In 1959, just two days after the Territory of Hawaii became the 50th state, the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT) launched its first fishing tournament in Kona on Hawaii, the Big Island. Fifty-five years later, this iconic fishing tournament continues to welcome teams from around the world each summer — this year from July 26 to Aug. 2 — to fish Kona’s now famous waters.
The following is an insider’s look back at the past 55 years:
!!! A team from Hawaii won the inaugural HIBT in 1959 by out fishing teams from Australia and New Zealand. Kona’s tradition of welcoming international fishing teams begins.
!!! In 1960, women joined the tournament to fish in a one-day preliminary event. Angler Pat Peacock boats a world record 540-pound Pacific blue marlin on 130-pound test line proving to the world, and the fishing community, that women fish.
!!! By 1977, Captain Myrna Holdredge, HIBT’s first female skipper, boats three Pacific blue marlin in one day and her team from Las Vegas wins the tournament.
!!! Before sustainability entered the lexicon, HIBT was way ahead of the curve when it introduced a pioneering tag and release initiative in 1986. Tag and release awards valuable points to teams that have tagged marlin under 300 pounds and released them back to the ocean.
!!! Fast forward to last year with HIBT’s impressive international competition fielding teams with captains and anglers from Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, South Africa, USA and Vanuatu.
Kailua Pier is an ideal location to watch the iconic Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament start each morning at 7:30 a.m. as boats toe the start line across Kailua Bay. Spectators can expect to witness the hum of scoreboard action as teams arrive back at the pier with fish flags flying announcing the day’s successes. Big fish weigh in at Kailua Pier after the end of fishing every day at 4:30 p.m.