Bisbee’s Goes to Hollywood

The upcoming Netflix film Blue Miracle is the story of an orphanage that won the world’s richest billfish tournament
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On May 27, Netflix will premiere the film Blue Miracle, which tells the story of an orphanage that managed to fish in and (spoiler alert) win the 2014 Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Tournament in Cabo San Lucas.

Bob Bisbee founded the Black & Blue in 1981, when Cabo San Lucas — on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula — was just a small fishing village. Six boats fished the first tourney, but from those humble beginnings, it grew into a mega-event, dolling out big money to winners year after year.

Netflix will start streaming Blue Miracle on May 27.

Netflix will start streaming Blue Miracle on May 27.

Bisbee’s children, Wayne and Tricia, took over the event in the mid-90s and continued to grow it. The number of entrants swelled to more than 100 for several years, and on two occasions, the tournament awarded $3 million checks.

But the 2014 Bisbee tournament was unlike any other. Five weeks before the start, Hurricane Odile devastated Cabo. Houses fell. Hotels and restaurants sustained major damage. The marina was full of debris and busted-up docks.

Bisbee and his family wasted no time. They flew to Cabo and worked alongside locals and other organizations to help with the rebuilding effort. It was a major undertaking, but they were able to host the tournament. They also able made a major impact on the area.

Through the Bisbee Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund, they supplied 2,000 clean-water systems, built 15 homes, funded the repairs of local charter boats and distributed food. But it was the Bisbee Cabo Charter Hook-Up program that made the 2014 tournament so special. An anonymous donor put up $250,000 to pay the $5,000 entry fee for 50 local charter boats. This helped put the crews in position to potentially win a major payout in a tournament they typically wouldn’t fish because of the high cost to enter.

One of the entries went to Omar Castaneda, the director of Casa Hogar, a local orphanage that was home to 42 boys at the time. Casteneda fielded a team with three boys from the orphanage and fished with local captain Ernie Cossio.

On the second day of the tournament, Castaneda, who had never fished offshore, hooked a big blue marlin. After chasing the jumping marlin and using all of his energy to fight it, the team boated the fish and headed to the scales. The marlin weighed in at 385 pounds.

The 385-pound blue marlin that won the tournament, netting the team a $258,325 payout. 

The 385-pound blue marlin that won the tournament, netting the team a $258,325 payout. 

“It was incredible!” Castaneda yelled as he and the boys made their way to the judge’s table. “We had a great team and teamwork. It’s very encouraging for the boys.”

The blue marlin went on to win the tournament, netting the team a $258,325 payout, which was donated to Casa Hogar.

Blue Miracle is a heart-warming story. Can you pick apart the fishing scenes? Yes, but this is a Hollywood movie, not a Flip Pallot fishing show. To make the movie a success, it had to have drama, love interests, tender moments and humor.

Dennis Quaid plays the part of Captain Wade, a fictional character who is down on his luck. The boat in the film is beyond beaten up. It looks like it’s built of plywood and rust. It doesn’t have outriggers or a flybridge. It doesn’t look much like a sportfish at all.

The boat’s name is Knot Enough, and it’s a far cry from the top-shelf boats on the docks in Cabo. The film has its Hollywood movie-making moments, with lots of banter among the boys, some touching moments, a few tear-jerky scenes and all that good stuff.

The fishing scenes come off a bit cheesy, but the storyline is heart-warming.

The fishing scenes come off a bit cheesy, but the storyline is heart-warming.

There’s fishing, too, and what appears to be actual footage from a Bisbee tournament. I have to say, seeing a big marlin tournament — and the impact it had on these young people — on Netflix is pretty dang cool, even if it is a tad cheesy.

My favorite part about all of this is that Wayne Bisbee, who’s been around fishing and boats his entire life, is portrayed by the actor Bruce McGill. McGill played the character D-Day in National Lampoon’s Animal House. McGill is a good bit older than Bisbee, but it’s cool to see him in Blue Miracle.

The Bisbee family — Bob died in 2018 — is hosting a premiere party in Texas, where they are based. It’s a “black tie” affair, but flip flops and boardshorts will be allowed.

“We are proud and honored to be featured in the Netflix original movie Blue Miracle and continue our partnership and support for Casa Hogar,” Bisbee says.

A Quick Postscript

After watching the movie, I have a few comments and cautions I wanted to share. First off, it’s a feel-good story. Something you could watch with your kids. A break in the ugly news cycle. A very Hollywood version of a real-life miracle.

But the fishing scenes are horrendous. So much so that I actually laughed out loud at the unintended humor. The boats and crews that fish the Bisbee are some of the best in the world. Multi-million-dollar boats with every fish-finding tool known to man are what you find fishing the tournaments in Cabo. Not whatever the hell the Knot Enough was. The death box that is Capt. Wade’s boat must’ve been built for the movie. It’s so wrong in every way. He’s supposed to be some sort of famous marlin fisherman, a two-time winner of the Bisbee, but the moviemakers make him look ridiculous, at least fishing wise.

My favorite part was when the captain decides to put out the lines. Now keep in mind marlin fishing is almost always a trolling affair. Well, not for our fictitious two-time winner, he puts the boat in neutral or shuts her down completely I couldn’t really tell, takes out his lucky trolling lure that he keeps in a wooden box, tosses it in the water and says, “lines set!” That was the first moment I burst out laughing. A marlin spread involves multiple rods, teasers, rigging, organization, you just don’t stick a rod in a holder that for some reason was in the middle of the transom and call it done.

Only in Hollywood could a trolling lure, sinking in the water hook a marlin. And the fish-fighting scenes, oh dear lord. The captain parks himself next to the angler (who is in a portable fighting chair with no harness) and gives motivational speeches. In a real-life situation, the captain would be at the helm, maneuvering the boat to gain line and fight the fish. It’s outlandish.

The movie does not show the gaff shot or hauling the billfish into the boat. I could not imagine this rag-tag crew leadering a blue marlin. I kind of appreciate the director skipping all of that. And any blood on deck would’ve put a crack in the fine veneer that makes this pic a family affair.

When the camera scans down from the crew’s faces to the marlin on deck and reveals this plastic-looking, day-glow painted fish resembling one of those big fish pillows you see in the tackle department at a big box store, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. It was hilarious.

I think you should watch this movie. It’s a fun story and it’s fun to pick out the 100 or so erroneous fishing moves this two-time winning fictional captain makes.

- Charlie Levine

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