By JOHN DEGROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
Early Saturday morning, 73 colorfully decorated charter boats scattered in all directions from Honokohau Harbor as teams took to the sea for the Huggo’s Wahine Fishing Tournament.
The four-angler team aboard the Maggie Joe won the tournament by catching the biggest fish — a 522-pound Pacific blue marlin.
“It wowed me a few times,” said Lynn Sorensen, the angler who brought in the fish. “It almost pulled me out of my chair a few times.”
With more than 440 participants, the tournament is the largest ladies billfish tournament in Hawaii.
Sorensen reeled in the only fish over 300 pounds. Tournament organizers will announce the first-place prize money for Sorensen and her teammates at a luncheon Sunday at Huggo’s on the Rocks.
“It did a lot of jumping,” Maggie Joe captain Michael De Rego said. “It missed the lure the first time but came back and got it in its mouth. Everybody on the boat saw it. It made one jump, and right then we knew it was a good, qualifying fish.”
The official fight time was a short 38 minutes.
The win was déjà vu for De Rego, who won the HMTS Champions Tournament last weekend with a fish of the exact same weight. De Rego said the fish caught last week was six inches shorter.
The team aboard the Hula Girl took second place, releasing two marlins caught by anglers Kelsey Sanborn and Megan Hamm.
The field combined to catch 21 marlins — one was weighed, 18 were released and two were not weighed.
The haul also included three ahi and five ono.
Tournament rookie Janelle Bays caught the largest tuna of the day — a 184.5-pound ahi — aboard the Rave while fishing with Kona Drillfishers II.
“We were lucky enough to hook up right after the start of the tournament,” Bays said. “We had actually just put our lines out and were not even ready for a bite. We were all still a little sleepy when I started reeling it in.
“I thought it was a little fish at first, but once it got closer we were debating whether it was a tuna or a marlin. We had a ton of line out, so it took that much longer to get the fish in.”
After a 36-minute battle with the ahi, Bays brought the beast aboard, but it was not without a mighty struggle.
“She had quite a bit of sweat coming off her brow,” admitted fellow Raven angler Kim Schneider.
For Schneider and Bays it was a day to remember, and the two were glad to participate in an event that has become a fixture of the Kona fishing scene.
“It’s a long tradition, and there is so much fun in decorating the boats and wearing costumes,” Schneider said. “Those activities really add to the draw, but of course the fishing is wonderful as well.”
Tournament organizers will donate $10,000 to Family Support Hawaii, a nonprofit community support agency for women.
The tournament has raised more than $130,000 for local charities in its 18-year existence.
“We like to come out and support because it supports charitable organizations,” Sorensen said. “We try to do it every year. It’s a great tournament and gives us girls a chance to show the guys what we got.”