The Bright side: Big shoes to fill

  • Jody Bright

Jim Rizzuto used to fill this space on Mondays. He did so for over 20 years.

Jim was a great man, and was about two sizes larger than life when it came to Hawaii fishing. Jim was also an educator — a mathematics teacher at HPA. He wrote with the grace of mathematical precision and was as ubiquitous as pi.


Well, you can forget about that with me. I’m not like that. I just kind of make stuff up as I go along.

Before you go to bed at night, do you ever make a list of what you want to accomplish tomorrow, only to get up in the morning, read it over coffee and ignore it for the rest of the day? If you have, you may have noticed that the day still unfolds, regardless of your list.

Stuff happens and often things turn out much better than the way you had it figured on paper.

That’s what works for me, not the grace of mathematical precision. No one has ever accused me of that, and you won’t see it in this column. Just saying — whatever “just saying” means. Never really “got” that one.

But then again, I’m the kind of guy Jim scolded. He told me once that the way I did things was no way to run a successful operation. Now here I am, waving my arms around in the hollow space surrounding me in Jim’s giant shoes.

Hope you can take a joke Jim, cause I’m hoping to have some fun trying to fill these buggahs up!

Speaking of filling some big shoes, the Hawaii Big Game Fishing Club has reorganized, and is about ready to rock n roll — literally. The club has a new board, is steadily adding new members while old ones rejoin, and those of us on the board are determined to see the club return to its rightful place in the fishing community.

For those who don’t know, here’s a brief history. Founded in 1914, the HBGFC was a stalwart across all islands until about 2008, when the recession came a knocking.

During the recession, times were a bit tough, money was tight and interest and priorities left the club for more basic pursuits, such as making a living. The administration running the club in those years, did what they could to keep the doors open. The clubhouse sort of evolved into a “community pavilion” hosting every sort of event known in the diverse cultural community that is Kona.

Unfortunately, the federal government rules over non-profit organizations and a fishing club must work within its purpose, mission and the IRS code. Renting the club facility for weddings, Bar Mitzvah’s and such just doesn’t fall within those categories.

Fast forward a few years, and here we are, returning the club to government compliance, rejuvenating true club activities like offering a diverse set of tournaments, organizing club social functions and setting up programs to support charitable causes and marine research, within our mission.

We realize that some people only know the clubhouse as a place that they could rent to throw a luau, but unfortunately, that is not who and what the Hawaii Big Game Fishing Club truly is. We can do a lot of things though, a lot of fun things, and those things are what we are going to concentrate on.

Stay tuned, save up a few bucks for a membership and you can join in on the fun, too.

There is a category for social memberships. This class of membership is for folks who like music, parties and social events, but aren’t interested in participating in club administration or voting in elections. Social members will enjoy special reduced rates and advance pre-sale offers for events, such as the Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues Band shows we put on in 2016 and 2017.

I think Jim Rizzutto would approve of what we got going on. Did you know Jim was a pretty good harmonica player?

Jim was also a small boat fisherman. Kona is a pretty unique place because the super calm water allows people to put to sea in very small boats in search of very big fish. Sit down at the harbor some time and watch the boats go out as the sun rises over Hualalai. Some guys put to sea in vessels no larger than a hot tub.

You will see all manner of craft — converted ski boats, homemade skiffs — just about anything that can float and go is employed around here. But the “classic” thing is that no matter how small the boat, each will be sporting at least two 130-pound rods and reels. And it is not just found at the harbor. It’s all up and down the Kona coast.

At the Miloli’i Wahine tournament one year, a team of four fully grown local women headed out in a 13-foot Boston Whaler, just them, two 130-lb Penn’s and a cooler full of beer. They weren’t the only wahine heading out in small boats, but they were laughing the most.

Later that afternoon you could hear their laughter carrying over the slick calm water before you could see them. Once they came into sight, it took your brain a while to sort through the imagery to figure out what was going on.

All four ladies stood in a straight line, hands on the shoulders of the one in front of them. The one in the far front held on to the bow line to stay steady. The one in back had one hand on the outboard throttle arm and the other on the gal in front of her. They were cackling and calling out to whomever could hear them, and they were obviously very happy, but something was very wrong.

Standing in place, it appeared that they were gliding through the water, not over it. The 13-foot Boston Whaler could not be seen from shore. It looked like their feet were underwater to a point above the ankles and they were being propelled through the waves as if by magic.

By now a crowd had gathered and people on shore were exchanging screams and jeers with the ladies on the boat. It was all in pidgin and everyone was laughing hysterically.

As they closed in on the landing, it was finally clear that the ladies had a 600-pound marlin strapped alongside the whaler, and between their weight and that of the fish, the gunwales were maybe an inch above the water. The women were lined up on the keel line to balance the boat because if they leaned one way or the other they would have sunk!

Once near the landing, the three in front jumped over the side in perfect timing and the crowd on the rocky shore roared in appreciation. The whaler shot forward, picking up speed because of the change in load, but the wahine skipper expertly throttled back and eased the boat and great fish up to the scale. Somebody tossed her a beer, which she popped and drained. Helpers tied up the boat, the other three women floated on their backs to watch the weigh-in and the party got started in earnest.

Jim had his style and he had a loyal audience reading his stories every Monday. If you’ve been around very long, you will remember Harry Lyons “Kona Coast” magazine, which was also a beloved icon and chronicle of days gone by.

If West Hawaii Today keeps this column going beyond this inaugural piece, hopefully you will get to walk through life on the Big Island then and now, reading about the classic people and they things they do.


Big shoes, but let’s fill those buggah’s up!

Editor’s note: Jody Bright’s column will run bi-weekly on Monday’s in West Hawaii Today, covering fishing and outdoor activities. Any notes or ideas for the column can be sent to

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