The Bright Side: Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series ‘wraps’ up

The Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series returns this coming weekend with the eighth and final event of the 2020 season. Against all odds, the HMT Series has been able to pull off a full season during times of COVID and no visiting anglers to fill up the charter boats. Response has been enthusiastic, albeit downsized.

Relatively speaking, the HMT Series is pretty lucky. Participation is about 75% of last year, even with most all entries and administration being handled remotely. Event producers worked with county and state officials for months to develop COVID mitigation protocols, and the fishermen have taken to them gladly. Everyone just wants to fish, and if it meant changing basic operations, cooperation seems a small price to pay — because everyone has been cooperative!


The fish have been cooperative too, for the most part, fishing in July started out a bit slow but improved as the week progressed away from the full moon.

There were three tournaments held in July — the Kona Kick Off, the Lazy Marlin Hunt Returns and the Lure Maker’s Challenge. A total of 51 blue marlin were tagged and released in the three events. No marlin were weighed. Marlin must be 400 pounds or more in order to bring it to the scale. All of this tag and release is great for conservation and management of the species, but it can make for less than memorable scenes at the weigh station.

In August, The HMT Series ran four tourneys after shifting the Firecracker Open, the Kona Throw Down and the Skins Marlin Derby from their normal spots in July. Thirty-eight more marlin were tagged before one big enough to weigh was caught.

Angler Guy Arrington caught the ninetieth marlin of The Series, and it was the first keeper. Guy’s marlin weighed 672.5 pounds, and was caught on day one of the Kona Throw Down. Guy’s fish kicked off a run of big marlin, a run that everyone had been patiently waiting for.

On day two, Chad Beaudry on “Last Chance” survived an “attack marlin” and weighed a blue in at 765.5 pounds. Shortly after that, “Five Star” released one that they called 395 pounds, only 5 pounds shy of being a qualifier. Around 2:00, “Sweet Sadie” put one in the boat that would go 411 pounds. Day two was the busiest day for qualifiers, all summer.

On the third and final day of the Kona Throw Down, with less than an hour remaining to fish, Capt. Jimbo Wigzell on “Go Get Em” hooked up. Four hours later, he called in a caught fish, estimated to be over six hundred pounds. Getting in after dark, Frank Luhan closed out the fifth series tourney with a 642 pound blue, the third largest.

Tourney six in The Series was the Skins Marlin Derby, and it saw the marlin count climb to 108. One, however, stood out from the rest. Rey Rubalcava hooked into one he said he knew was big, but he didn’t want to think about how big it was during the fight. Ultimately it weighed 833.5 pounds and is the largest marlin caught in The Series to date, in 2020.

The statistics of August appeared to skew the tag and release rate, but in the end, out of 132 marlin caught so far, 126 marlin have been released alive and only 6 have been weighed. That’s a tag and release rate of 95.45%. Right at average, and very good for the fish.

The eighth and final Series tourney runs this weekend — aptly called It’s a Wrap. Guy Arrington now leads The HMTS Anglers Division with 4,922 points. Chad Beaudry is hot on his heels with 4,565 points and Rey Rubalcava is a bit of a distant Third with 2,633.5 points.

In the HMTS Boat Division, Capt. Shane O’Brien has “Wild Hooker” in the lead with 5,122.5 points by Guy Arrington and Allen Stuart. “Last Chance” with Capt. Tracy Epstein at the wheel is close by with 4,654.5 points, all earned by Chad Beaudry. “Miss Mojo” is holding on to third with 3,33.5 points by Rey Rubalcava, Mike Marks and Carlin Rinehart. Capt. James Bach is on the bridge of “Miss Mojo.”

This has been one of the most competitive seasons in memory, especially between the teams of Arrington/O’Brien on “Wild Hooker” and Beaudry/Epstein on “Last Chance.”

Rey Rubalcava and team are returning for the Wrap, as are Arrington and Beaudry, so the fierce competition is set to continue. Keep in mind though, this is Kona and truly giant marlin swim through here fairly often. One BIG one could made a huge difference for a number of the anglers and teams with points on the board.

That is one of the many great things about fishing Kona. The biggest blue marlin ever landed here was over 1,600 pounds. The potential to hook into a monster like that is there, waiting for anglers, every day they head out to fish along the Kona Coast.

With a fish like that on your mind, it’s easy to forget about all the trials and troubles on land in times of COVID-19. Out fishing, you can live in the moment — all day long — until that big one bites and tears the ocean to shreds, making your heart jump into your throat.

You too can escape the trappings of land this weekend, and fish in the Wrap tournament, regardless of your experience or skill set. Anyone can enter.

Without the anglers visiting from the mainland, there are charter boats available, and the crews are itching to compete in the final tournament of the 2020 season.

If you aren’t already planning to fish the Wrap tourney, stop a think a minute. What else do you have to do this weekend anywhere near as much fun?


When is the last time your heart leapt into your throat? Get ya some. for entry forms, standings and marine conservation information.

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