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Local fisherman rewrites record book

By SEAN CLARK Beach & Bay Press

When Jim Dillon's reel began screaming and howling at 8:15 in the morning off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, he had no idea that 30 minutes later he would make history. On July 31, Dillon landed a 90-pound dorado, and up until that glorious Tuesday morning, no dorado of that magnitude had ever been caught before. Dillon is now a world-record holder. Pending certification from the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), Dillon will actually enter the record books with two records. His 90-pound dorado - more commonly known as mahi mahi - will be the all-tackle world record for that particular fish, breaking the old mark by 2 pounds. He used an 80-pound test Trilene, which will set the IGFA's line-class world record for 80-pound test line, shattering the mark by 10 pounds.

"There are hundreds of thousands of people that fish for this kind of fish every year," Dillon said. "When you look at it from that perspective, it's mind boggling. I was pretty stunned. The 54-year-old fisherman who is a longtime Pacific Beach resident said it is rare that dorados get as big as the one he caught. Although someone may have caught one bigger, it has never been recorded. "I tell people when they go fishing that if they catch a fish at all it should be considered a bonus," Dillon said. "If I would have known what the world record was or had my heart set on it, I probably would have lost the fish." But thanks to Dillon's humble approach to the imposing ocean waters and its inhabitants, along with a skillful captain and adept first mate, Dillon battled the big bull and 30 minutes later, the record books were rewritten.

The lifetime angler credits boat captain Salvador Nunez Ocampo and first mate Jesus "Chuey" Soto with the capture of "el dorado," indicating that the prize fish is more satisfying because of the folklore and respect that will accompany the native Mexicans. "More importantly for me, it's extremely important for Salvador and Chuey because of the recognition that they'll get among their peers," Dillon said. "Their heads will be a little higher and there will be a little more kick in their step. It's something they'll be able to have forever and that surpasses what I'm going to get out of it." In a nutshell, that is the kind of attitude that sums up Dillon's approach to life. An avid and longtime altruist, his charitable Dillon Foundation has provided aid and support to many needy individuals across Baja as well as Southern California.

During his frequent fishing trips down south, Dillon provides clothing, food and other items for the less fortunate as well as a number of scholarships and charitable donations at the local level. In fact, after all the measurements and photographs were taken of the record-breaking fish, it was filleted and given out. "Ninety-five percent of the fish was left in Mexico and given to the people," he said. When catching fish the size that requires a belt for the rod to fit in and a club to gaff the fighting fish in the head, Dillon pointed out how important it is to have a crew that is familiar with each other, minimizing mistakes and ensuring the fish doesn't get away. "The guys that are most successful are the guys that have worked together for a long time and know what the other guys are doing," he said. "Not only do you have to have a good boat and good gear and knowledge, but you have to have the ability of working together." Ocampo has been the captain of Dillon's 29-foot day cruiser, El Budster, for 11 years now and said he trusts his crew so much that he does not even think about what they are doing in the heat of battle. "When I'm fighting the fish, I'm real focused on what's going on and pretty much oblivious to what my deck hands are doing," Dillon said. "You really need to get in a zone because if you don't, you'll probably lose the fish."

Dillon said at first he thought he had hooked a marlin because of the struggle and the fact his line had trolled about 150 yards out from the boat. It wasn't until the fish was about 50 yards away that he realized it was a dorado. "It's a magnificent fish," he said. "It's one of the prettiest fish in the ocean." Even though it took all three men to get the fish on board, Dillon said no one really considered it a record-breaking catch. It wasn't until Dillon was on his way back to his hotel when he stopped off to get some tourist brochures that the owner told him he had broken the world record. Although it has been a surreal experience for Dillon, he said it is really secondary to just being on the water. "As strange as it sounds, its not a matter of catching fish," he said. "For me it's all about the ambience of it all."

Dillon began fishing as young boy with his father. When he was 12, Dillon's father passed away leaving only the memories of countless hours of drifting on the Pacific Ocean. "Fishing is something I feel very comfortable and very good about," Dillon said. "It's something I try do as often as possible because of the time I spent with my father. I still have very fond memories of fishing with him." Though Dillon did not know on July 31 at 8:15 in the morning that he would be a world record holder, maybe other forces navigating his fate did.

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