Moreton Bay Game Fish Club takes early lead of HIBT

  • Kona GFC-Osaka team member Ikegami Masao poses with Miss Billfish Brooke Morrow after reeling in a 142.6 pound ahi on Day 1 of the HIBT on Monday. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)
  • Moreton Bay Game Fishing Club's Clinton (second from left) and Michele Hicks (center) go through the weigh-in procedure after tagging and releasing three fish during the first day of the HIBT on Monday. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Clinton Hicks and his wife Michele nearly didn’t make the trip to Kona to compete in the 59th annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. And once they got here, things were not really going to plan for the couple, who was spending their first holiday on the Islands.

However, that all changed on the first day of fishing of HIBT. Both Clinton and Michele Hicks, competing out of Moreton Bay Game Fish Club in Australia, combined to tag three fish on Monday while aboard Waiopai to claim and early lead in the fishing tournament with 700 points.

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A first place spot after Day 1 of fishing, on a slow day off the Kona shores, was a surprise for the couple. It wasn’t too long ago that the outlook looked pretty bleak that they would be able to make the trip at all.

Shortly before flying out to the Big Island, Clinton Hicks was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis in his leg and he was told that he should not fly. The news was devastating to the angler, who had hoped to bring his wife out to the HIBT so she could catch her first blue marlin.

However, two days before their scheduled flight, Clinton Hicks went to see a specialist and, though he was not told he could fly, he was given the news that he would not be kept from boarding a plane.

That little crack in the door was all that the man needed to drag his wife to the Big Island. Though, once the couple got here, the holiday did not start off smoothly.

First, Clinton and Michele Hicks rented a car and traveled to Volcano National Park, only to find out what most people who live here already know, the park was closed due to the recent earthquake activity.

Not to be discouraged, the couple next charted a boat trip in Hilo. However, the boat trip was cancelled. It seemed as though things could not get worse, but then came a trip up to the top of Mauna Kea, where both Clinton and Michele Hicks came down with altitude sickness.

With all the bad luck, it seemed that the Hicks’ were due for a bit of good luck, and it came with that lucky day on the water, which was telegraphed by a dream the night before.

“I only had about two hours of sleep before the start of fishing, but during that time I had a dream that we caught three fish,” said Clinton Hicks, who told many people before heading out on the water about the dream.

Michele Hicks did not really believe in the dream forecast of her husband, calling it all “rubbish.” However, she quickly changed her tune when she reeled in two blue marlin, her first ever blue marlin, weighing an estimated 100 and 140 pounds respectively. Clinton Hicks also brought in a fish, a 30-pound short nosed spearfish.

The lack of faith of his wife before the trip brought a chuckle to a very emotional Clinton Hicks at Kailua Pier after the stop fishing call.

“After 25 years of marriage she still doesn’t believe in me,” he joked. “Now it looks pretty good.”

With their three tags, the Moreton Bay Game Fishing Club holds a 100 point lead over last year’s champion, Surfside Marina and Kona Game Fishing Club-Osaka.

A total of 10 blue marlin were tagged and released but none were weighed, as well as four spearfish. Two ahi were boated and brought to the pier for weighing, but only one, a 142.6-pounder caught by Kona GFC-Osaka’s Ikegami Masao, on board Northern Lights II, would count. His teammate, Keiji Matsuba also tagged and released two fish.

The other ahi weighed less than 100 pounds.

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With three tags, Waiopai leads the top boat race with 700 points, followed by Northern Lights II and JR’s Hooker at 600 apiece.

Day 2 of fishing will start today at 8 a.m., with weigh-ins coming between 4-6 p.m. at Kailua Pier.