Kona boys rock Cabo tourneys

  • Kama DeSilva and Chris Choy (kneeling right) celebrate a winning marlin with their team on Sneak Attack in Mexico. (Courtesy photo/Chris Choy)

  • Kevin Hibbard is happy with his trophy for winning the “Little Bisbee” tournament in Mexico. (Courtesy photo/Kevin Hibbard)

There will be a number of happy folks returning home to Kona soon after a nerve-wracking couple of weeks fishing tournaments in Cabo San Lucas. The three major Mexican tournaments run from October 10 through the 22, and more that $12.5 million were up for grabs. That’s a number that can make even the most experienced skipper edgy.

One tournament in particular makes up the bulk of that total purse. The Bisbee’s Black and Blue tournament, all by itself, generated a total purse of $9.725 million with 191 teams fishing last week.

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This is by far a record purse in the world of fishing. It’s even 47% bigger than the PGA Sony Open Oahu golf tournament $6.6 million. According to a website called The Sports Rush, that’s more than the $8.25 million teammates winning Super Bowl LV will split in 2021. Put that in your Pipikaula and smoke it.

The Bisbee folks run a second tourney referred to as the “Little Bisbee” which is not much smaller in terms of teams, turning out 186 of them. However, the purse generated was far littler – “only” $1.96 million.

Starting off this trifecta of events was the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament put on by the event division of Bonnier Corp. parent of Marlin Magazine, and numerous other multimedia titles and properties. Their Los Cabos fielded 55 teams and generated a total purse of $826,450.00.

By comparison, Kona’s homegrown Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series generated 182 teams and a total purse of $2.06 million this past summer. Those stats are similar to that of the “Little Bisbee,” but the HMT Series fielded 182 teams over the course of eight tournaments, not one, which is where similarity fades.

“Why?” one might ask, to which another might reply, “Elementary, my dear Watson. Because the sky is blue.” That would be that, and that would be good.

Good is how this disparity creates opportunity for Kona’s professional fishermen. Kona guys fish marlin year round, get to fine tune tournament fishing over the course of 28 days during the “major” tournaments each summer and then, fly straight to Cabo.

Further, Kona fishermen have a vast bank of knowledge accumulated over centuries to draw from, because let’s face it, the first to fish pelagics were Polynesian voyagers, and they continue to fish them from islands where deep, blue open ocean waters come right up to shore. On the mainland, fishing for pelagic fish only became popular after World War II.

The boat owners who fish these affluent Cabo tournaments recognize that hiring guys from Kona can give them a giant advantage over competitors. So, they fly them out in droves. Skippers and crews alike jump at the opportunity to earn themselves a chunk of the $12+ million total purse. Wouldn’t you? A chunk could end up being more than Tom Brady’s share of the Super Bowl. Put that in Pipikaula and chew on it for awhile.

Over the years, Kona skippers and crews have laid claim to some record winnings checks in Cabo, but this year, fishing was pretty terrible through the whole stretch. Almost $8 million of the total went unclaimed by any qualifying fish, and has to be returned or held for what may be an even larger total next year. Some Kona guys still managed to score though, and score big.

Kona skipper Chris Choy and local boy Kama DeSilva set the bar in the Los Cabos tournament by catching one of only two marlin weighed – even after 55 boats fished three tourney days – for a total of 165 boat/fishing days!

Capt. Peter B. Wright liked to say, “I’d rather be lucky than good,” but when your team catches one of only two fish to earn money, as Coach Darrell Royal liked to say, “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” Chris and Kama called on their preparation and experience to dispatch a 554-pound blue marlin in only six minutes and 34 seconds.

The only other team to weigh a qualifier took one hour and 50 seconds to subdue a 343-pounder, a fair example of the advantage Kona boys give their teams. Chris Choy commented, “I guess we got lucky!” Indeed.

An even better example of their advantage is printed on their paychecks: Choy and Desilva with their team on “Sneak Attack” earned $498,140.00, whereas the check for the team on “Hooray” was written for $99,360.00. The skippers on both winning boats are blood brothers. Both have similar experience and both boats are first class fishing machines. One had Kona boys on deck, and one did not. More Pipikaula please!

At the “Little Bisbee” hauling 70 pounds of tackle from Kona to Cabo paid off for Honokohau skipper Kevin Hibbard. Fishing was even worse, and when 558 fishing days were done and dusted, Hibbard and company on “Pelagic” had weighed the only marlin to qualify during the entire tournament. Ron Kawaja, owner of “Pelagic” the boat and Pelagic the sportswear brand and Club Pelagic Fishing Lodge in Costa Rica, became the owner of a winnings check made out to Team Pelagic in the amount of $863,480.00. All for a fish that weighed 319 pounds.

Kevin said, “I’ve been hauling that load back and forth to Cabo for 18 years, and it finally paid off. We only had that one bite during the whole tournament. Got lucky!” Yes, they did, and in true Coach Royal fashion they earned the single largest check of all three tournaments! That includes the tourney where $9.7 million was up for grabs.

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But that’s not all. Another pair of brothers, Marlin and Randy Parker of Kona, helped angler Julio Fernandez and team “Quintena” win $89,505.00 as First Place boat in the Release category of the “Little Bisbees.”

Does it really pay off to fly Kona boys halfway across the ocean to fish for you in high stakes tournaments? Not to beat the pudding, but the proof is in the dead horse.