Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament: Kevin Nakamaru earns Chee Award

Kevin Nakamaru grew up around the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament.


Kevin Nakamaru grew up around the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament.

He knows what it means to the Big Island and to the people who travel from all over the world to be a part of it.

And, the captain of the Northern Lights knows all about legendary Capt. Henry Chee and his fishing legacy.

That’s why Nakamaru was so excited to have the top performance by a captain during the recently completed tournament.

“Being a Kona boy, it means a lot to have done well in this tournament, one time in my career at least,” Nakamaru said Saturday night after he was honored with the Henry Chee Memorial Award at the tournament’s annual banquet. “With the Chee family, that’s a great honor for a local boy to win this award. It’s humbling. You watch the tournament go on every year of your life that you’re here. It’s such a big event and has done so much for the community, Hawaii and the Big Island. It’s such a great thing to be a part of.”

Nakamaru, whose parents Kent and Judith-Ann pulled world-record fish from these waters 40 years ago, helped international teams tag and release four blue marlin and catch a 470-pound keeper.

“We had a pretty good week,” said Nakamaru, who was assisted by first mate Kyle Vannetta. “We started out to the north when most of the boats fished to the south. We gave it a try and saw some fish and some life. We kept going back. Fishing was hard and not real easy, so we kept doing the same thing and picking away.”

After not getting a single bite on Thursday, Nakamaru considered joining much of the fleet in heading south, but he stuck to his guns on Friday.

“I ended up going north and it was a good move in the end,” he said. “We tagged the go-ahead fish about 11 o’clock and we had another bite, a bonus fish, that helped hold it till the end.”


Nakamaru finished with 2,027 points while David Bertuleit had 1,650 aboard the Kona Seafari. Guy Terwilliger was third with 1,386 on the High Flier.

“It was exciting. It was a close tournament,” Nakamaru said. “It changed daily. There were a few boats that were hot this week. There were a number of boats that were in the tournament that hard weeks had a great day on Saturday. That happens a lot. I’ve had that happen myself. You have to hope that you have your good luck during the week.”