Ho`ole`a becoming the big fish

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 08/31/02)
By Ray Pendleton

Over the last several weeks, I've written about the Big Island's Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, primarily because of its unique nature.

The HIBT has an notably long, 43-year history and its anglers compete just for the bragging rights and a trophy, nothing more.

But, as any competitive angler in Hawai`i knows, there are alternatives to the HIBT's no-money style of contest, and one of the fastest growing on Oahu is this weekend's Ho`ole`a Fishing Tournament, co-hosted by the Waikiki and Hawaii yacht clubs.

To begin with, the Ho`ole`a is a jackpot tournament. That is, cash prizes, not trophies, are awarded to the teams that bring in the biggest fish. And we're talking big cash prizes.

The Ho`ole`a has taken pride in the fact that since its inception 16 years ago, its organizers have always returned 100 percent of the entry fees back to the anglers in prize money.

They have been able to that because the tournament's expenses are covered by the two host yacht clubs and several generous sponsors.

That has meant that when there have been, say, 60 teams entered at $375 per team, they were competing for a minimum of $22,500 in total prize money.

A first-place team could have won something close to $10,000, and that wouldn't have included the various optional entry categories that are paid out for individual gamefish species.

On top of awarding cash prizes, because it is one leg of the Maui Jim Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series, the Ho`ole`a allows anglers to collect season points that may qualify them to take part in a "made-for-TV" showdown off the Big Island's South Point.

Another difference between the Ho`ole`a and the HIBT is with the rules each tournament uses.

The HIBT demands strict adherence to International Game Fish Association rules so there is no question about world records if and when a large fish is boated.

With the Ho`ole`a, it is left to the individual anglers.

"We don't demand IGFA rules, but we don't allow "jungle rules" either," said chairman Rick Abille. "It's something in between because we don't require line class or leader restrictions."

Still, if any angler is looking to qualify for the Maui Jim Series or have a record fish officially recognized by the IGFA, he or she must fish by the applicable rules.

A final difference between the HIBT and the Ho`ole`a is the boat arrangements needed for their anglers.

Most of the HIBT teams are comprised of visitors, so they are assigned to a different charter boat each day, based on a blind draw system.

On the other hand, the Ho`ole`a teams usually fish aboard their own boats and are identified by their boats' names.

Fortunately, between the HYC and the WYC, there are more than ample free moorings for all entries. And, as a fringe benefit, both clubs invite the families of all the teams to enjoy their facilities all weekend.

For those interested in watching the Ho`ole`a tournament weigh-in, most of the action around the Hawaii Yacht Club scales will be between 4 and 6 p.m. today and Sunday.

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