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Catching up: Talking the big bucks

Updated: 
November 1, 2017 - 12:05am

It’s always fun to watch the facial expressions of people who normally don’t follow Kona’s fishing scene when I tell them about the prize money involved with our local fishing tournaments.

If I mention something like, “the team on the ‘Lightspeed’ just won $163,140,” their eyes widen, and their heads bounce back a bit. The typical response is, “I never knew there was that kind of money involved in fishing.”

For those who don’t know, there is major money involved in sportfishing tournaments, and I’d like to talk about the richest marlin fishing tournament in the world. Every October in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, fishermen around the world converge to fish the prestigious Bisbee’s Black and Blue Tournament, where the overall payout this year was $3,255,750 — right over 3 million dollars.

In a testimony of their expertise at catching and handling big marlin, every October many of Kona’s captains and crews are invited to fish the three-day Black and Blue. Over the tournament’s thirty-year history, numerous Kona captains, and crews have won big money there too.

Last year in 2016, the team Quitena, which included Kona’s Capt. Marlin Parker and crew member Carol Lynne, won $2,183,000, the biggest share of the tournament’s 3.5 million-dollar cash prize purse. That’s a lot of money!

This year was no exception either. Kona kept its reputation and was well represented by Capt. Shane O’Brien and crew members Charlie Bowman, and Boyd DeCoito fishing on Allen Stuart’s boat the ‘Wild Hooker.’ By catching a 462-pound black marlin, the team took fourth place in the money and earned $439,987. Big congrats to Shane, Charlie, and Boyd!

Other Kona boys and gals that fished this year’s Bisbee’s Black and Blue included Kerwin Masunaga, Kevin Nakamura, Marlin Parker, Randy Parker, Bryan Toney, Rob Ellyn, Kevin Hibbard, Carlton Arai, Greg Hopkins and Carol Lynne.

The Black and Blue Marlin Tournament started in 1981 and originally there were six teams and a total purse of $10,000. Now the tournament routinely has over 150 teams with millions of dollars on the line. In 2006, the Black and Blue recorded the biggest overall cash payout of $4,165,960. It was, and remains, the largest payout in sportfishing history. The winning boat ‘Bad Company 55’ took home $3,902,997.

This year the Black and Blue had 120 teams, fishing their hearts out for three days trying to win much of the $3,255,750 purse as they possibly could. The team ‘Ten Brothers’ ended up winning the lion’s share of the purse money – taking home a whopping $961,518.75 (of course I had to include the 75 cents). ‘Go Deeper 60’ won $876,350 followed by ‘C-Bandit’ with $764,966.

For those of you who might be curious and wonder what it takes to win that kind of money, I can tell you it’s not like paying a dollar for a lottery ticket. The base entry fee to register for the Black and Blue is $5,000, the optional “across the board” fees, meaning entering additional money categories is $71,500. For the heavy hitters who want even more, they can include the Chupacabra Challenge, an additional 20K daily, which means you throw down another $60,000. To be “across the board” and in the “All-In Chupacabra” teams lay down $131,500.

Despite the staggering costs, and a potential walking the plank feeling at the end of the tournament, many anglers, captains, and crew from all 50 states and 18 different other countries take up the challenge eager to be the top boat hauling in a seven-figure jackpot.

If you’re wondering why Kona, being one of the best blue marlin fisheries in the world, doesn’t have tournament purses like this, it’s a simple equation — there just aren’t enough boats. There is one exception though, and that’s the Blue Marlin World Cup.

The Blue Marlin World Cup is a one-day event held on the Fourth of July to see who can catch the biggest blue marlin in the world. It’s a winner take all format, and any blue marlin over 500 pounds is eligible to win. Teams fish around the world in their respective time zones from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Kona is one of the best places on earth to fish the World Cup with one of the highest winning percentages in the history of the event.

The World Cup is one of the best events to fish. There is a mandatory entry fee of $5,000 with an optional Big Blue Challenge fee of $8,000. The biggest blue marlin wins, with no second or third place. The winner takes home $1,000,000.

In the 2017 World Cup, Jon Gonsoulin’s ‘Done Deal’ sealed the deal by weighing a 600-pound blue marlin in Orange Beach, Alabama. They caught the fish in the Gulf of Mexico and beat a fleet of 144 boats fishing in some of the planet’s best big blue marlin hot spots, Kona, Bermuda, Madeira and Cape Verde. They won the tournament cash plus the optional Big Blue Challenge, taking home a cool $1 million payday. Not too shabby.

If anyone is interested in fishing the World Cup in Kona – book a boat now! Being one of the best big blue marlin hot spots, the Kona fleet gets booked out fast. Many boats are booked a year in advance.

Shout Outs

To Jim Hyldahl for catching a 500-pound blue marlin on Oct. 30 fishing with Capt. Diamond Dave Bensko and crew member Tommy Huttunen on the ‘Bite Me 4.’ The big blue was caught on a half-day charter. Believe me, there aren’t many places in the world where you can charter a boat for four hours and catch a 500-pound blue marlin. A catch like this is one of the reasons the World Cup is so popular here.

To Stephanie Diloreto, for catching a 47-pound mahimahi on Oct. 27 fishing with Capt. McGrew Rice on the ‘Ihu Nui.’ A 47-pound mahimahi is an awesome fish to catch.

Captains, crews, shore fishermen, please like, follow or post your pictures on our Facebook page “Kona Fish Report,” and if you think you have an interesting offshore, bottom or shore fishing story, please email markjohnstoncatchingup@gmail.com or jdegroote@westhawaiitoday.com.

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