These are good days to be a fish. Out in the ocean, you’d have no viruses or protesters messing up your serenity. if you were a fish, up until last week you had fewer people out trying to catch you too, compared to summers past.
What happened last week? The first three competitions of the annual Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series were held, so plenty of people were back out fishing. Team numbers were up in two of the three events, as many folks were excited about returning to some sense of normalcy. Guys who spent the “shelter at home” period of the pandemic in their shop creating marlin lures got to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and everyone enjoyed time out on the water with family and friends.
Fishing started a bit slow but improved as the week progressed away from the full moon.
Twenty-five teams tagged and released thirteen blue marlin in the Kona Kick Off. Six teams in the Lazy Marlin tagged 15 blue marlin. At the Lure Maker’s Challenge presented by Kraken Lures, it got even better. Eighteen teams released twenty three marlin, and the ahi showed up as if on cue. Nine tuna were caught — more than in the first two tournaments combined.
A total of 51 blue marlin were tagged and released in the three events. No marlin were weighed. Marlin must be four hundred pounds or more, in order to bring it to the scale. The HMT Series usually weighs only about five percent of all marlin caught. This practice is great for conservation and management of the species, but it can make for less than memorable scenes at the weigh station.
The Angler Division is currently led by Chad Beaudry, holding 1,300 total points. Chad fished his boat “Last Chance” in all three tournaments. He tagged six marlin, ending up with more points than any other individual angler.
Second place angler is presently Chop Reitz. Reitz posted a scorecard with a total of 1,100 points, fishing from “Melee.”
Ed Boyd is in third, with a total of 960 points from four marlin tagged. Ed caught all of his fish on his boat “Pursuit” with Capt. Jason Holtz.
Jason Long, owner of “Mele” is in a dead heat Guy Arrington, angler on boar “Wild Hooker” and Tad Detwiler who fished on board “Bwana.” All three have 900 points under their belt.
On a bit of a busman’s holiday, Capt. Boyd DeCoito has tagged three marlin to date; on the board with 850 points. Usually at the helm of a tournament boat, Boyd said, “I’ll never yell at an angler again,” after picking up some winnings in the Kona Kick Off.
In the Boat Division, Capt. Bryan Toney led his team on “Melee” to the top spot. “Melee” is ahead of the pack with 1,900 points from a total of seven tagged blue marlin. That’s a pretty good run through only two tournaments.
“Night Runner” is second with a total of 1,550 points, catching all six of their marlin during the Lure Maker’s Challenge. Capt. Shawn Rotella is one who spent the “stay at home” period of the pandemic making lures. His Ali’i Kai brand baits handily outpaced the field. Next year this tournament will be called the Lure Maker’s Challenge, Presented by Ali’i Kai Lures.
“Last Chance” with Capt. Tracey Epstein is currently third place boat with 1,300 points and skipper Shane O’Brien on “Wild Hooker” is a close fourth with 1,100 points.
For a full list of Series Standings, log on to: https://konatournaments.com/
With the State all but closed to visiting anglers, an eclectic assortment of folks assembled as team members on the boats. Some literally “stacked the deck” with pro’s and more than one boat full of “ringers” took home cash for their efforts.
In some contests, the largest marlin weighed provides a definitive Winner with clear bragging rights. When no marlin are weighed, the answer to the question, “Who won?” can get a little murky. When no one weighs a fish, the marlin division of the Kona Kick off pays the team(s) with the most tag and released marlin.
“Sweet Sadie” and “Kraken” tied with two marlin tagged apiece, and carved up a number of marlin categories split between them — 60% to 40%. “Sweet Sadie” was crewed entirely by “ringers” with Capt. Matt Bowman at the helm and Capt. Boyd DeCoito doing the angling chores. Capt. Greg Hopkins loaded his “Nasty Habits” with ringers too, and they pulled down some marlin money as well after Capt. Jah Nogues tagged marlin.
The team arguably having the most fun was fishing on the smallest boat, the 18-foot long skiff “Kailana.” They were the only team targeting ono, and they hit their target – a lot of times. Out of thirteen ono caught, their 31.5 pounder won the Ono Division. Capt. Bubu Tolentino was at the wheel while Christopher and Chad Langan handled the catching.
The ringers on “Huntress” grabbed the pot for the largest ahi of the tournament. Cole Crocker caught the 132.5 pound tuna with Capt. Stymie Epstein on the bridge.
“Kraken” and “Go Get Em” landed mahi of the exact same weight. They tied up the mahi division with 21 pounders.
The next two tournaments saw no fish weighed, again. “Who won?” got a bit murky, indeed.
“Melee” had the most tag points in the Lazy Marlin, where they tagged four marlin. “Bwana”, “Last Chance” and “Wild Hooker” tagged two marlin apiece. Those three boats won all the points purse, with “Melee” claiming the largest share.
The results of the Lure Maker’s Challenge got far more complicated as the marlin bite turned on. Seven boats split the Most Points jackpots. “Night Runner” earned the most with their six tags.
Competition was fierce and “Miss Mojo” tagged four marlin while “Melee” caught and released three. “Bwana” and “Last Chance” each tagged two. “Nasty Habits” released one. All of them won a bit of money, but it took a while to figure it out.
When the big fish are biting things are a lot simpler, but all the potential twists and turns keeps the teams competing hard up until the final bell. In the old days, if someone caught a 900 pounder on the first morning of a tournament, it was like a balloon with a leak going flat. With the innovative scoring systems in the HMT Series tournaments of today, no one is ever completely out of the game.