Waterman's Journal

Jul 30, 2020

Pelagic’s California Tuna Challenge Makes Impact as Richest Sportfishing Tournament in SoCAL's Recent History

47 teams competed for nearly $150,000 in cash prizes with Team CHUMP CHANGE besting fleet with a 197.8-lb. bluefin tuna to win $97,238.

July 25, 2020 – San Diego, CA – Cool, overcast mornings give way to bluebird skies with mild, ocean breezes and perfect temperate weather hovering around 80°F by noon… that’s our standard weather pattern along the Southern California coastline during prime mid-summer months each year. And while scores of California’s non-coastal residents flock to the endless miles of wide, sandy beaches to escape our inland’s dry, desert heat, the attention of SoCAL’s core offshore fishermen shifts to the bounty of big game pelagics found just off the Pacific coast.

Their main quarry: large schools of Pacific Bluefin Tuna; many of which eclipse 300-lbs. These fish some 10-years past were simply unheard of in these waters, but have come back in full force thriving on a giant influx of bait shoals – providing a strong, cyclical reminder of scenes reminiscent of the early 1900’s Avalon Tuna Club days where legends like Zane Grey fought giant swordfish & tuna on vintage, wooden rods with linen line and fish as far as the eye can see.

Tails Up! Team KONA displays a sampling of  Pacific Bluefin Tuna at the Tournament's Official Weigh StationTuna Tails-Pelagic California Tuna ChallengePelagic CA Tuna Challenge_Bluefin Tuna

The Pelagic California Tuna Challenge embraces this core fishing culture of Southern California – and with another banner season already underway for large tuna offshore, the tournament offered the chance to target these incredible gamefish with the opportunity to win some serious cash. Teams were able to leave from any marina or launch facility in the greater Southern California region, & bring in their heaviest tuna to be weighed at host venue – The Marlin Club San Diego.

Established in 1931, The Marlin Club is San Diego’s oldest fishing club. Rich in history and an official IGFA sanctioned weigh facility, the clubhouse, which is located waterfront on Shelter Island Drive, was established in 1952 with the purpose of maintaining a free, certified weigh station for the sport fishing public of San Diego. A perfect venue to honor past times while celebrating the incredible sport fishing of recent years in Southern California with a new tuna tournament.

Sport fishing history, trophies, records, & nostalgia abound in The Marlin Club's HQ - host venue for the Pelagic CA Tuna ChallengeThe Marlin Club - San Diego, California - Pelagic Tuna ChallengeThe Marlin Club - San Diego, California - Shelter Island

Joining us as official beverage partners for this first-year event were two of Southern California’s favorite craft brew and spirit icons – Ballast Point Brewing & Cutwater Spirits. Each brand provided their branded swag while serving up their respective canned brews or refreshing cocktails of choice to all of-age tournament participants.

Frosty beverage, anyone? Ballast Point Brewing & Cutwater Spirits served up the goods during the eventCutwater Spirits_Bloody Mary_San Diego Pelagic Tuna ChallengeBallast Point Brewing_Fathom IPA_Pelagic CA Tuna Challenge San DiegoBallast Point Brewing_Sculpin IPA_Pelagic CA Tuna Challenge San Diego

Three on-site options were made available for teams to check-in for the tournament with registration open at Pelagic’s Costa Mesa & Solana Beach Flagship Retail locations, as well as The Marlin Club in San Diego.

Pelagic's Costa Mesa Superstore was one of three team check-in venuesPelagic Costa Mesa Retail StorePelagic Costa Mesa Flagship Store

Upon conclusion of registration at 7:00pm on Friday, July 24th, forty-seven teams were officially entered into the Inaugural Pelagic California Tuna Challenge and departed from their respective launch locations with an official lines-in time of 4:00am the following morning. And with nearly $150,000 in cash prizes up for grabs, anticipation was high as to who would win what is now Southern California’s Richest Sport Fishing Tournament.

PelagicGIRL, Gianna Goots, showing off trophies & awards up for grabs to our winning teamsPelagic CA Tuna Challenge_Trophies_PelagicGIRL GiannaPelagic California Tuna Challenge_Trophies

Back at The Marlin Club on Saturday, July 25th, the tournament’s official weigh station opened and began accepting fish to be scored at 2:00pm. However, with the distant proximity of larger fish far off the coast, the bulk of the weigh-in action occurred in early evening as the sun began to set behind San Diego Harbor and the iconic Point Loma landmark.

Hauling & offloading team's bluefin tuna on their way to the scales at The Marlin ClubPacific Bluefin Tuna_Pelagic California Tuna Challenge_The Marlin Club

One of the first teams to hit the scales was Team Wired, cruising into The Marlin Club aboard their immaculate 42’ Freeman Center Console. Captained by Luke Hickey, they scored a respectable 181.0-lb. Pacific Bluefin Tuna which held as third place in the tournament to earn the team $1,175.

Team WIRED secured third place with their 181.0-lb. bluefin tunaBluefin Tuna_Pelagic California Tuna Challenge_Third PlacePelagic California Tuna Challenge_Bluefin Tuna_Third Place

The Yellowtail Jackpot was secured by Team Pacific Point, who weighed a 13.6-lb. California Yellowtail to take home a cool $5,200.

Entering the Yellowtail Jackpot paid off for Team PACIFIC POINTYellowtail_Pelagic California Tuna ChallengeCalifornia Yellowtail_Pelagic Tuna Challenge_San Diego

The real dramatics came when Teams Chump Change and Foot-N-Half weighed in fish that looked to be identical in weight…

First up to weigh in was Team Chump Change who fished aboard the 35’ Cabo Express Bait & Switch. After allowing The Marlin Club’s official scales to settle, Captain Sean Crowley and crew found themselves sitting on top of the leaderboard with their bluefin weighing in at 197.8-lbs. But, would it hold?

"Cow"-sized bluefin tuna for Team CHUMP CHANGEPelagic California Tuna Challenge_First Place_Chump Change

Waiting to weigh-in was Capt. Austin Borden and Team Foot-N-Half, who had a bluefin tuna of their own that looked to be the twin of Team Chump Change. Upon hoisting on the official weigh station, it was only going to be a few ounces separating the top two fish to determine the champion. Marlin Club Weighmaster, Capt. Bob Woodard, made the official call – 196.2-lbs. – a mere 1.6-lbs. shy of the victory, but good enough for second place and a payout of $2,938.

Team FOOT-N-HALF scores 2nd Place Overall with their 196.2-lb. Bluefin TunaPelagic CA Tuna Challenge-Weigh-ins-Foot-N-Half

Congratulations to Team Chump Change on winning the Inaugural Pelagic California Tuna Challenge! They were awarded the coveted first place trophy, a custom Cutwater Spirits x Pelican cooler, and a cash earnings of $97,238.

A hefty payday and first place overall finish for Team CHUMP CHANGE!Pelagic California Tuna Challenge_CHAMPIONS_Chump Change_San Diego

An awards celebration was hosted that night at The Marlin Club as winning teams were announced by Tournament Director, Colin Sarfeh, with trophies, prizes, & ceremonial checks handed out.

Here are how the numbers played out:

  • 1st PlaceCHUMP CHANGE – 197.8 lb. Bluefin Tuna - $97,238.00
  • 2nd PlaceFOOT N HALF – 196.2 lb. Bluefin Tuna - $2,938.00
  • 3rd PlaceWIRED – 181.0 lb. Bluefin Tuna - $1,175.00
  • Yellowtail JackpotPACIFIC POINT – 13.6 lb. California Yellowtail - $5,200.00

PELAGIC would like to thank all forty-seven teams, tournament participants, The Marlin Club San Diego, and our generous sponsors – Ballast Point Brewing & Cutwater Spirits – as well as Peter J Art and Fast & Easy Fish Pick-Up for making this an incredible first-year event. We look forward to seeing you all again next summer for the 2nd Annual Pelagic California Tuna Challenge!

Standard summer send-off from San Diego Harbor... we'll see you next year!Sunset_San Diego Harbor_Shelter Island

Next up in the Pelagic International Tournament Series Tour:

The 5th Annual Pelagic Rockstar Offshore Tournament – Marina Pez Vela [Quepos, Costa Rica] – January 15-17, 2021.

Please visit PELAGIC TOURNAMENT WEBSITE for full tournament calendar.

Check out additional team & event photos from the tournament in the gallery below.