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Finest Kind chases off giant manta ray during fight with marlin

By Staff | Oct 23, 2014

From left, Jim Ellis, Capt. Chad Leonillo and deckman Kenny Bauchman with their 533.4-pound blue. PHOTO BY DONNELL TATE.

LAHAINA – The Finest Kind placed their fourth fish into the 500-pound marlin stats, with Jim Ellis weighing a 533.4-pound blue. He was fishing with Capt. Chad Leonillo and deckman Kenny Bauchman.

Chad was heading toward Lanai and was on the 100-fathom ledge off Kamaiki Point when he saw a marlin in front of the boat around 200 pounds. He made a couple of passes through the spot, working the area for about five minutes. As he was following the direction it had gone, they raised a fish.

“The fish came up on the long corner bait, super committed and aggressive,” said Kenny. “Its mouth was wide open, all over the lure. It’s really neat when you have that following sea, 2-3 feet, and you see them come up with the wave and charge the lure. It was a mean bite.”

The marlin dumped about 500-600 yards of 100-test line and never jumped. Chad slowed the boat as Kenny cleared the lines and got Jim in the chair. The fish was still running as Chad started to reverse after it.

The marlin stayed at an angle down-swell, so Chad was able to chase after it. They got most of the line back in the first 10-15 minutes. The last 200 feet, the fish was staying deep, swimming away. Chad was just maneuvering the boat to keep the fish off the starboard corner.

They had the marlin on a following sea for most of the fight. It made a move and started swimming up-swell. Chad turned the boat with the fish and followed after it, backing into the swell.

About halfway through the fight, a school of pilot whales swam by. Chad was a bit worried. He told Kenny, “We got to get this thing.” He didn’t know if they saw it as a free meal.

Chad got the boat straight up and down on the marlin, so he kicked the boat ahead, trying to coax it to come up. The fish was real lively and stubborn, mentioned Kenny. They were watching it swim off their starboard corner for probably ten minutes.

They had the marlin up to double line once, but it sounded straight down 100 feet. Once they finally got its head turned, Chad turned the boat down-swell. He reversed on it every now and then to try to gain some line. The marlin wasn’t budging. The last 15-20 minutes, it stayed down about 50-100 feet in a give-and-take mode.

Suddenly, a giant manta ray came straight to the boat, looking like it wanted to check things out. It was sitting about 20 feet away and looked to have a wingspan of at least 15 feet.

Chad started throwing chunks of bottom-fishing lead at the ray to try to scare it away. He didn’t want it to get too close, touch the line and break the fish off. The ray finally left after a few nervous minutes.

They got the marlin back to double line, with it hanging out right off the starboard corner of the boat. Kenny pushed up the drag. The last five minutes, they were in a tug of war.

The fish swam back and forth across the stern about ten times, taking short bits of line on each pass. Kenny pushed the drag over the strike button. Jim finally got the double line on the rod, but not on the spool.

All of a sudden, Jim started gaining easy line. Chad noticed that the marlin had “bronzed out” and rolled over belly up. He told Kenny, “She’s upside down; grab the line.” Kenny grabbed the double line and started to pull the fish up. “It was just like bringing up a 55-gallon drum. No body movements at all – a dead fish.”

Chad reversed on the marlin to the starboard corner. Kenny took a couple of wraps on the leader and held on as Chad idled the boat forward. “It came up real simple,” said Kenny. They didn’t even have to subdue it – just pull it through the stern door.