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Friday, August 10, 2001
Home Edition
Section: Sports
Page: D-9

Sports Weekend


Giver Receives Surprise Bounty From the Sea


Jim Dillon is one of the good guys, an avid fisherman who never sought recognition but perhaps is deserving of some.

The retired San Diego businessman, whose humanitarian efforts in Southern California and Mexico are admirable if not widely recognized, might soon be recognized by the fishing community as the man who caught the largest dorado ever on rod and reel.

Dillon's dorado (they're also called dolphinfish and mahi-mahi), which struck with fury and dashed off "like a tornado," came in after a 30-minute fight and tipped the Cabo San Lucas scale at a whopping 90 pounds.

If approved by the International Game Fish Assn., it will become both the all-tackle world record, breaking the existing record by two pounds, and the men's 80-pound line-class record.

"I'm sure people have hooked bigger dorado, but for whatever reasons no one has been able to land one," Dillon said, giving much of the credit to Capt. Salvador Nunez Ocampo for his handling of the vessel, and to deckhand Jesus Zavala Soto.

Dillon, 55, who spends one week each month in Cabo San Lucas, is co-owner, with Nunez, of the 29-foot charter boat El Budster.

The boat is named after Buddy, Dillon's collie mix, who is part of a canine interaction program run by Dillon's girlfriend, Lesley Sargent. Buddy has spent "thousands of hours" with elderly hospital patients and sick children, Dillon said, "to brighten their lives, put a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts."

The program is only one facet of the Dillon Foundation, which was created in 1992 and has since opened a food bank in Cabo San Lucas and delivered schoolbooks, computers and medical supplies to the poorer areas of the resort city at the tip of the Baja California peninsula.

While Dillon likes to "make the quality of life better for other people," he also likes to fish.

He was targeting marlin on the morning of July 31, getting no action and about to reel in and switch to larger lures when the bull dorado struck. Despite the heavy tackle and the reel's tight drag, line spun off so rapidly that Dillon was sure he had hooked a marlin.

"When we first saw the fish come out of the water it was about 150 yards away," Dillon said. "It was so far off, but we could still tell that it was a pretty big fish. I thought it was a marlin because the line was singing off the reel so fast, like a tornado, creating this big wind."

When the wind settled, the iridescent green and golden dorado was brought alongside the boat, stuck with a gaff and hauled over the rail, giving its captor a chance to make angling history.

While Dillon wasn't after a record, he said he's as deserving of one as anyone. Perhaps more so.

"I think it's a payback from the people of Mexico," he said. "Maybe it's their way of saying thanks."


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