Kona HIBT Marlin Fishing Tournament Update Saturday 6pm!

Jon Schwartz here reporting from the 2010 HIBT (Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament) in Kona, Hawaii.  Anglers from all over the world come to the Kona Coast every year to try and land huge blue marlin. Why? Well, I'm very superstitious. For that reason I will not tell you that the waters will be as blue and calm as they usually are here, nor will I tell you that this is the blue marlin capital of the world, because we all know that would jinx the whole thing!

Let's talk about the methods the anglers, mates and captains use.  I'm no Jim Rizzuto (Jim is the local Hawaii writer who happens to be one of the most knowledgeable people on all things related to fishing Hawaii), but I do know that lures- artificial contraptions made of plastic, rubber, and so forth rigged up to mimic baitfish and draw strikes- were popularized here by Henry Chee and George Parker, I think starting in the 40's. (I could be off by a decade).
When I first started riding along with captains, I thought fishing was mostly about picking a fancy lure and hoping luck would strike, and a fish would show for that reason, rather than the look and play of the lure. Wrong! The more time I spend with top Kona captains who have graciously shared their wisdom like Gene Vanderhoek of the Sea Genie II, Marlin Parker of the Marlin Magic, Teddy Hoogs from the Kila Kila, and Guy Terwilliger, the more I realize there's a LOT to it. 

Luck plays a part, for sure, and as they say, "On a good day anyone can run over a marlin and get a hookup, but top billfishing captains are true students of the game. They spend thousands of hours observing how different  lure colors, lure shapes, hook types, trolling speeds,  and drag pressure affect their rates of hookups, and are constantly making changes to adapt to the conditions.
I actually did an article on Hawaiian lure secrets for Marlin Magazine, where I worked with Captain Teddy Hoogs. 
He skippers the Kila Kila, a '53 Merrit based here in Kona. It was an incredibly educational experience, and also provided us all with lots of hot fishing action that I documented from above and below the waterline. Here is a link to the article:
I sat down in the boat's salon and spent a lot of time with Teddy and mate Josh Bunch, who both showed me how to rig lures, explaining the entire process. I was amazed at how detailed their preparations were. The attention to detail really blew me away. I've been in locations where the mate rigged lures with rusty hooks and sloppy rigs, but these guys did everything flawlessly, and if they spent 40 minutes on a lure and it didn't "run right" in the spread when they threw it into the pattern of lures they were rolling, the took it apart and did it all over again.
In the above photo you can see Josh Bunch talking with the angler about just how he plans to rig the lure. Lure heads- the pieces of plastic that are attached to the trailing pieces of plastic- are sometimes chosen by the mates or captain, and are sometimes chosen by the angler, and even brought by them from their hometown.  It's fun to bring your favorite lures, but it's a good idea to go with what the crew says might work because they usually have a good idea of what the predators have been eating. So if the marlin have been eating squid, they pick a shape and color that will mimic a squid. An angler can spend 200 dollars on a choice lure but if doesn't match look and action of the food that the fish have been feeding on, they might be missing their chance.
Interestingly, large hooks are not always chosen by mates or captains when rigging lures for large fish. I know one captain in Kona who has caught about as many giant marln as anyone in the world, and he happens to use the smallest hooks of any captain I have met. 
In the above photo you can see the mate holding the finished lure. Get a good look at this lure because after I have dinner I am going to blog about what happened it right after it was put in the water!!


Official 2010 HIBT Blog: Marlin Fishing Tournament update from Kona, Hawaii

Hi Jon Schwartz here, welcome to the official blog of the 2010 Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT) Blog. Anglers are coming in this weekend from all over the world to Hawaii's Kona Coast,  the "Land of the Giants,  to troll the deep blue waters in hopes of hooking giant marlin that can reach 2000 pounds!
I just flew in to tournament headquarters this afternoon and I'm super excited about being able to witness this historic event, which will actually start Monday morning. I guess last year's event was the historic one, as it was the 50th anniversary, but let's hope this one makes history for big fish mayhem and fun. It sure has the potential! I've covered the HIBT for the last two years and spent many additional weeks on the water with captains and anglers gathering photos and fishing content. Prior to covering the HIBT as a journalist I spent many fishing trips of my own here, learning about what makes this such a special big game fishing destination.

One aspect is that big pelagic game fish seem to like being in clear deep blue water that has lots of bait that they can feed on. Kona has that, for sure. It gets so deep so quick here that you can be 100 feet off the jetty, and be in 250 feet of water or more.
Check out this illustration that I got and put a label on, showing where the Kona Coast is. You can see the steep dropoff points. No need to motor out to where the big ones lie- they are right there within 1/4 mile from shore at times. In addition, this is the leeward side of the Big Island of Hawaii, as opposed to the windward side. I am not going to say that there is no wind because if I do, that might jinx everything and we'll be blown off the water on Monday, but for the most part, let's just say that this is not the windward side...
If you want proof that huge fish can be caught within a stone's throw from shore, check out this picture of a 64.5 pound giant trevally ( Ulua in Hawaiian) that I caught at the mouth of the harbor, about 50 yards off the jetty, about 5 years ago here....on a kayak!
It says "Ulua #3" on it because it was actually the third one that I caught in three days, if that's any indication of how good it can get here. So if you can't tell, I've been sold on this place as a big fish mecca for awhile now.
Now let's talk about the bait. There's tons of it here, and you wouldn't believe the sized of the baits that they use to catch marlins with. They catch tuna that others would be happy to catch for trophies, and then put a hook through them and wait until a monster shows up and engulfs it. I don't have any good pictures of this, but I do know that when a 1800 pound fish was caught on many years ago, it coughed up a 150 pound tuna that it had just eaten. We'll have to do with this picture, which shows a regular sized bait.
Notice that it's been sliced in half? Well what happened is, the aku, or skipjack tuna that had been caught and then thrown out as bait with a hook on it had been sliced clean in half by a wahoo, another fish that lives around here with razor sharp teeth. Wahoo had kept eating all our baits so we put a trap hook- another hook that dangled towards the back of the bait, but the wahoo ( ono in Hawaii) was wily and cunning enough to come in for his attack and take away half of it without getting hooked!
Of course with such big baits, and bigger predators eating them, you need beefy equipment. 
See that "4/0" reel there on the left? That's actually a very big reel, big enough to catch a 200 pound marlin. I brought it over here on my first trip to Kona and they laughed when they saw it, because they usually use the biggest reels made in the world- 130 pound test reels. They are bigger around than a coffee can and can withstand the torque required to tussle with the beasts that roam these waters.  People in Kona can choose to use lighter tackle, which will be fun for smaller fish in the 20-50 pound range, but if a 500 pound marlin comes along, let alone something three times that size, they are going to get "spooled"- which means that the fish will take all the line off the spool and leave them dry and sorry they had underestimated the potential of this place.
I'm pretty sure there are 35 or so boats in this year's tournament. Each boat will be manned by one angling team, and the cool thing is that the teams have to rotate among the boats, so no one gets to have their favorite boat the whole time- it's done by random drawing. On Monday just before the tournament starts, the boats will line up at the Kailua pier, collect their anglers, and then at precisely 7:00am  (I think it's 7:00, I'd better check!), they are given the green light, and they scatter in all directions, hoping to be the first to hook up.
I'll be getting in the press boat, hoping to watch other boats as they are battling jumping marlin. I took the above photo from a helicopter last year at the start of the tournament. A really wild thing happened about two minutes after I took this photo. I told you that big fish can be caught close to shore, right? Well while I was in the chopper, we were making our last fly over for photos like the above one. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a boat going backwards. That seemed strange to me, here we are in the first couple of minutes in the tournament, everyone is streaming at full speed for gosh knows where, and one boat is going in reverse. Could it be???
I told the chopper pilot, "Follow that boat!!" and sure enough, this boat- the Marlin Magic, owned by captain Marlin Parker and skippered by Jason Holtz, was indeed hooked up to a big fish and was backing down on it so they could get to it and tag and release it.
Right when we get on top of the boat, the most amazing thing happened: the fish, a marlin, jumped out of the water and started greyhounding off the stern of the boat!
Luckily I was able to catch it all on camera and I got what are probably some of the rarest fishing shots in the world. I say that because I think it would be prohibitively expensive to rent a chopper and hover around until a boat hooks up. It can take two minutes, 4 hours,  or all day with nothing, you know? It was all luck and I'm grateful that I had that opportunity. Within minutes they had the blue marlin o the side of the boat, removed the hooks, revived it and let it go. And that was all in the first 15 minutes of the start of last year's HIBT!
Later on in the month I spent some time accompanying Captain Marlin Parker himself, who granted me an extensive interview about his life and experiences. I'll be writing a series of articles on him for Bluewater Boats magazine about Marlin Parker based on these interviews with the first one coming out soon. Here's a copy of that magazine with a picture I took of a fellow releasing a sailfish in Guatemala:
Check back in a couple of hours; after I get some sleep and have breakfast I'll continue blogging, and soon enough the tournament will be at hand!


Bring on the 2010 Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT) !!

This is Jon Schwartz welcoming you to the official blog of the 2010 Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament! The HIBT is one of the oldest, grandest, and most prestigious fishing tournaments in the world. Anglers from all corners of the globe gather on Hawaii's fabled Kona Coast, the "Land of the Giants," to fish for Pacific Blue Marlin that can grow to 2000 pounds. These are the fish of legend, and Kona is the world's ultimate blue marlin battleground.
Captain Marlin Parker, one of the world's top captains and a big game fishing legend who has landed blue marlin over 1400 pounds, fought one in Kona that he estimated well over 1600 pounds for over 23 hours.  I've seen experienced anglers put to the limits of their endurance after 3 and 4 hour fights (see below pic), so I can't imagine what it was like for 23!
Indeed, the potential for hooking massive fish in azure blue, calm waters, sometimes within a mile of shore, is what attracts such an international, faithful contingent of contestants.
There's no guarantee that you'll hook a huge fish, but as soon as you motor offshore and reach deep blue water (which can be a mere several hundred yards from shore!) a monster can strike at any time. Some of the world's best captains, including Parker, Guy Terwilliger, and Gene Vanderhoek, call Kona home, and they've all learned the hard way that they need to be prepared for "Godzilla" every time they leave the harbor.

Thousand pound marlin- known as "granders"- have been landed in almost every month of the year in Kona.
To that end they only use the heaviest tackle, lest they be caught, as Vanderhoek puts it, "with their pants down." In fact, I interviewed Marlin Parker about the 23 hour marathon fight, and he told me that when dawn broke the next morning, he dove in to see if the heavy leader line that was attached to the fish was in danger of breaking. I've dove in with a few marlin myself (for photos like this one below), but nothing nearly as large, so I was curious about his experience with such a leviathan.
"What was the fish doing 18 hours into the fight when you dove in?" I asked.  He replied with a grin, "Pretty much anything it wanted !" What an understatement! I guess it was like putting a lasso on Kong Kong and asking if it cramped his style.
Big game sportfishing finds many of it's roots in Hawaii, and if you want to read about the history of sportfishing and the birth of the HIBT, check out the article I wrote about it here: HIBT: Fishing for Giant Marlin in Kona, Hawaii.  One of the tournament's founders, Peter Fithian, still presides over the HIBT. This will be his 51st year at the tournament's helm , and I look forward to meeting up with him and "talking story", as they say in Hawaii.

Check in in a few hours; I'll be adding a lot of content about last year's HIBT, explaining the significance of the tournament, what it's like for the anglers, what type of equipment they use, the type of fish they hook (blue marlin are the targeted species but there's plenty of other fish that they encounter), how they fight them, how they release most of them and why they keep a few, and what the local scene is like in Kona during the HIBT.
Once I arrive in Kona on Friday, I'll be your on the ground photojournalist, uploading exciting content onto this blog, Jon Schwartz's HIBT Fishing Blog on a daily basis. I'll be in the press boat every day chasing after the boats that are hooked up to fish in hopes of witnessing wild big game fishing action and landing "the shot". After the day is done I'll sit down at my laptop with a plate full of wings and a club soda and enter the day's juiciest tidbits for your reading and viewing pleasure. Don't forget, all along the way you can also catch detailed information about the tournament at the Offical HIBT Website
Here's a shot I got from last year's HIBT:


Hawaii Travel Update: Grand Times on the Island of Oahu!

We just got back from a fabulous trip to Oahu. I was gathering content for an article about an exotic fish that lures well-heeled anglers from all over the world. Along the way I spent time with my family savoring this fantastic vacation destination. Sorry if that sounds like an ad, but there's no other way to describe Oahu. On the South Shore you have Waikiki, which is a busy metropolis, world class shopping hub, and home to some of the world's most famous beaches. On the North Shore, you have a rural, down-home country feel, mixed with some of the most beautiful mist shrouded valleys, sun soaked beaches, and of course, the most famous surf spots in the entire world.

We stayed at some really awesome resorts. One was the Kahala Resort, which is a high-end exclusive resort about 10 minutes out of Waikiki, located just past Diamond Head. In addition to being a travel and fishing writer and photographer, I do a lot of resort photography (you didn't think I just sat around on these trips, did you?) Anyway, I got some neat shots at the Kahala. Here's one I took of the Spa they have:

and here's a shot of my daughters living it up in the pool:

and here they are chilling on the beach:

Maybe I should trade jobs with my kids! At the Kahala, they have this thing called Dolphin Quest, where there's a salt water lagoon and dolphins swimming around in it, and you can swim and interact with them. It's fantastic. I pointed out to my daughters that the girl in this photo below, who I assume is a dolphin trainer, seems to be having the time of her life, and is getting paid for it. So I gave them the "Hey, go to school, get good grades, specialize in marine science, and become a dolphin trainer" speech. I don't know if you can relate but I am getting to the age where I need to start guiding them in life choices, and having a fun job that you like, like this dolphin trainer here, seems like a great thing to strive for. Plus they can do that in Hawaii and I can come visit them!
Anyone who goes to Oahu and doesn't stay for a spell in the heart of Waikiki is really missing out. My wife LOVED it there, because it's like a little mini 5th Avenue, NYC style, right on the prettiest tropical beach you can imagine. It's where surfing took root, and where I first fell in love with the State of Hawaii. Here's my whole family...
Here's what it looked like at night from our hotel room:
After Waikiki we ventured over to the North Shore and stayed at the Turtle Bay Resort. It's a high end resort on the very tip of the island, and it has stunning views, beaches, golf courses, restaurants, and privacy, if you want it- just the place to go to after a stay in busy Waikiki. Here's a shot I took at sunrise our first morning there:
 This is the view from the resort looking out over Turtle Bay itself.
and here's a picture of my own daughter ripping it up on the surf they have right next to the resort!

I've been fortunate to do a lot of traveling and have a lot of exciting personal adventures but watching my daughters enjoy themselves, and photographing them surfing, was a special treat! I was the proudest daddy in the entire world!
Just past the Turtle Bay Resort, there lies an expanse of secluded beaches that are breathtakingly beautiful. I went for a short hike there with my daughters, in part because we wanted to see the rare Hawaiian Monk Seal. I was told that there are very few of them left. I took this shot with my long lens because you're not allowed to get very close to them. I also wondered where her pup was, as I was told that she was spending time on the beach with her pup and waiting until the pup was grown enough to fend for itself. Maybe the pup already flew the coop?

One of the shots I did in my resort photography there was to capture the view that massage clients have when they are in the spa. It's kind of an interesting puzzle to get the shot so that the inside of the spa is lit properly, while the view through the window is not blown out and overexposed. Here's what I got:

My daughter Leilani is a pool freak. She gets a crazed look in her eye when she is playing in the pool and is in a total world of her own, she is having so much fun. It's almost like she doesn't hear you when you talk to her, she's in such a state of bliss. Last year I took a neat picture of her underwater and when she saw me with my camera she told me that she wanted to try for that shot again.


Great kids fishing picture

I frequent fishing chat boards and saw a post that asked readers to submit their favorite kids fishing photos. Because I have three kids of my own and have been a fishing enthusiast and elementary schoolteacher for over a decade, I have had many opportunities to get some great ones. The above is one of my favorites.

Kasey and his grandfather came out with me to kayak fish in Southern CA and we ended up catching a big fat yellowtail. In fact I picked the two of them up at 3:30 in the am and like a true angler, Kasey bounded down the steps barely able to contain his excitement at that early hour. We paddled out in the dark and made squid for bait under the moonlight, and were finally rewarded with this tasty treat.

Kasey was a very advanced student and also knew a lot about the local fishery. In the first week we struck a bond and I ended up going over to his house to meet his family (it was a public school that I taught at on Camp Pendleton). His dad was deployed in Iraq and his grandpa (pictured) was helping to take care of him with his daughter, Kasey's mother. He turned out to be a master angler and was schooling Kasey in all things fishing so we became fast friends. I told them, "Look, when the squid start spawning, I'm going to call you and we'll go out and catch us a big one!" Sure enough I got a call that the fish were biting and so I put the plan into action. You can bet he was stoked to tell his classmates about our adventure!


My Fishing Calendar published by Willow Creek Press

The first official calendar exclusively featuring my photography has just come out and I am excited! It's published by Willow Creek Press. They do all sorts of high interest wall calendars (way more than just fishing calendars) and seem to be a big name in the publishing world so I was honored to have my work selected.

Ironically the image you see here that is on the calendar cover was one of the first shots I ever took from the water. I sent it to my friend who is an editor and he said "Nice shot but you should have shot it vertically so I could have used it as a cover!" Ever since then I have been hyper vigilant about shooting vertically when I am doing these types of shots.

The fish is a striped marlin and it was caught and released off of Cabo San Lucas at the Golden Gate Bank. I've been meaning to do more blogging but I keep getting so caught up in photography and writing for magazines (which is a good thing!) that I haven't had time to log in and blog.

I was recently on assignment on the island of Oahu. I had such a great time there that I can't put it into words. I was like a kid in a candy store. Stay tuned for some really cool pics that I took of the fabulous scene there!