Bowers reels in massive bluefin

WINNER: Craig Bowers, of Ōhope, shows off his 119kg catch that won the $50,000 prize. Photos supplied 

Staff Reporter

ŌHOPE'S Craig Bowers never imagined the $50,000 prize on offer at this year's Whakatāne Sport Fishing Club Hubbards Tuna Tournament would come his way.

After the graft of last year in what were horrid fishing conditions for the inaugural tournament, more than 340 anglers were greeted with glorious weather for the second edition of the tournament.

Bowers, who reeled in a 119-kilogram bluefin whopper, took part last year but struggled in the weather and didn't expect to be up on stage getting the winners cheque on Sunday evening.

“Nah, we thought we would get trumped. It’s just not my luck to win anything like that.

“We thought we had a fish that would potentially place, but we had no idea it was going to win.

“We just thought with so many other fishermen out there someone would have trumped us.”

TWO RIPPERS: The winning team of Leigh Carter, Darcy Bowers, Craig Bowers and Nicholas Cutting with their two impressive bluefin. 

He said it didn’t sink in properly until they were back at their table.

“It blew us away. We sort of did know and when we heard the second place we just erupted because we knew when that weight was read out, we had won. It took a few beers for it to really sink in.”

Bowers, a fishing fanatic, said the bluefin put up a heck of a fight.

“It took about 45 minutes. We had a few highs and lows with reeling it in.

“We actually thought it was a shark. I fought it for about half an hour and it was doing the typical stuff and then it came to the surface and we spent the last 15 minutes trying to get it on the boat.

“We had lost faith that it was a tuna and thought it must have been a shark because we saw it splash on the surface.

“Because of how long it took, that also made us lose faith in thinking it was tuna.

“I definitely knew it was the biggest tuna I had caught, but I was like this is either a real donkey or a shark.

“We saw the head come out of the water and it was then we realised it was a tuna.

“It just wasn’t doing the typical tuna thing, that’s why we were adamant it was a shark.”

The next day they jumped back in their boats and went out hoping to better their effort, but it wasn’t to be.

“We went out behind White Island on the last day and didn’t get much. We were just trying to do a catch and release to get points really.”

Bowers and his Tinnie House team are donating $5000 of their winnings to the Gisborne Tatapouri Fishing Club to help with the recent tragedy that saw three of their members pass away at sea.

“We as a team decided it would be nice to help in some way.

“We knew it was a good chunk of money, but we had a large chunk of money that could be anyone’s. They were fishermen and we can’t imagine what the families and the club are going through.”

The team caught another 67kg bluefin, four hours after in the same area as their winning 119kg catch.

“We caught it on day two; we didn’t fish on the first day because of work commitments.

“We drove through the night up to Waihau Bay and caught it real early in the morning.”

Bowers said winning was such a buzz considering the 2023 edition.

“We were out in some of the worst seas last year. It put a lot of people off because they were awful conditions. So, to have nicer ones this year and win overall was pretty sweet.

“Catching a fish like that on a trailer boat makes it even more of a buzz.”

He was joined on the boat Tinnie House by Leigh Carter, his son Darcy Bowers and Nicholas Cutting.  

The money will be used by the team members for various things.

Whakatāne Sport Fishing Club president Heyden Johnston said it was a fabulous tournament overall.

“It was awesome. It went really well. It was a fantastic tournament. The boats got to experience some fantastic weather. The weather gods really played ball.

“We had people from all over New Zealand come and partake in the event and they didn’t leave unhappy. It was fantastic to show off our fishing in the Eastern Bay.”

Johnston said it was a timely reminder to alert anglers to make sure they know what the rules are when fishing, especially the International Game Fishing Association Rules, which is what all the tournaments are run under.

“There were some fish that were extremely large but did not make it into the prizegiving because they had not followed the rules correctly. One of them was 150kg, which is an exceptionally large fish.”

GOOD EFFORT: Junior angler Liam Rangiawha with his 91kg bluefin tuna he caught on board Viking. 

Johnston said next year would be bigger and better and people had already booked in for next year.

“Everyone enjoyed it. It was a great way to show off a beautiful part of New Zealand.”

Johnston said a big emphasis goes on safety and making sure all anglers are safe, with a one hour briefing prior to the tournament starting.

“It’s about making everyone in our competitions as safe as possible on the water.”

Multiple donations and several raffles were also held throughout the weekend to raise money for the Gisborne Tatapouri Club and over $16,000 was been raised for them to distribute how they see fit, Johnston said.

“Everyone felt the tragedy in Gisborne and this was a way for everyone to get together and support each other and keep safe.”

A highlight for Johnston was seeing junior angler Liam Rangiawha reel in a 91kg fish, to place him third overall.

Bowers won heaviest tuna, second was Cameron Byron with his 100kg effort, Rangiawha was third, Nathan Bath’s 79kg effort grabbed him fourth and fifth went to Cameron Ogle and his 77.4kg catch.

Aquarius were named the champion team, the champion tuna boat jackpot was also taken out by Josh Yorke and his Aquarius team, Chasing Tail were second and third went to Big Nauti.

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