Tournament owners donate Kona Classic to Milolii school

Jody Bright sees several advantages to donating a long-standing, although recently paused, fishing tournament to a Milolii charter school.


Jody Bright sees several advantages to donating a long-standing, although recently paused, fishing tournament to a Milolii charter school.

For one, Bright said, Hipuu O Milolii’s students will get a look at a different kind of fishing than the traditional practices they study in Hawaii’s last fishing village.

But the benefits extend to the fishermen who enter the contest, too, he said.

“We fish in front of the village,” he said. “Our folks are fishing in the Milolii backyard and even in their refrigerator — our guys should appreciate that and kokua in return.”

Bright helped co-found the Kona Classic fishing tournament a few decades ago with the father of Kaimi Kaupiko, who now helps run Hipuu O Milolii, a charter school in the village that offers students online classes for core subjects. The school also integrates Hawaii culture and significant instruction in Native Hawaiian practices, with an emphasis on fishing.

“We want them to learn about who they are, learn their culture,” Kaupiko said. “I really want them to see different types of fishing.”

Kaupiko, who helped bring the charter school to the village in which he grew up, said he also wants his students to be able to share their traditional knowledge with tournament participants.

“That’s when the students become the teachers,” he said. “That’s when they show their mastery.”

Running the tournament will bring the school about $8,000 in revenue, as well as give students experience in managing a sports property. Bright said he hopes it might inspire students to later consider their own fishing business, once they have graduated from school.

This year, with a tournament scheduled for July 19 and 20, school officials will work with the Tropidilla office, to get an understanding of how the tournament is run. Next year, it’s in the school’s hands, Bright said. This year’s tournament will close out four straight weeks of contests in the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series, which runs June through September, he added.

“Once the transition is complete, the school folks will make the decisions, such as when to schedule it for next year and any changes they want to make to rules, manage sponsors,” Bright said. “They may want to continue to use it for kids’ experience as well as a fundraiser, or perhaps have someone manage it and just use it as a fundraiser, so they can concentrate on being a school, as many nonprofits do.”


The original purpose behind the Kona Classic was to give smaller boat operators a chance to compete in fishing tournaments, Bright said. One goal in bringing the tournament back this year after a several-year break is to see small boats participating again, he added.

The tournament was once the opening event of the $1 Millon Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series each summer in Kona, Bright said. It is a “local style,” four flags event, which means fisherman may bring in marlin, ahi, mahimahi and ono.

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