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HIBT opens with ‘magical day’

Updated: 
September 12, 2017 - 12:05am

The Hawaii International Billfish Tournament started Monday morning to surprisingly raining conditions. However, fishing was hot early during the 48th annual competition with several tag and releases by the mid-morning roundup.

Japan’s Core Marlin Club jumped out to the Day 1 lead after reeling in two marlin for 600 points before tagging and releasing them back to the Kona waters.

Fishing aboard the 47-foot Northern Lights II, angler Toshihiro Honda tagged and released an estimated 160-pound Pacific blue marlin in an impressive 20 minutes.

Just after the noon roundup, angler Kenkichi Miyauchi scored this team’s second tag and release with a Pacific blue marlin estimated at 120 pounds.

“It was a very healthy fish,” said Miyauchi through a translator. “I just had to fight, fight, fight, and keep going.”

With the two marlin, Core Marlin Club holds a 50 point lead over South Africa’s Deep Sea Angling Association.

Fishing aboard the classic 37-foot Humdinger, Deep Sea Angling Association team captain Phillip Marx tagged and released an estimated 175-pound Pacific blue marlin on 80-pound test line, putting priceless points on the board. Nearly two hours later, angler Mike Ross tagged another Pacific blue marlin estimated at 175 pounds using 50-pound test line in just 12 minutes.

“It was a magic day today,” Marx said. “This is my ninth year here and this is the best day I have every had in the tournament.”

The South African team nearly had a third fish but lost it off the hook in the last five minutes of battle. Despite just missing out on another fish, which would have given the team the lead after the first day, Deep Sea Angling Association is just where it wants to be in the tournament.

“We wanted to end in the top five at least,” Marx said. “We have come a long way, half way around the world, and we want to do well.”

As Day 1 of the HIBT wrapped, nine teams were on the scoreboard with 11 Pacific blue marlin and a short-nosed spearfish.

Four clubs are currently tied for third place at 300 points each including American mainland teams Pajaro Valley Gamefishing Club and Old South Marlin Club-Masters, Australia’s Moreton Bay Game Fish Club and New Zealand’s Bay of Islands Swordfishing Club.

For Morton Bay’s Wayne Spalding, he was more than happy to get a tag and release on an estimated 120 pound Pacific blue marlin on his first day fishing in Kona waters.

“It was only a 30 minute fight, and not a particularly large fish, but the water conditions were beautiful,” Spalding said. “I have never been to this tournament before and it is my first time in Kona. I am really impressed with the tournament and with the town. I would love to retire here.”

Wrapping up the scoring on the first day of fishing were three teams tied for seventh with 100 points, including last year’s Governor’s Cup winner Malibu Marlin Club. The team from the U.S. mainland put points on the board when angler Stephen Chow tagged a spearfish estimated at 30 pounds.

As for boat standings, Northern Lights takes the early lead under Capt. Kevin Nakamaru with 600 points. Rounding out the top three are Capt. Jeff Fay and Humdinger, and Capt. Al Gustavson with Topshape.

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