The Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament takes place in July. // © 2011 Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament
Each summer, Hawaii’s Big Island makes a splash as anglers from around the world congregate to fish the famous waters off the Kona Coast. Luring them to the tropics is an annual event called the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT), taking place this year from July 25-29, 2011.
Celebrating its 52nd anniversary, HIBT is built on prestige, trophies and strict International Game Fish Association rules for world records. More than 20 teams have already registered for this year’s tournament, including five teams from California, four teams returning from New Zealand and Australia and three teams from Japan as well as teams from Florida, Hawaii and North Carolina. In addition, for the first time in recent HIBT history, team Xtreme Anglers from Singapore is taking part in the HIBT.
Visitors don’t have to be fish-savvy in order to enjoy the festivities. As in previous years, the event headquarters — including a tournament-oriented retail store — is located at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. A big crowd-pleaser is the HIBT Kona Parade, which takes place on the afternoon before the first day of fishing. Winding its way through historic Kailua Village, it features members of the teams entered in the contest as well as appearances by Miss Billfish and the Hawaii County Band.
Once the fishing begins, visitors can head to Kailua pier to watch the boats line up across Kailua Bay, with the action starting promptly each day at 7 a.m. Spectators gather again at 4 p.m. as the boats return to Kailua pier for the daily weigh-in of their catch.
The 2010 tournament showcased 110 anglers aboard Kona’s finest sport fishing fleet. Fifty-four billfish were released among the teams, with eight Pacific blue marlin brought to the scales. Last year’s HIBT Governor’s Trophy and first place went to Kona Game Fishing Club-Kusatsu. But the real story of last year’s tournament went to the Out Of The Blue team from Waianae, Oahu. Fishing the last day of this five-day tournament, angler Ted Morikawa boated a whopping 779-pound Pacific blue marlin, earning his team second place in the tournament.