The Bright Side: Koya Lures win challenge — again

  • Kona Dream caught this fish that qualified at 408 pounds but ultimately was not big enough to win the Kona Throw Down. Angler Dave Andersen. (Capt. Jeff Kahl/Courtesy Photo)

  • Wahine angler Jada Von Mols with the big winner of the Skins Marlin Derby fishing with dad Chip (left) Nick Durham of Tantrum Lures to her left Capt. Jason Holtz and John Peterson. ( Photo)

  • Crew of Wild Hooker with the largest marlin of the Lure Makers Challenge. Angler Guy Arrington far right. ( Photo)

The modern trolling lure was invented here in Kona back in the 1950’s and people haven’t stopped arguing about which lure is the most productive ever since.

A few years back, David Von Hamm, a friend from Oahu, told me that he thought it might be fun to have a tournament based on solving this argument. Although the new format was a bit slow to catch on, he has turned out to be right. It is a fun format and it has become quite popular. The argument is never solved forever though, as the tournament runs every summer.


This gives lure makers and their aficionados an annual chance to win bragging rights. Or, as in the case of Koya lures of Kona, a chance to win back the bragging rights.

Koya lures proved to be the most productive lure at the Hawaii Lure Makers Challenge Tournament in 2019. In 2020, Capt. Shawn Rotella snatched the title away with his Ali’i Kai Lures. Shawn runs the charter boat Night Runner and is a Kona resident, as is Eric Koyanagi who makes Koya Lures.

Although invented in Hawaii, the modern trolling lure has become popular world wide and Kona lure makers now have competitors in just about every saltwater fishing hole on earth. However, you can’t beat the calm Kona water for testing and developing all sorts of innovations in lures and tackle, so Aussie Nick Durham brought his Tantrum lures up from Down Under one year and won the Lure Makers tourney. Nick was so taken with Kona that he and his young family moved up from the Sydney area. Now Tantrum lures call Kona home as well.

Tantrum, Koya, Ali’i Kai, Fair Chase, Kraken, KC, PBM and Marlin Magic lures all went head to head this past weekend. Capt. Teddy Hoogs and crew on Bwana caught five of six blue marlin on Koya lures to lay claim to the bragging rights for the year to come. As part of the fun, the lure brand winning the tournament earns a Presenting Sponsorship position for the tournament, getting additional exposure and promotion out of the deal. Ali’i Kai lures put some 40 lures in anglers hands over the weekend through give aways and promotions over the tournament control radio show.

Capt. Hoogs caught three of his fish the very first day for a tidy lead but found himself locked in combat with Capt. Shane O’Brien on Wild Hooker, who was seemingly always one fish ahead, not matter how many Teddy caught. O’Brien was fishing in the “open” division of the tournament and was not representing a lure maker, so on the final day he chose live bait and his team of anglers released 3 small blues fishing way down south.

Capt. Hoogs located him and soon caught 2 marlin on lures in the same area. Both teams were now close by, hooking up marlin, right up until the final bell. Just before the call of stop fishing, O’Brien lost his last bite of the day. Hoogs hung on to his for a tag, and in the suspense of the moment, it looked as if Teddy had pulled off a last minute win.

Tournament communications with boats at sea can appear somewhat antiquated in todays digital world. Tournament control talks to skippers at sea on a VHF radio, then writes by hand a catch log, as sometimes the action is coming across the airwaves too fast for typing. When time allows, the catch log is typed into a spreadsheet and emailed to scorekeepers in the harbor. If things are happening really quickly, there can be lag time between when the teams call in a catch, the radio man writes it and then types it and emails it, so text updates can get the news down the hill faster.

While trying to oversee the frantic calls of the skippers eager for confirmation, other teams with no fish were calling in their end of day transmissions. With all this going on, radio control texted to score keepers that Bwana had pulled ahead of Wild Hooker with that final tag, but when the radio traffic finally quieted down and radio logs were compared to the catch sheet, one tag on Wild Hooker had not made the jump across, and the text sent to get the news out was incorrect. Wild Hooker had indeed, stayed one fish ahead.


All this happened and was rectified in only a few short minutes, but the coconut telegraph had already started spreading news of an upset. Come to find that social media spreads news faster than the coconut telegraph, and one Facebook post was all it took to get things straight. Although Bwana did, indeed, win the Lure Brand division of the tourney, Wild Hooker won the “open” division with both the largest marlin of the tournament and the most points overall.

The Lure Makers Challenge was leg six of the eight tourney Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series, which now heads to the 7th inning stretch. Anglers and teams score points that accumulate through the Series, for even more bragging rights at the end — Champion Angler and Champion Boat. To see the complete list of standings log on to