BY MIKE STEVENS
Ten-week event where everyday anglers fish for huge prize packages
SAN CLEMENTE – Fish when you want, how you want and for what you want during a 10-week stretch in the peak of the summer in the 2023 installment of the WON Big Fish Challenge (BFC). Weekly prizes are also a big part of it, and an angler can get involved for a very modest entry fee.
The premise is simple: head over to WONews.com/product/bigfishchallenge to sign up and get up to speed with the rules, weigh-station locations and prizes. The entry fee is $50, and the target species are tuna, yellowtail, white seabass, halibut and lingcod.
Once registered for the BFC, any time a participant is fishing from a sport boat, private boat, kayak, float tube, surfboard, Jetski or anything else that floats during the 10 weeks between June 30 and Sept. 7 is competing to catch the biggest model of each species. Any qualifying fish caught and registered at one of the many official BFC weigh stations located up and down the coast is in the running, and a leaderboard will appear on WONews.com as well as printed in the paper. When the smoke clears following the final buzzer in September, the angler with the biggest fish for each species gets an incredible grand prize package. The biggest of each fish each week also scores a weekly prize pack.
If this sounds like a no-brainer because you’re “going to be fishing anyway,” well, that’s where you’re right. Now, in addition to filling your freezer, chasing jackpots and setting new personal bests, you’re fishing for one of five very impressive grand-prize packages. This in addition to some respectable weekly prizes that are pretty easy to lock up, in fact, some of them go unclaimed simply because a BFC angler didn’t bother registering a catch because “it’s probably not big enough,” when a barely-legal halibut (for example) would have grabbed a prize that week.
Eligible waters are the standard Southern California – and northern Baja for that matter – hit list, between Point Conception (34.44811 degrees north) and Punta Colonet (31.06755 degrees south) if you want to really get down to the fine details.
All BFC rules are posted at WONews.com, and this is just a basic overview of the Big Fish Challenge, but the following is taken directly from the official BFC rulebook:
To submit an entry, the angler will E-MAIL a photo and specific information about their catch to WONBIGFISH@wonews.com. This photo must be taken at an official weigh station. Using the tournament weigh-station board provided, pertinent catch information, including angler name, date, fish species and weight must be readily visible within the submitted photograph.
That was a new addition (emailing entries) added a few years ago that made it even easier for the anglers to submit a qualifying catch.
Each year, new official weigh stations are added to the list as more relevant businesses step up to get involved. They include well-known tackle shops, landings, fuel docks and more. The complete list including hours of operation of each is also located at WONews.com/product/bigfishchallenge.
The five grand prize packages are already beefy, but based on BFCs past, that can still fatten up even after the event is underway.
The grand prize packages as it stands now each include:
- $500 cash from title sponsor, Mercury Marine.
- Costa sunglasses
- Furuno Fish Finder
- Penn rod and reel
- Plano Z-Rap
- Gamakatsu hooks
- Global Fish Mount of the winning fish
- Terrafin subscription
- 976Bite.com subscription
- Berkley Braid
- Chevron-Techron marine fuel system treatment
Weekly prizes are set to include AFW (HI-SEAS) Leader line and Gamakatsu hooks.
Gamakatsu hooks and line and other gear from AFW/HI-SEAS. The specific details of each prize package can also be found on the BFC area of WONews.com.
Even while standing as the ultimate “everyman” fishing competition, there are still participants who have been in for years if not from the beginning who just “get it” and are always in the hunt for a grand prize. Since the BFC kicked off, we’ve had a winner of two grand prize packages in the same year when a guy (a kayak angler no less) wound up on top of two species categories. We’ve had back-to-back winners in a single category as well as for one species one year and another fish for the next. As tournament organizers, we’ve also seen the trends shift one year to the next as far as winners coming from party boats versus ‘yaks versus private boats. There really is no way to predict what kind of year it’s going to be in that respect, and BFC organizers have also not picked up on any advantage one type of angler has over another. It truly is a level playing field.
Anyone can sign up and get involved at any point of the event. With such a low entry fee, a lot of entrants including some grand-prize winners did it that way, but there’s no question being in from the beginning offers the best shot at winning.
For all the info on the WON Big Fish Challenge including a detailed prize list, rules, official weigh in locations, and registration and to keep tabs on the leader board once it starts, head on over to WONEWS.com/BigFishChallenge