The stage is set.
Only two teams remain in the Reel First Responders Fishing Tournament’s finale, with the victorious fire and police teams ready to square off against one another this week.
The two-month-long tournament pitting the Big Island’s firefighters against police officers started in August. Owner Al Gustavson and his first mate John Bennett of Topshape Kona Charters took teams out one at a time.
Police teams hit the waters off the Kona coast in August, with Team Sea Men – Aron Tomota, Adam Hanes, William ‘Billy’ Kimi IV and Randall Aquino – earning the first spot in this week’s fish off. The quartet racked up a total of 675 points to win the police division.
“It was pretty amazing; I caught my first marlin on that boat with Al and John,” said Hanes. “Right now in the world, there’s a lot of negative and unfortunate things going on involving police and involving social issues. For somebody like Al and John to go out of their way to take care of us… That’s pretty amazing.”
In September, the firefighters then took their turn on the water, with the team 3 B’s and a G, consisting of John Barco, Jon Boteilho, Gilbert Andrade and Alika Bumatay, claiming the top spot. The foursome landed three marlin, highlighted by a 400-pounder, to tally 1,000 points.
“It was awesome,” said Barco. “The four of us were classmates; we all came into the fire department together. To do it together is really great.”
To be on the water fishing meant a little extra for the firemen as they honor one of their fallen teammates.
“The one who set this up was Eric Hayashi; we call him Buta,” said Barco. “He’s the one who set this up with Captain Al, and right before this happened, he just passed away on the job. That was a big hit… He was so involved with the fishing tournaments and just a really great guy, so everybody’s been thinking of him when we go out.”
The friendly competition between police and fire will turn up a notch this week, when both teams will square off in the final fish off. Team Sea Men competed Monday, followed by 3 B’s and a G on Thursday. Each team will arrive back in Honokohau Harbor at 4 p.m. after their day on the water; those wishing to show their support are welcome to greet them — while properly socially distancing — under the Harbor House Restaurant.
Despite the strong ties between both sides, each team is anticipating a tough contest to claim the trophy; neither Barco nor Hanes minced words before the fish off began.
“As much as HPD and HFD have a great relationship — we really work together — all of us are just looking forward to beating them,” said Barco.
“We’ve got to beat the firemen,” responded Hanes with a laugh. “We’re so lucky in Kona to have the relationship with the firemen that we do… They’re an outstanding group of guys, but we’re not going to show them any mercy.”