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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, July 6, 2000

HIBT has yakudoshi
one year late

AH, if it's July, it must be nearly time to go fishing for blue marlin off Kailua-Kona's deep but calm blue waters.

The formal title is the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, but to locals it's the Kona Billfish Tournament.

This year's event is especially significant and welcomed.

After all, there was no HIBT last year and Kailua-Kona town was all the poorer for it in more ways than just the loss of charter-boat income.

It left a gaping hole in the fishing calendar.

Some less discerning folks thought the HIBT could go on without its founder, Peter Fithian. So they unwisely told him to take a hike.


Without their man called Peter, a lot of volunteers decided to take a hike with him.

Consequently, and not curiously, there was a "shortage" of volunteers and the 1999 HIBT was canceled after a successful run of 40 straight years.

Well, I'm glad to say the HIBT is back for its yakudoshi (a Japanese celebration of man's 41st birthday). And Fithian is once again providing the needed expertise to run what can be rightly called, "The World's Best Billfish Tournament."

It's definitely the most prestigious.

The tournament is slated for July 31 through Aug. 5. There's the cash-prize Pro-Am 2000 set for the week before.

The 2000 HIBT is being billed as the 41st annual, although technically it began 42 years ago.

"After 40 is 41," insists Fithian, who perhaps doesn't want to be reminded that the 41st HIBT last year was canceled.

Who's going to argue? To Fithian, it was more than a blip on the fishing calendar. It was a bleep that his baby was dissed.

"If you've done it half your life, it's hard to stop," he said.

In the world of game-fishing where more and more anglers only compete in "Show me the money" jackpot tournaments, the HIBT will remain a truly Corinthian event, according to Fithian.

CORINTHIAN in the true sense of the word. Namely, for wealthy devotees of amateur sports. Those who rather - and can afford to - compete for trophies instead of cash.

"We intend to keep this approach," said Fithian. "The HIBT is sports fishing. It's not for the money."

Because of the hiatus last year, the number of entries for the 2000 HIBT is only 25 teams so far, dramatically down from the 61 teams in the 40th anniversary HIBT two years ago.

Still, there will be teams from Kenya and Japan, making it again an international event.

"We'll build it back up in the years to come," says Sue Vermillion, the HIBT tournament director.

Fithian definitely expects the field to increase.

"This is a well-respected tournament, the acme event in fishing. Where else can you catch fighting fish five minutes from shore?" he asks.

Besides having the best fishing hole in the world, Kailua-Kona has 100 charter boats, including 20 that rank among the best in the world.

For the first time, there are no teams from Down Under, Australia or New Zealand.

"It's the end of an enormous streak, some 25-30 years," Fithian said.

"The economy's tough for them right now. The Aussies have won it three times. They'll be back."

There's also a new approach to this year's HIBT. There will be fishing Monday and Tuesday, and a day off Wednesday, followed by two more days of fishing with the awards dinner Saturday night.

And, yes, a parade through Kailua-Kona July 31, to start the festivities.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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