WON-Suzuki Marine California Yellowtail Jackpot hits Point Loma June 11

THEY REALLY HAD NO IDEA – Team Desert Rampage out of Arizona were in complete shock when Billy Egan of WON announced them as the winner of the inaugural California Yellowtail Jackpot. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS


The second-annual private-boat tournament comes from a proven, successful format


POINT LOMA – The WON-Suzuki Marine California Yellowtail Jackpot was launched last spring, and for all intents and purposes, the event can be considered the little brother of the California Tuna Jackpot that was conceived and successfully executed despite all the uncertainty surrounding the summer of 2020. Both events showed a lot of promise right out of the gates, and the second running of the California Yellowtail Jackpot is set to go off out of Point Loma on June 11.


Like its tuna-centric predecessor that provided the mold for these new private boater events from WON, the WON California Yellowtail Jackpot will be headquartered at the historic Marlin Club which is conveniently located on the water in San Diego Bay. The Marlin Club has its own docks, scales, ample street parking, and its own parking lot is converted into tourney headquarters with tables, seating, prizes on display, vendor booths, food and drinks.

Like all WON events, California Yellowtail Jackpot is powered by generous sponsors that provide prizes for top finishers as well as for the popular raffle that goes down on the spot following the fishing. How the prizes will be distributed is still being ironed out, but most of what’s up for grabs is currently locked in with plenty of time to add more to the pile.

WON TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR Billy Egan weighs in a contender in last year’s California Yellowtail Jackpot for Nick Patino of Team A-Salt-Life. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

As the title sponsor, Suzuki is providing a serious chunk of cash that will be added to the overall winner’s take home. Penn has a big presence in the California Yellowtail Jackpot and has announced its presence with six Penn Fathom FTH25N 2-speed, lever-drag reels. There are also six matching Penn Carnage III rods teamed up with those reels resulting in a top-shelf West Coast outfit. Six lucky anglers will go home with one of six pairs of premium sunglasses from Costa, and a Furuno 1871F GPS/Chartplotter/Fishfinder will also go home with a Jackpot participant. HUK Performance Fishing apparel will be outfitting a handful of anglers in technical clothing.  Gamakatsu a total of 200 packs of 1/0 and 2/0 live bait and Nautilus circle hooks, some 20-liter waterproof backpacks, G-Box Reversible 3600 Utility Cases, packs of Superline Split Rings, and Gamakatsu Assist 620 HD hooks that fill a wide range of roles off the California Coast. There’s Sea Falcon jigs and a Sea Falcon Jig Roll Bag that will also be awarded at the California Yellowtail Jackpot. Igloo products tend to make their way into the prize pile as well as Seaguar fluorocarbon, but the exact nature of their involvement is yet to be determined at this point.

The nuts and bolts of the California Yellowtail Jackpot is as follows: it’s a 1-day format for private boat teams of at least 2 and a max of 6 anglers per boat. Each team will shoot for the top 3 largest yellowtail on Saturday, June 11, and the teams finding themselves among the top 3 when the dust clears will score the one of the three general-entry payouts. Based on a 50-team field, the payouts will be $10,000 for first, $5,000 for second and $3,000 for third. Of course, that first place cash prize is in addition to whatever sponsor prizes tournament organizers earmark for top finishing teams.


The entry fee is $400 per team of 2 to 4 and an additional $100 per angler for a max of 6 per boat. There will be optional yellowtail and tuna jackpots for even more cash, and 5 percent of all optional jackpots collected will be donated to Make-a-Wish San Diego.

Teams are encouraged to sign up as early as possible with at least their general entry, so WON staffers can make sure all team members are registered and have completed the necessary paperwork to be eligible for team earnings. Each team member must complete and send back an event waiver form prior to the start of the tournament.

WEIGHING IN at San Diego Marlin Club couldn’t be more convenient. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

There has been an upgrade to the launch process for the San Diego Yellowtail Jackpot (and the S.D. Tuna Jackpot for that matter). Starting this year, it will be a shotgun start following an on-the-water check-in at a pre-determined area near the mouth of San Diego Bay. Registered teams can launch from anywhere within San Diego Bay, and once the teams have checked in (by holding up their team number and doing a “fly by” on the start boat), the Tournament Director will unleash the field at “earliest safe light.” Then, it’s “lines in” whenever each boat reaches its fishing area.

Registered teams may launch a from San Diego Bay, and all tournament fish must be presented to the official weigh station by boat at the San Diego Marlin Club with all team members on board. The weigh-in will be held at the S.D Marlin Club dock between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. on June 11. All teams must be inside the Ballast Point landmark entry of the bay by 6:00 p.m. to be eligible to weigh their catch. The awards presentation and raffle will commence at 7:30 p.m. in the Marlin Club parking lot.

Private boats of all shapes and sizes are represented in both of these Jackpot events, and both project to grow exponentially over the years and gain a following as a well-run, prize-laden and heavily supported and fun fishing tournament for the Southern California saltwater angling community.

OPTIONAL DOMINANCE – Cleaning up on the optionals was familiar territory for Team Reel Eze, as they did the same thing in the California Tuna Jackpot in 2020. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

In 2021, The first-annual WON California Yellowtail Jackpot went off without a hitch and was highlighted by an absolutely shocked winning team, a huge tuna that cleaned up on optional payouts and some promising groundwork in an inaugural event with a bright future. Conditions varied from one team to the next depending on where they fished and the size of their boat, but overall, the stage allowed for respectable fishing for the signature saltwater fish of Southern California.

When the dust settled, the top three teams atop the leaderboard were the winners, Desert Rampage followed by Papa Off Duty and A-Salt-Life. Team Reel Eze finished fourth, but they cleaned up in a way they’re no stranger to when competing in WON events, more on them later.

Team Desert Rampage out of Arizona were the first to weigh in, and they hit the scale with three yellowtail for a total weight of 19.8 pounds. Knowing that wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire by San Diego standards, they left the weigh-in area with the potential of winning the thing nowhere near on their minds, and visibly worn out from what sounded like a rough morning of paddy hopping offshore.


With plenty of time to kill before the awards ceremony, they left tourney headquarters at San Diego Marlin Club for a couple hours only to return for the raffle. The fact Desert Rampage wasn’t around for the rest of the weigh-ins only added to the shock when WON Tournament Director Billy Egan announced them as the winner to close the event. In fact, when they came back for the awards ceremony, they jokingly asked Egan (who was finalizing the standings) how they did, and he told them, “you won!” WON staffers in attendance weren’t crazy about Egan letting the cat out of the bag, but the thing was, it was quite clear when their name was called as the overall winners, they really didn’t believe it.

The second-place winner was the complete opposite of Desert Rampage in that they were not only the last team to weigh in, but they just made it past the landmark in San Diego Bay pegged as the “must be past here by this time or be disqualified” spot just before the buzzer sounded. That was Team Papa Off Duty who only turned in one yellow, but it was the biggest of the event at 11.6 pounds. According to Kody Kessell of San Diego, that fish was caught on a surface iron at the Coronado Islands, and when he found out they were in the money, he was immediately distraught over the fact they lost a fish in the same weight class. Papa Off Duty also did not enter any of the yellowtail optionals, so there was they did not pick up any additional payouts for the largest forkie of the tournament. They did go home with a respectable check for the second-place finish.

Like many WON events, cash optionals were a big part of the inaugural California Yellowtail Jackpot, and in this particular event it was a very familiar team cleaning house in that department. Team Reel Eze finished just out of the top-3 money when Papa Off Duty showed up at the buzzer and bumped them to fourth place, but it was a big bluefin that drew a crowd as it was winched from the Reel Eze and carted up the rarmp to the Marlin Club’s IGFA certified scale where it rang up 184.4 pounds. That fish was caught by San Diego angler Shane Wrightson who hooked up on an 80-pound-test sinker rig and sardine at the 371 at 10 a.m. and battled for 35 minutes before the gaff hit home. That fish locked up the $1,000, 500 and 200 tuna optionals for Reel Eze which meant they took home a check for $7,980.

Last summer, Reel Eze took second place in the inaugural WON California Tuna Jackpot but similarly mopped up in the optionals, so clearly they know what they’re doing. According to Wrightson, they “hit over 40 kelps” in their yellowtail hunting that day, and his teammate Jeff Stewart said “the green water kelps were not holding fish,” so even those guys had to work for their yellows, even though they played second fiddle to the big tuna.

There were some other impressive catches in the event that didn’t qualify in the Jackpot but are worth mentioning. Team Get Knotty hauled a kill bag containing a 46.4-pound white seabass caught by WON Lake Havasu Striper Derby regular, Steven Methey. That fish ate a trolled yellowtail lure, and Get Knotty also caught a 13.8-pound halibut. Team Savage brought in a 28.6-pound tuna that didn’t move the needle in the event, but at least they had dinner.

Overall, the WON California Yellowtail Jackpot disbursed over $40,000 in payouts and sponsor prizes. That and the $14,800-plus cash purse for optionals and top-3 payouts is going to increase dramatically now that the inaugural event is in the rear-view mirror and event staffers look to fatten it up all around and more teams get involved moving forward.


For more information, rules and registration for the first-annual WON California Yellowtail Jackpot, find it under the EVENTS tab at WONews.com. You can also contact Tournament Director Billy Egan at (949) 366-0248 or at bille@wonews.com.

SAN DIEGO MARLIN CLUB is the perfect location for hosting a fishing tournament for a lot of reasons. Having its own docks (and lift and scale for that matter) came into play here. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS