Categorized | Featured, Fishing, Sports

Big marlin, bull riders, top anglers face off

(Photo courtesy of Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series)


Some people have the mistaken impression that Hawaii is all about beaches and surfboards. Hawaii Five – O. Maybe bikinis… war god tike mail boxes.

The reality is Big Island life is often more about fishing and ranching than surf and sand.

Polynesians caught ocean fish for thousands of years from canoes, and Hawaiians invented the game fishing techniques now used world wide. On the Kona coast, canoes have been replaced with high powered game boats. This is well known.

It is not as well known that Kona is where fishing Hawaiians moved from canoes to horses to become “Paniolo”, the word for the Hawaiian cowboy.

Fishermen and paniolo are as authentic to Hawaii as pig to a luau. The real deal.

The marlin fishermen and the paniolo take center stage when top riders from Professional Bull Riders (PBR) arrive on the Big Island for two days of tournament fishing for marlin, after three days of paniolo activities..

The big marlin have arrived early this season in Kona and just in time for the launch of the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series. In the first two weeks of June alone, more than 30 blue marlin have been caught out of Honokohau Harbor.

Nearly one-third of these fish were in excess of 500 lbs; including two fish weighing nearly a 1,000 pounds each.

The big blues are here just in time for the Kona Kick Off Tournament, which begins June 25. Adding to the tournament excitement this year, top bull riders Sean Willingham and McKennon Wimberly of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) will compete and try their hand at wrestling a large animal of a different sort.

While bull riding and big game fishing may sound like a strange combination, both combine the thrilling element of battling one to one with a wild animal that can weigh 1,000 pounds or more.

“A key difference is a lone bull rider has to hold on to a bull for eight seconds. Not to say that is easy – or sane. A bull rider can get beat up by earth and animal and hurt badly” said Tournament Director Jody Bright. “Marlin fishing is actually a team sport. The first phase is more like cutting calves than bull riding because the skipper and angler work together to out maneuver the animal. Once the marlin is within 20 to 30 feet, the “wireman” wraps the line around his hand and goes mano a mano with a fish that can weigh up to 1,800 pounds – THIS is the ocean going version of bull riding.

“Angling a marlin can last hours, but a wireman can often tussle with a ‘digger’ for more than 5 minutes – on a pitching deck. A wireman can be pulled over the side and drown. More than one has gone over, never to be seen again. To fully understand this type of challenge, it that has to be experienced ‘first hand.’” Pun intended.

David Neal Productions will document the exploits of Team PBR and excerpts from this trip will be broadcast during the PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series Events on national TV, arena “jumbotrons” and through PBR web TV.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series. Seven tournaments make up the Series and run from July through September.

Top anglers and captains from around the world compete annually for a prize package often worth more than $1 million in cash and prizes.

The Series is produced by Tropidilla Productions, LLC in association with the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

For more information, call the HMTS Office at (808) 557-0908 or visit the HMTS website at

A mailbox in Hawaiian ranch country - obviously owned by fishing paniolo! (Photo courtesy of Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series)

One Response to “Big marlin, bull riders, top anglers face off”

  1. Mikey says:

    Great! Since only 90% of the top predator fish are gone, let’s do everything we can to get rid of the last 10%. How about a tournament where they use nets to gather up as much reef fish as possible statewide. That would be so cool and the winners would feel so manly!


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