SPORT BOATS HEAD FOR THE TUNA GROUNDS OFF THE OREGON COAST. (DEL STEPHENS/OREGON TUNA CLASSIC))

What’s New With The 2012 Oregon Tuna Classic

Editor’s note: Even as the Northwest’s salty dogs eye the ocean in hopes of making one more halibut raid or prepare for what should be a stellar salmon season, another set of anglers is focusing on the western horizon’s horizon.

This morning I got a pair of sea-surface temperature maps from albacore assassin Harold Ford who pointed out that since May 1, that dark-green line representing the 59-degree ocean waters that tuna slash their way through has crept north from the 35th parallel to the 40th parallel.

Though still well out to sea, barring weirdness like last year’s season which saw a very slow start, late arrival of the fish and down catches, especially off Washington, we’re gearing up for the fishery with three articles in our July issue!

And today, Del Stephens, past chairman of the Oregon Tuna Classic, details what’s new with the event this year in the below press release:

What’s new with the Oregon Tuna Classic in 2012

It’s been a quiet winter for Northwest tuna fanatics but that’s all about to change in the next few weeks. July 4th is the traditional kickoff for when tuna show up off the Oregon and Washington coast but don’t tell that to the “Tuna Aholics” hanging out on the Salty Dogs chat forum on Ifish.net because I can assure you if the water warms up a tad bit a few folks will be sneaking offshore to try and land the first albacore of the season. Some publicize their intent while others just quietly sneak out of the harbor and hope to get into the longfins then radio in their “hooked up.”

Ah the words we love to hear.

Some of you are probably wondering why this press release is coming from me since I stepped down as chairman of the OTC when things wrapped up last season. Simple fact is they won’t let me off the board until they figure out what they’re doing but that’s coming along nicely. After five years of running this organization and watching it grow Weddy and I will still be tied to it in some fashion or another for quite some time.

Plans are being finalized for the 8th Oregon Tuna Classic season and just when you think it can’t get any better we’ve added some exciting new changes.

SPORT BOATS HEAD FOR THE TUNA GROUNDS OFF THE OREGON COAST. (DEL STEPHENS/OREGON TUNA CLASSIC))

Garmin came jumped onboard last year as a new sponsor and had such a great experience with this group of anglers it was no surprise when they expressed their interest in becoming the title sponsor and signed a two-year agreement. We are excited to partner with them going forward as the OTC continues to grow.

Last year participants were on the edge of their seats when we added the live weigh-in format, keeping everyone in suspense until the last moment. If you’ve have ever watched a FLW or Bassmasters weigh-in you know what I’m talking about. They do it in front of a large crowd and last year it was such a big hit we’re tweaking it to add a little more suspense. This year there will be 12 large PA speakers and a very large big screen to watch the leader board. It will feature sponsor logos rolling through it while during the weigh in.

This will be the third season designated as qualifying events by the IGFA for the IGFA Offshore World Championships. In May Team Tre Fin represented the Oregon Tuna Classic in the Offshore World Championships and did a very nice job of competing against some of the local Cabo San Lucas talent putting up a respectable 17th place finish out of 48 teams from around the world. Next year we’ll be sending another team to the IGFA Offshore World Championships which will be in Costa Rica.

The biggest change you’ll see this year is there will only be two events but they will be bigger. Traditionally the Garibaldi and Ilwaco events have dwarfed the other two events in Newport and Charleston. Those two larger venues typically each draw 600-750 people with about 150 spectators vs. 100-140 people at the two smaller venues. The ocean has been rough every year at Newport, cancelling the fishing portion of that event the first four years and we probably should’ve cancelled the fishing portion the last three years. Charleston was a great venue but the novelty wore off for many people to travel that far.

JOHN BOND SHOWS OFF AN ALBACORE CAUGHT OUT OF GARIBALDI IN SUMMER 2009. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

It was fun in the beginning creating and building these events up but frankly tuna fishing is not a cheap sport and the cost for a team to travel to four events is about $1,500 per event then couple that with the amount of time it takes and many folks have consumed their summer leaving their families wondering what happened to dad.

In 2011 we debated cutting the two smaller venues because they were getting smaller while at the same time the other two larger venues were still showing excellent growth. After the 2011 season we lost about $10,000 on the Newport and Charleston events making it more of a business decision to cut them and take the two larger events and enhance them.

There will still be still be four days of fishing between the two larger events which will help since the Garibaldi folks will be giving some of their tuna to the Lincoln County Food Bank.

The charter boat guys keep asking for a piece of the action so this year we’ve added a charter boat division to the Ilwaco event. Participants also keep asking for more ways to win so we have added more side pots. They’ll fish Friday, Saturday and wrap things up with a vendor day Sunday morning followed by the live weigh-in, bbq and awards mid day.

And if you think this sport is leveling off, think again. By the end of June I will have given 19 seminars this year. Likewise the average size of the boats is still getting bigger. In the first two seasons the average size was 24- to 26-foot and the last two seasons that average is closer to 30 to 33 feet.

Just ask the guys at Weldcraft and Duckworth how sales are going on their offshore series of boats.

COOLING 'EM DOWN. (C/V RANGER)

The OTC has continued to make improvements each year and the board has recognized there are really three key elements to these events. First and foremost they are about feeding the hungry. Second, it’s about providing a platform for sport fishermen to come together to help their fellow brothers in need and acknowledging their efforts. And third, it’s driven by the generous support of some really great sponsors who I have enjoyed working with over these past few years. The OTC will continue to highlight those sponsors in as many ways possible to acknowledge their participation and generosity as a partner in our efforts.

If you’re a sponsor we thank you for your support, if you’re a participant we look forward to seeing you at the events, if you are a volunteer we are so appreciative of your help and if your someone who hasn’t witnessed the contagious energy of 700 people inside the big tent then you’re missing out and we welcome you to join us. I have more time to fish this year since I’m not running things so if you’re someone who’s been itching to ride along and see what all the fuss is about drop me a line and I’ll be glad to let you tag along on one of my trips and introduce you to what we call the “Dark Side.”

Tight Lines

Del Stephens
Past Chairman