How to Catch a Grander
Copyright  Jim Rizzuto, used with permission
Excerpted from The Kona Fishing Chronicles 2003/2004
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The biggest blue marlin in over a decade showed up at 11:00 am on July 5, 2003 — exactly one day late.
 If the 1,258.5-pound blue had hit Captain Bomboy Llanes's homemade locknut lure 24 hours sooner, it would have won the World Cup Blue Marlin Championship and earned a cash prize of at least $200,000.

Texas angler Miguel Koenig was fishing aboard the boat On The Fly with Capt. Llanes and crew Scott Kadaoka. It was the first day of the Firecracker Open and the team was entered in the two-day event. Koenig is an experienced angler who had fished here 6 times before and notched impressive catches — a 615-pound blue marlin last year and a 178-pound `ahi already this year. Still, nothing could have prepared him for the ordeal ahead.

Llanes was towing his lures across a legendary spot for big fish, the 700-fathom line off the Keahole Point Lighthouse. Kadaoka saw the fish as it rushed in to smack a lure on the long corner line. Just as he yelled "big fish," the marlin dropped the lure, then charged across to grab the Locknut lure on the short outrigger.

"It jumped immediately and right then I knew it was over a thousand pounds," Llanes said. "The fish stayed on top and took off on a long run. It took line all the way down to the spool, about 800 yards. I backed up right away while Scott cleared the lines so we were able to keep the fish from taking everything."

Keonig began the grueling work of getting it all back. Crank by crank, he wound nearly all of it back on the reel, but the fish took off on another 800-yard run. At this point, it was obvious the marlin was big enough to do whatever it wanted to do regardless of the puny efforts of those annoying humans nearby.
By now the battle had attracted the tournament press boat and the attention of every fisherman with a cell phone. "At one point, the fish came up and I thought it might turn belly up. But it started swimming right for the press boat. We were screaming at them to get out of the way," Llanes said. "I thought maybe we should try to gaff it then. But I saw its tail was all lit up and knew it wasn't ready."

What it was ready for was lunch. The marlin spotted a school of aku nearby and decided it was hungry from its exertions. "It took off to chase aku on the ledge at the Middle Grounds. I had to back down a quarter mile just to keep up with it. It dragged us from the Middle Grounds to the ledge at the Lighthouse ko`a."

The incredible battle raged on throughout the afternoon and evening. Koenig stayed in the chair working rod and reel to recover line whenever he could. Llanes stayed at the helm, working the controls to maneuver the boat and help his angler as much as possible.

At 8:00 p.m., the trio finally got their chance. It was pitch black, though the lights from the bridge lighted up the scene behind the boat. Koenig had gotten the fish to the double line. Fully illuminated by the boat lights, the fish jumped clear of the water ten feet from the back of the boat. "It was an unreal sight," Llanes said. "As soon as the fish landed, I backed up to it and Scott gaffed it right away. By then, it had dragged us all the way back to the harbor. We were only about a quarter mile from the green buoy at the entrance to Honokohau."

The news rang phones at the homes of fishermen around the state. The whole Llanes family gathered at the dock to greet the boat and read the scales.

At 1,258.5 pounds, it was the biggest blue marlin ever caught in a fishing tournament anywhere in the world. And it was the heaviest marlin caught in Kona since June 6, 1992 when Capt. Darrin Isaacs brought the Spellbound home with a 1,356-pound blue. Just as important to Bomboy, it was first grander for the Llanes family since his grandfather had begun the dynasty here in the 1950's.

With those statistics, you might have forgiven Llanes, Koenig and Kadaoka if they had decided to sit out the second day of the Firecracker Open. But no, they were out there again Sunday looking for a bigger fish. "We are in a tournament and I'm the only angler on the team," Koenig said. "So we are sticking with it. I am sore, but I am really high on adrenaline."

Though Bomboy now makes and markets the "Locknut" lure through his lure company, he credits his dad, Capt. Kenny Llanes, for the original design. "I owe this fish and everything else to all the things he taught me," the skipper said.