And the 2017 winner is…
2017 Captain of the Year
Capt. Steve “Stymie” Epstein
Huntress, 42’ Merritt
Homeport: Kona, Hawaii
1000 points– Kona Throw Down, 1st pl.; Heaviest Marlin Big Island Marlin Tournament (600 pound blue)
Congratulations to Captain Steve Epstein for winning InTheBite’s prestigious Hawaiian Division 2017 Captain of the Year (COTY) contest. Undoubtedly, Kona hosts some of the world’s finest sportfishing captains. The competition among these storied and well-seasoned captains fishing the calm blue waters off Kona is fierce. Winning the COTY in Kona is an extraordinary achievement and a good reflection of Epstein’s exceptional fishing abilities.
From late May through mid-September, Kona’s Honokohau Harbor hosts a major blue marlin tournament practically every week. InTheBite sanctioned 14 tournaments for the 2017 competition. The contests included the Hawaiian Marlin Tournament Series (7), the Hawaiian Billfish Series (2), the World Cup, the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, the Rock and Reel Tournament, the Wahine and the Marlin Magic Tournament. Unfortunately, this year, the well run, first-rate Hawaiian Billfish Series tournaments did not meet the 12 boat tournament minimum for points as stated in the rules, and the captains who participated in those tournaments were not awarded points.
Epstein, the captain of the 42′ Merritt Huntress (formerly the Black Bart), has been fishing the waters off Kona since 1977 and is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Epstein won the Blue Marlin World Cup in 2014 and has been in the running for the Hawaii COTY award each year since it started in 2014.
What is Epstein’s approach to tournament fishing? “The most important thing during tournament fishing is the same thing that’s important to us every day! Preparation- is the line perfect, are all the hooks, cable, and lures perfect? We will probably only run seven or eight different lures all season long; trust what got you there! Research- checking the current online,” the veteran skipper explains. “Kona has its own unique setup for a good current, which is key. We look more for where NOT to be on the coast. Experience- there is no substitute for local knowledge, and trusting your original plan you decided on in the morning, rather than chasing the bite on the radio!”
The approach has paid dividends, resulting in tournament resume that looks like this: 2014-1st Place Marlin Magic Lure Tournament, 2015-2nd Place Skins Marlin Tournament, 2015-2nd Place Kona Shootout Tournament, 2016-3rd Place Firecracker Tournament and 2016-1st place Kona Throwdown Tournament.
Epstein has also been a part of many epic grander blue marlin battles that have made Kona famous. He was co-captain/crew for Capt. Marlin Parker’s 1,400-pound blue marlin. Parker, Epstein, and angler Steve Schumacher also had an epic, twenty-three-hour marathon battle with what might have been the biggest blue marlin ever hooked on rod and reel – until the line broke.
This summer season, Epstein, fishing with veteran Capt. Dana Boardman as crew, won a challenging COTY contest by accumulating 1,000-points. Epstein’s tally included winning the Kona Throwdown with most points. He then caught the largest blue marlin, 670-pounds, along with a blue marlin release in the 31st Big Island Marlin Tournament. Epstein would like to acknowledge the help of Capt. Tim Hicks who jumped on the Huntress during the 31BIMT as a second angler, camera man, tag man, and what turned out to be the most important role– gaff man.
As it does every year, the Hawaii Division featured a multitude of highly-skilled captains winning tournaments overall and scoring points in the heaviest blue marlin category. The competition is a prime example of how serious the competition is here. Behind Epstein in second place was a two-way tie between Capt. Shane O’Brien on the Strong Persuader and Capt. Chuck Wigzell on EZ Pickens, each with 800-points. Tied for third were Capt. McGrew Rice Ihu Nui and Capt. Teddy Hoogs Bwana, each with 600-points. To show how close the contest really was- nine other captains had 500-points for wins and largest fish of the tournament. In all 13 captains finished the year within 500-points of the lead.
- 2014 Capt. Rob Ellyn, Light Speed, 1000 Pts.
- 2015 Capt. Kerwin Masunaga, Rod Bender, 1100 Pts.
- 2016 Capt. Kerwin Masunaga, Rod Bender, 1,850 Pts.
- 2017 Capt. “Stymie” Epstein, Huntress, 1,000 Pts.
Hawaiian Open Billfish Series
Rock ‘n Reel Hawaiian Open
Kona Kick Off
Skins Marlin Derby
The Kona Throw Down
Hawaii Luremaker Tournament
Kona Shoot Out
Big Island Marlin Tournament
Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament
It’s a Wrap Tourney