win big billfish honors and win the entire tournament. Standing at right and partially obscured is Jim Rosenwald of Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota.
Contributed/Jim Koby

By landing the biggest marlin, team “Feelin’ Azul” also became the first team in the history of the tournament to win both the tuna and marlin categories, Koby says.

“Thus far with the marlin tournaments in the Baja (Peninsula), the 555 is the largest marlin to be taken in the tournament this year,” Koby said. “What we were competing against is (some) of the best marlin fishermen on the planet fishing this tournament that we won. So, these guys are the best of the best and they’re focused on catching big marlin.

“We’re very pleased.”

Added Arnesen: “It’s kind of fun when you can go and beat those guys out.”

All of the fish caught during the Los Cabos Offshore tournament are donated to orphanages or sold, with the proceeds distributed to orphanages for dental work and medical care, Koby says.

“The fish all go to a good cause,” he said. “My team would have really liked to eat the 175-pound yellowfin tuna, but it went to the kids in the orphanage. And it was good for $101,000 so at the end of the day, everybody was happy.”

For Arnesen and Koby, fishing tuna and giant marlin is quite the contrast from the early years of their friendship fishing walleyes on Lake of the Woods, Koby says, adding he still gets excited about catching a big walleye on light line. Arnesen started fishing tournaments with Koby down in Cabo in 2010 or 2011.

“I’m usually down there through the winter and Jack comes down and fishes with me through the winter so we spend a lot of time fishing together,” Koby said. “We’re great friends. He’s a great fisherman.”

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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