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The Great Marlin Race — HIBT/Kona fish tagged winners

By Staff | Oct 22, 2015

July 28, 2014 marked the first fishing day of the 55th annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT) in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. It was also the sixth year for the Great Marlin Race, which was launched there in celebration of the HIBT’s 50th anniversary.

In the morning, the teams arrived at the “shouting room” – a giant, open-air tent where the angling teams assemble before and after fishing – and within minutes, Whangaroa Sportfishing Club’s Keith Allan stepped forward to sponsor a tag with his wife, Janice.

This was the second year they have sponsored a tag, and the HIBT is grateful for their continued support of the IGMR.

Also sponsoring a tag for the third year in a row was IGFA Representative Rocky Franich from the Pajaro Valley Game Fish Club, Ralph Czabayski of the Game Fishing Club of South Australia, IGFA Representatives Bob and Sally Kurz, and 2013-14 Race Year winners Marty and Mitchell Firestein, who fished for Laguna Niguel Billfish Club.

As in the 2013 HIBT, Keith and Janice’s tag was the first to be deployed by Dr. Rex Pyne, after he battled an estimated 150-pound blue marlin from High Flyer early in the morning on the tournament’s opening day.

Meanwhile, it was just coming up on 10 a.m. when Sally Kurz, fishing aboard Humdinger, hooked an estimated 250-pound blue marlin. Sally fought the fish for nearly an hour before Brett Fay leadered the marlin alongside the boat, where Bob Kurz carefully tagged it.

Fishing for Laguna Niguel Billfish Club #3, co-sponsor Mitchell Firestein deployed the third tag of the race after his father and co-sponsor Martin Firestein reeled in an estimated 110-pound blue. The father and son team were fishing from Northern Lights on July 29, 2014. This was the third tag the Firesteins have sponsored since the IGMR began in 2011.

Also sponsoring a tag for the third year in a row was another father and son team: IGFA Representative Rolf Czabayski and IGFA Lifetime Member Ralph Czabayski, who were fishing for the Game Fishing Club of South Australia. On July 31, 2014, Ralph deployed the fourth tag of the IGMR, after his father successfully fought an estimated 200-pound fish aboard Medusa.

On Aug. 15, 2014, Ihu Nui Capt. McGrew Rice placed the fifth tag of the race on an estimated 250-pound blue marlin caught by Bob Kurz. For the third year in a row, this tag was generously co-sponsored by IGFA Representatives Bob and Sally Kurz from Laguna Niguel Billfish Club #1, Rocky Franich, Bill Evans and Bob Duerr from Pajaro Valley Game Fish Club.

Two weeks later, on Aug. 28, 2014, IGMR sponsor Tim McBride of Mission Bay Marlin Club’s tag was deployed on an estimated 600-pound blue by Northern Lights Capt. Kevin Nakamaru, after angler Randy Pauly reeled in the fish. Tim has independently sponsored two tags since the start of the IGMR.

The last tag to be deployed in the race was by sponsor Chuck Wigzell, after angler Lou Groebner fought an estimated 375-pound marlin aboard Lady Dee on Sept. 4, 2014. This was also Chuck’s second year sponsoring a tag and supporting the IGMR program.

On March 3, 2015, the final tag in the 2014 HIBT IGMR surfaced to win the race, after remaining on Fish 7 for the full programmed duration of 180 days. The tag reported about 250 nautical miles (nm) north of the equator, at an incredible point-to-point distance of 2,659 nm southeast from where it was deployed in Kona, Hawaii. They estimated the total distance swam by the fish to be 5,861 nm.

Congratulations to Chuck Wigzell of Lady Dee, the sponsor and tagger of the Kona winning fish!

Coming in a very close second place was Fish 1, sponsored by Keith and Janice Allan of Whangaroa Sport Fishing Club. The tag popped up on New Year’s Day very close (about 370 nm away) to where Fish 7’s tag surfaced.

Fish 1 swam a remarkable point-to-point distance of 2,292 nm, and a total estimated distance of 4,759 nm. Most interestingly, both of the Fish 7 and Fish 1 tags popped up far to the east (rather than to the south) in a location very similar to the longest track from the 2010 HIBT, which was also an El Nino year.