Spyda's Blog

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Browsing Posts tagged Daiwa

Ulua Blood

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“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you wont give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy. … Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”
Bob Marley

It starts simply enough, a bamboo pole with Dad, Grandpa or an Uncle. That first tug of a fish on the end of your line, the fish is hooked and so are you. Like so many of us when I got to the point where my understanding was beyond just catching a fish and became more focused, Ulua became the “Holy Grail”. We wanted the secrets, because as hard as we tried, the Ulua never came. Were we really that bad?? We read, we asked questions, we watched other people, but it just wasn’t happening.

After the first two ulua poles I built failed to catch an ulua, one lost to a monster strike and the other a catastrophic failure, I realized that I had to step up my game to succeed. When the second rod I built broke a foot from the tip I was mad, embarrassed and really felt like a failure.

The rod was a 540 Saber which was a two piece blank which came with a dowel to splice the two pieces together. I drove down to McCully Bike to look for a top half to replace my broken one. I got lucky, there was a black top half which was cracked at the bottom. I took the damaged blank up to the counter and asked the clerk if they would be willing to sell it to me at a discount since it was cracked. The store manager agreed and I had my top half!

I knew looking at it I could cut off the cracked portion and still be able to use the dowel and splice it on to my old bottom half. It would be a little shorter, but, I still felt it would be fine. I had to build it better, stronger and well, something else. I couldn’t figure it out at the time, but, there had to be something I could do differently this time that would make the difference.

The first problem was getting the old top half off. I had loaded up on the epoxy when I had spliced it together so this was going to be tough. I had little experience with this sort of stuff, there wasn’t Google or Youtube to turn to, so I had to wing it, make a decision and go for it! The bottom half was a straight tube, no taper so I guessed where the dowel ended and cut it off! Second problem, not quite as serious, the bottom half was white. So, after I epoxied the butt cap on I got black butt wrap cord and started wrapping the bottom half. Part way up I decided to add some trim for accent. I found some sheets of stuff they use to dress lures with and cut some strips, red and silver placed them on the blank, that’s when it hit me! Blood! This rod would be all black with red pin stripes to represent the blood of ulua!

With the rod finished there was one thing left to do, go get that first ulua!

Well, as most of us know, that was easier said than done. I set about reviewing my entire process, knots, leader set up, where and when I went fishing, moon phase, tides, hook sharpening and drag setting. I thought about it constantly. In doing this I got a little obsessive and pushed myself a little further than I ever did. I was only working part-time back then so it did give me more time, but, even then it didn’t seem like enough.

One day a good friend of mine from work told me he was taking some vacation time and planned to spend a good part of it fishing. He planned to be out at Moi Hole out on the west side and told me to come on out if I could. Problem was I couldn’t get any vacation time off so would be working the entire time he was going to be out there. “Bummers” I thought, well, if I want to succeed I need to make some sacrifices. Like they say, “The good things in life never come easy!”

So the week comes and I figure my friend Hiro is out there pounding it already. I have to work in the morning so I pack what I can in the trunk of the car, the poles and cooler will have to wait until after work. One pm the next day I’m leaving work, I head to Tamashiro Market to look for bait. No tako so I pick up some fresh akule and ika and head home to finish loading up.

Out at Moi Hole, Hiro and a few of the other regulars have about 6 to 8 poles out and are kicking back when I roll up. No strikes so far they report, but, the weather is nice and the company is great so sprits are high! I get to work setting up. My patched up black and red Saber is the first I cast out, I slide a whole akule down on a 36 bkn. Next out is my Harrington with a Surfmaster (2’0). This one gets an akule fillet bait casted out. Soon it’s dinner time and the hibachi is lit up and everyone busts out some kau kau for the pot luck table.

One of the regulars in attendance is Andy Miyamoto, the Mayor of Moi Hole back then. Andy is a big man, I’m told he played semi-pro baseball in Japan. Casting was just casting until the first time I watched Andy cast! It was clear, when he casted he was fishing in an area we weren’t despite the fact that we were fishing right next to each other!

Dinner was great as it always seems to be out on the rocks or the beach. Just after sunset before it got real dark my Harrington takes a strike! A few minutes later a 5 pound Awa is on the rocks and into the cooler! Yes! Action, we’re all feeling energized and work our poles late into the night. I have to work the next morning so I’m the first one down.

Six am, after a little coffee I jack-up my poles and leave them by Hiro’s car, I’ll be back àfter work.

One pm and I’m driving to Tamashiros again. This time they have fresh tako. I buy tako and ice then hit the freeway back to the west side!!

When I get there Hiro kids me saying “Eh, you better not catch again, I never even get strike yet!!“. We all laugh except Andy, who just gives me a wry smile. Andys wife has come out and is in their tent cooking up a storm, she cooks for everyone. Good people the Miyamotos!

I work my poles hard, but save one whole tako for the big tide in the morning.

Five am music to my ears! The bell and rachet on the black Saber are goin off!! I had forced myself out of my warm cot about 3 in the morning to slide the whole 1.5lb tako I had saved for the morning rise. My mind is a blurr, but, quickly getting jacked with adrenelin! Is this it? The fish is straight out, now starting to angle to the right. it slows then swings to the left and runs again. I feel like I’m lost in a dream. Hiro is standing next to me coaching and giving me encouragement. The fish surges again then slows and swings back to the right. I’m gaining some line now, holy smokes! It this happening?! Suddenly someone yells “Color!!” I look down and there it is, the broad silver side of an ulua is shimmering underwater below us. I hear Hiro’s calm voice telling me “Easy, easy…watch the tip…let um take line if he like…” My anxiety is soaring! After what seems like forever it pops to the surface! “Kagami!!” “Hit um, hit um!!” The gaff hits home and the fish is hauled up on to the rocks, unbelievable!!

My first Ulua! My first and only (to this date) Kagami Ulua! What an amazing feeling!!

Later after breakfast, I pack to leave and say my good byes and thanks to everyone. The only thing not packed is the slide rig with the still fresh tako on it. I walk over to Andys tent and place it on his cooler. We say nothing, just nod and exchange wry smiles…

I talk about the core group of guys that cut our Ulua fishing teeth together all those years ago quite often. After much mis-adventure which included what seemed to us anyway, an inordinate amount of missed opportunities to catch fish of our dreams we took comfort in making a little fun of ourselves. It certainly wasn’t for lack of strikes as we experienced a fair share of those. We just wern’t able to capitalize on many of them. At times it felt like we were cursed, that the fishing gods were determined to show us every possible way to lose a hooked fish.

A couple of clubs on Oahu at the time were Atlapac and the Pacific Casting Club, taking the “Pac” theme from those club names we decided to call ourselves the Zee Pac Casting Club. Never truly formalized as an official club it was basically just us making fun of our own misfortunes. Given the number of times we had experienced the dreaded strike (Zeeeee!) and resulting breaking of our lines (Pac!!) Zee Pac seemed an appropriate name for us.

Fast foward to the present, we recently re-united with one of the original Zee Pac members Keith and when Dean came to town we decided fishing together would be a good chance for us to really reconnect and reminisce about the early days of the Zee Pac.

After securing a spot where we could overnight without getting hassled the plan was in gear! Just like the old days a tent, our gear and a cooler of bevera….um….bait! We were ready once again for fishing adventure!!

Adventure……..well, three old farts humping fishing and camping gear over a couple of hundred yards of sand was, in its self, quite the adventure! More squeaks and groans then a 30 year old Yugo going over speed bumps in a K-Mart parking lot!

One thing we were always pretty good at was rigging up a mean tent! Well, the weather report was predicting 25mph gusts and a 50% chance of rain so, we had our work cut out for us! What the heck were we thinking?

After about an hour, there it was! The little three-man (more like three-munchkin) tent and a strong wind-break to protect it! See, we know what we doing! On to the fishing.

We had done some diving here before so knew there were a good amount of baitfish to be had. Of course there was also a week old frozen tako in the cooler too. Dean and I set off down the beach with our small spin outfits rigged with floater set ups. Soon we had some lively hinalea lauwili in our live bait bucket.

The low tide had swung its way through and the waves picked up a touch as the rise began. An 18 inch snowflake eel was the first to bite one of our live hinalea baits. We put it out of its misery and set it aside for later. If we were sliding it would be one bait, but, since we were baitcasting it would be three.

Late afternoon, Keiths new Nitro takes a solid strike, it doesn’t seem too big, but, takes a few good rips straight out then turns. Oh oh…..line’s hung up….can’t tell if it’s gone or not. It’s cold and windy, but, why not, Keiths first strike on his new rod, I strip down to my surfshorts and jump in the water. I follow the line out to where I can feel it stuck and pull carefully away from the obstruction, it’s free, but, the line is cut off…

Zee Pac!

Disappointed, naturally, but, encouraged by the strike early in the rise we all get busy working our poles!  My hinalea comes back strong and lively so I toss it back out to give it another go while I prep the snowflake eel. I cut the head off leaving about another 5 inches or so of the body attached. The fillets are left attached to the head, but, cut away from the spine which is left in place, cracked once or twice to release some smell and the entrails hang from the head also.

After dinner the tide is really moving now, time for the puhi! Being that we had to hump all our gear out to the spot all I brought was my Rainshadow baitcaster, a 1567F Rainshadow blank the good folks at 5O7S (5 Oceans 7 Seas) were nice enough to special order for me. A step down from the 1569F which is the heaviest they make, the 1567F still has impressive power and very light weight. My return to fishing with conventionals has admittedly been a little rough, too much spinner fishing may have taken me out of rhythm, so, lately I have been leaving the spinner home to force myself to work on my casting. It’s finally starting to work and I am casting with much more consistency and adequate distance. Didn’t bring the big stuff so had to search for a bigger hook among my baitcasting stuff. I find a pack of complimentary hooks from Bruddah Bill at Ewa Beach Buy & Sell, they look like about size 26 or 28. Perfect!!

I get a decent cast out and set the rod in the spike for the wait. I stop for a second to think back to years ago when I lost a 540 Sabre with a Black Marlin 6’o on it out to sea on a vicious strike, gotta tie the rod down. I find a strong two foot section of driftwood, tie my safety cord to it and bury it two feet deep in the sand. All set!

10:30pm just starting to fade off to sleep…..calang calang….zeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! I shine my light down the beach and the Rainshadow is bent way over pointing out to sea the safety cord is a tightrope!! I get there unclip the safety cord and pick up the rod. It’s pulling hard, but, feels manageable, it’s still taking line then stops I get a couple of pumps in then it goes again, then, gone…….

Zee Pac…….

01:30am I’m dreaming about the strike all over again…no…wait!! ZEEEE……EEEEEEEEEEEE…..EEEEEE!! Another strike!! I pop up and shine down the beach again…the rainshadow is at full arch again!!! I finally get there and the line is still ripping! I unclip the safety cord and just stand there holding the rod and watch the line peel. It finally stops I pick up the rod and try to start working it…”wha da hell?” I was so pumped up I had pulled the spike right out of the sand with the rod! Dean shows up and helps me get the spike off, it’s running again….it’s way out there now! It stops again and I try to lean on it, it doesn’t budge. Another run, all I can do is hang on. I’m loving the Rainshadow though, it’s standing up well, not noodling out. Finally I lean back on it and get some line, then it takes it all and more back. This goes on for another 20 minutes or so, back and forth. Gain some lose some, now I’m gaining more than its taking so the reel is finally filling back up. Suddenly it stops the side to side and turns straight out and makes another run.

Zee Pac…..

I curse myself for not leadering up this rig before leaving home. At my age I wonder how many more opportunities like this are going to come my way. Complacency, it’ll get you every time! I should know better….next time…when the Zee Pac rides again!!


Ol’ skool

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When did I become old school? Have to admit I am. When I think back to days out on the lava fields on the big island I realize just how lucky we were as many of those places we used go to are now gone under new construction. In a few decades there will be even fewer places still.

Long way down, slow going, hot, I still miss it a lot!!


When we started, old school was things like Templars and full bamboo rods. Black Penn 6’os, Long Beaches and Jigmasters were the norm.  High speed Penn 6’os, 4’os and Newells were gaining popularity along with their kits to modify Penns. Daiwa had just entered the market with their Penn “clones”. Half and half rods were still common and one piece rods were the rule.

The new ulua blank in town was the Sabre 540, a two piece blank that came with a fibreglass dowel to splice it together. The standards were Lamiglass SB160 or SB162’s and the Fenwick 16810. Two piece ulua rods were the exception rather than the norm as they are these days.

A half & half and a Sabre 540 restored beautifully by Gilbert Madriga

So, there I was trying to get back into it after a decade plus hiatus. It’s not as though I totally gave up fishing, just didn’t go very often and outings were far, far less serious, fishing primarily with spinners. I’d rig up the big spinner when the family or neighbors picnicked or stayed at a beach house. Then Facebook came along and I started to seek out other fishermen to share the interest with and met “Bruddah Bill” on his Ulua Fishing page. I enjoyed talking fishing and giving beginners advice on the page. This eventually led to Bill inviting me to become a moderator on a new fishing forum he was starting up. I had no idea what that entailed, but, I dove in anyway just happy to feel a part of the fishing scene again! http://forums.ifishhawaii.com/

It was the “big” forum in town commonly referred to as “HFF” that taught me a lot about the “New School” and made me see that I was “Ol’ skool”.  The nice thing was that through the forum I was also able to re-connect with old fishing friends from my time living on the big island. http://www.ulua-fishing.com/hff/index.php

So, in this day and age of social media on the Internet, where are our historians? Is it just the data stored on servers that will become our historical libraries? As far as Ulua fishing, the only “official” Ulua fishing historians I know of are Brian Funai and John R. K. Clark. Brian was born into the family of an ulua fisherman and has done much research on the subject for articles he has written about ulua fishing history. John Clark, a former life guard has written a number of books about beaches in Hawaii and spoke to many ulua fishermen while researching his book “Guardian Of The Sea – Jizo in Hawaii” which chronicles the Jizo statues and obelisks placed as warnings near spots where fishermen have died.  Much of our sports deeper history is so to speak “under-ground” or local knowledge handed down from friend to friend, father to son or daughter. One of the old friends I mentioned re-connecting with through HFF is known on the forum as “kona-ulua-style”.  He is one of many who have transitioned from what the young guns these days call old school to the current state of ulua fishing. He continues to “pound” as they say, perhaps in a slightly more laid back fashion then back in the days of casting club affiliation and more serious, less family oriented outings, but, his knowledge of all things “Ulua” is un-questioned. Perhaps it’s people like kona-ulua-style, that we, who may be interested in the history of ulua fishing need to tap into to help keep the knowledge and adventures alive!!

Japan, land of my ancestors, sushi, sumo and millions of fanatical fishermen!

Resturants specializing in Fugu and Tako

Although this was a business trip, there was never any doubt that I would find my way to a fishing tackle shop some how, some way! The last time I was able to visit a Japanese tackle shop was probably 15 or 16 years ago in my moms home town, Saga on the island of Kyushu. My uncle was kind enough to drive me to a local shop a few blocks from the family home. The shop was typical of the traditional type of shop that you find in most smaller cities in Japan. Not unlike many of the older establishments back home. Small yet packed to the gills (pun intended) with every conceivable item a fisherman could want. I immediately knew it would take hours to satisfy my curiosity about all the different items stuffed in there. So I took a quick (20min) tour through there to wet the appetite and told my uncle we could go and that I would come back by myself later. So I’m waiting for my uncle out in the parking lot and here he comes carrying something. It’s a small cooler I had been admiring in the shop! He hands it to me and in his broken English says “Presento for you!” I guess I had been so distracted by everything in there, I didn’t notice my uncle watching me trying to figure out what I was interested in. A cooler is not the first thing you’d guess I’d be looking at in a tackle shop, but, as I would find out, many items had little touches or innovations that made you realize these guys have been into this a long time! This cooler was nothing fancy, just really well built and that’s why I had been taking a close look at it. I still have and use that cooler today!

The next morning after breakfast I borrowed my aunties bike and headed back to the shop. I should point out that I only speak very little broken Japanese and don’t read it at all (I know, shame on me….) this is why I wanted to get an early start, besides that auntie would need her bike in the afternoon to ride to the various little shops to get the ingredients for what ever she had on the dinner menu that night. Japanese typically have tiny refrigerators that only hold a few things, they buy things fresh every day! This was only one small part of aunties daily responsibilities as the wife of the eldest son in the family. I could go on and on about her life! Absolutely amazing! My sisters would never….

So I managed to work my way back to the tackle shop without getting killed by a taxi or dump truck navigating the incredibly narrow roads. The lady at the register smiles, bows and greets me as I walk in, as I return the bow she motions with her hand rattling off a few more sentences I didn’t understand, probably telling me about some specials or fresh bait maybe? Now, where to start? I go over to the rods, there are probably a hundred or more in the racks! All sizes and styles, some look like Oama poles but they have reel seats & guides on them! There are extension poles probably 25, 30 feet long! You begin to see that yes, they’ve been doing this a long time and have explored every possible piece of water with a fishing pole. So it becomes clear that each of these poles are for a specific type of fishing in specific types of water.

On an earlier trip to Japan back when I was in my teens, another uncle took me fishing in a local stream. The piece of water we fished was a pool in a little stream (I mean little!) the pool was about 4 feet wide at it’s largest end and about 15 feet long. we used bamboo poles about 5 feet long that tapered down to “Oama” size. The movement of the stream was barely a trickle so I had my doubts. We tied tiny floaters on and hooks that were so small my uncle used a magnifier when tying them on. Surprisingly enough we caught a bunch of little silver fish  between 3 to 6 inches long! I was doing pretty good, out fishing my younger cousins and just behind my uncle in terms of fish caught. The conversation turned to his father-in-law, my grampa, and his love for fishing. He told me grampa was a very skilled angler and fished quite often in younger days. He suggested that I must have inherited my knack for fishing from gramps.

Back to the tackle shop. There’s a lot that’s familiar like damashi, squid jigs and such, but, there’s also a lot of things I’ve never seen before. I must have looked koo koo staring at little packages for 10, 15 minutes at a time trying to figure out what they were! Fortunately the Japanese are very visual people so they put pictures and drawings on most of the packaging. I ended up buying steel pegs with rings on them for tie downs, spiked boots and a whole bunch of little packages of all sorts lures and other terminal tackle. Oh, and a rod & reel ended up in my basket somehow….

After dinner that night at grammas house, the conversation centers around my obvious obsession with fishing. So, I figure it’s the right time to bust out my fishing photo album. As it gets passed around the conversation is brisk, they are amazed and impressed by the fish I caught and the fact that they were all hooked and landed from shore! Gramma quietly slips away and comes back a minute later with a package. She gives me the package explains to me in Japanese that it was my granpas gyotaku and she wanted me to have them!!

16" nose to fork on a hand pole!!


To top it all off, my gramma was a calligrapher and that’s her writing on the print! Framing it cost me a bit, but, I wasn’t overly concerned the important thing was for it to be preserved. I told the framer not to restore the print, the stains and wrinkles were part of what told the story of the print. It was totally old school, rice paper and ink and this is typically how gyotaku were stored by fishermen in Japan. My granpas gyotaku were neatly folded, wrapped in paper and stored in a drawer. For me this gyotaku is absolutely priceless!!

So, back to the original topic, my recent trip to Osaka Japan. I had an open day in my business schedule and the other guys I hung with during off hours all had to work! A day to myself, tackle shop here I come!! After googling tackle shops in Osaka I go down to the concierge to see if I can get any tips on how to get to one of the shops. The concierge is very helpful and actually finds another shop I didn’t have on my list. Even better, travel there is simple, three stops away on the local commuter subway line and one block from the train station! Yea, I can do that!

Twenty minutes later I’m in an area called Umeda exiting the train station under the Hanshin department store (for you baseball fans, yes, Hanshin as in Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Major League). I follow the the map I got from the concierge and viola there it is!

Bummers!! It’s not open yet! It is so packed to the gills that before they can get set up and accept deliveries and such they have to pull all these displays out of the aisles of the store so they can get in!! OK, relax……they’ll be open in 45 minutes…..damm!! I walked by a coffee shop a few doors down, I’ll go amp up on some caffeine before I check it out!

I get a coffee and a muffin and stare at the map. Maybe there’s somewhere else I can go….NOT!!

With no one to converse with 45 minutes is a loooooonnngg time!! Still, I give it a few extra minutes, I don’t want to look like some of the locals back home who stand in line to be the first one into a new Target!! (Woo Hoo!!?)

There are six customers already in there when I walk in, one guy is already paying for his purchase! Gee, I knew that the trains run on time, but, does everyone synchronize their watches?

The thing about these Japanese tackle shops is always “Where to begin?” Except for the narrow aisles every square inch of the store is packed! The first display is a rack full of lures. I said they are a visual people, what better to catch the eye then an array of colorful lures?

Interestingly, although very helpful and generally customer oriented, they don’t bother you unless you ask for help. So, I’m free to roam around without being bothered. This particular shop was actually a bass fishing shop, which surprised me a bit. I do know that the world record largemouth bass was caught in Japan, I just don’t automatically think bass fishing in Japan. While a large part of their stock was centered around bass fishing it seems they are evolving with the growing interest in “GT” (Giant Trevally) or for us Ulua fishing. There was a good amount of tackle specific to plugging for GT’s. While bass and GT dominated this store there was still lots of other tackle including fly-fishing, hand pole and boat gear. (Told ya it was packed!!!) While I do some bass fishing with my bud Dean in Cali my interest in this store was definitely GT! They had some massive GT poppers and stick baits (unfortunately way too expensive for my budget!), but, man they are obviously serious about the sport!

They had some nice GT popping rods also, again very expensive. Unfortunately in the tight confines of the shop it was difficult to get good pictures without getting in everyone’s way, so, I only got one shot of one rod that was interesting. I have seen rods where the first guide is mounted with the single foot facing the reel, this one had two.

Don’t let the thin blank fool you, this rod had plenty of backbone!! It had a 30 to 50lb line rating! They had the biggest selection of Shimano Stellas I’ve ever seen! Custom handles, side plate kits all kinds of accessories to customize your gear. You could easily walk out of this store a couple grand in the hole!

Reels anyone?



Many familiar and many I've never seen before.

I resist the temptation to buy a reel and just get some little do-dads I know I can stuff into the pocket of my carry-on bag. I look at my watch and it’s 11:45! Over two and a half hours! Time to go! I walk outside and turn down the hallway around the corner of the same building, it takes me to the back side of the store. There’s a massive gyotaku and pictures showing the actual fish and the angler.

Found out later that this is the former JGFA record!! Pretty nice catch whipping with a spinner anyway!! Notice the information listed, Stella SW2000 custom spool & handle. Like I said these guys are really into it!!


Spinning Ulua

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Recently on the forum Bruddah Bill posted a challenge for members to come up with a low cost set up for newcomers to the sport. Had to be using market prices for brand new equipment, including rod, reel, line and total out at less than $200.


Bill started us out with a pretty good conventional set up that quite frankly would be very hard to beat price wise! So, I decided (keeping the newb in mind) to go with a spinner set up that I believe will help keep them fishing and perhaps cement the stoke if you will, so that when the desire to try conventional gear arises, it won’t present challenges that turn them off.

Although I’ve not seen both components I selected in action matched together, I have seen both in action and know that they are both decent performing and most importantly tough!

My selection was a 12ft Ugly Stick Big Water rod matched up with a Daiwa BG90 spinner and Ande 30lb test. Over the years there has always been the thought that if you want to catch Ulua you needed conventional gear. No doubt, conventional gear is still King among Ulua fishermen and women, but, spinning gear can do it! Some of the modern spinners have very stout drag systems and frames which will stand up to a lot of abuse (by angry fish). Spectra braid line used as backing under monofilament on spinners has upped the capacity to a level where the odds of stopping a large Ulua have increased dramatically!

Getting back to my selection of a Daiwa BG90, while this reel is definately old school, it has proven itself many times over the years to be a capable and solid performer.

My good friend Steve hooked and landed a 20lb Omilu using a BG90 mounted on a Master 12ft rod. On that trip we brought home three, two were caught on spinners. The year before our annual trip produced six and four of those were landed with spinning equipment!

Steve and his 20 pound Omilu!

A 15 pounder with my trusty spinner behind me.

OK, so these are not large fish, but, ulua none the less! My point here is that newbies always think that they have to have a conventional to break the ice, I say, not so!

Here’s the video of Steve’s tussle with the fat omilu!

Fish Tech

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There many things that we all still do as fishermen that haven’t changed at all since the invention of the fish hook. Yet fishermen & women remain at least in my mind, some of the most inventive, creative sports people in the world! Constantly trying to reinvent the wheel or at least make it work better, there seems no end to innovation and refinement. Some have made the transition from hobby tinkerers to small businesses.

When we started getting serious about our pursuit of Ulua back in the early eighties, there wasn’t much in the way of specialized, purpose built tackle as we see today. Back then if you wanted an ulua pole you either had to be lucky enough to have a dad or uncle that was into it and had equipment to hand down or you had to find a custom rod builder and the money to have one made. There was a third option, build it yourself!

Edmund was the first of our group that went the build your own route, interestingly, he was also the first to catch an Ulua! I also went that route and Keith, although he was the only one who inherited ulua gear from an uncle was next to give rod wrapping a shot.

March 1982, 23 lbs. Laie Point

 I unfortunately didn’t have the same kind of luck with my first pole as Edmund. I had built a Sabre 540 and mounted a brand new Penn 6’o with a Newell Black Marlin kit. We were out at Mokuleia and I had slid down a large Oio head. The rig was so heavy I had barely got it out 25 yards, if that far! The rod was 50 yards away from our camp and we were partying pretty hard when it went off! The ratchet was screaming as I ran as hard as I could across the soft sand! As I ran I could see the pole leaning more and more over, the spike was going down! I was about 10 or 15 yards away when the pole flew out of the spike and zipped across the sand into the water, never to be seen again!! I would build two more rods before finally scoring my first Ulua out at Moi Hole in August of 1984.

It’s a lot easier to get decent equipment these days! So much so that there’s even a lot more used equipment available because of it. Heck, you can even buy an Ulua pole at Sears and Ace Hardware! The technology applied to the manufacturing of the blanks available these days is nothing short of amazing when compared to the old fibreglass blanks we had. High carbon graphite and graphite blends have made rods stronger and lighter. The process of rolling these blanks has been refined to such a finite level that despite small diameters and wispy looks the high tech blanks today generate an incredible amount of power while weighing considerably less than the old standard fiberglass blanks!

The evolution of the Ulua rod in just the  last 15 years is really amazing! 14 years ago I sold my house in Kona and moved back to Oahu to get married. This meant a serious cut back on my time spent fishing. So, as I have worked my way back into it in the last year or so, I have discovered the changes that have taken place since I lost touch have been quite dramatic! The move forward actually started a few years before my departure from Kona. Joe Kimura rods were already showing up in local stores in Kona and Kenneth Kimura had started up Island Rod Wrap (IRW). I know the latter part of that only because a friend and former fishing partner of mine in Kona, Carl, designed the logo for IRW in exchange for a custom rod. Carl was renting a room in my house at the time so I had chance to admire the beautiful candy apple red rod up close when it was still a cherry! As I look back at that now I see that it was a sign of things to come in the future. The one thing I didn’t expect was the number of manufacturers that are now building rods specifically for the Ulua fishermen. Ulua rods are no longer exclusive to the custom builder.

No pic of Carls IRW rod, but, here we are admiring the 55 lber that broke it's cherry!

In an earlier post I described trying some rods my friend Jeff had custom built himself. He built these rods using Daiwa’s Ballistic blanks. Now, I’m just slowly getting caught up with all the new stuff out there and have not tried all the custom blanks like the ones IRW has custom made for them, but, if the ballistics are not on the cutting edge then I  just can’t imagine what cutting edge blanks would be like!

Just Hangin

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The Big Island, miles and miles of barren shoreline, some accessible only by boat or helicopter, in other areas access is limited to those who possess a much coveted key. This trip, we had a key!

We slowly worked our way down toward the shoreline, the three of us, in three trucks as is typical for a serious ulua outing BI style. That moment when you break through the treeline and see the dusty black lava landscape is for some, just a lot of rocks, but, for me that first gust of wind you felt as you broke into the open was like feeling Pele’s breath, hot and rough like she was there watching and waiting. Beautiful, yet hard and serious, unforgiving, yet, alluring. I always felt somehow undeserving, as though dues remained unpaid.

The better part of  an hour past before we reached the shoreline and worked our way towards the planned campsite. We were traversing a pahoehoe flow, a typical example of Madam Pele’s deceptive artistry, appearing smooth in comparison to an A’a flow which is essentially a field of large loose chunks of lava cinder, pahoehoe is the type of lava that forms huge underground tubes hiding pockets of air that can suddenly crumble under the weight of four-wheel drive vehicle like the ones we drove. Put wheel wrong and you can quickly end up in Pele’s grasp…


After selecting a spot and setting up camp we all walked out toward the water to look at the grounds. I was immediately drawn to a hump in the lava on the far right side. As I looked around I noticed an angled crack that looked like it would position a rod perfectly for hang bait! I normally would set up my big spinner as a hang bait rod, but, the crack was a little loose for all my rock spikes except for my largest one which I always used for my half and half rod and Daiwa 600H. So be it, I set up the half and half rod for hang bait. After setting up the rod I walked out to the spot and set it in the spike. Hmmm, a little awkward. I had built this rod with the idea of big baits and big fish so had set the reel seat up high (43″) so I could wedge the rod in the rocks and stand up and fight the fish (I’m 6’2″), problem here was the reel was out over the edge of the  water! Pulling the rod out with a fish on might prove tricky!

After we got all the rods out and slid some tako and puhi down, I set up a small spinner to hopefully get a nice bait for the hang bait pole. I tied on a floater with a 6′ leader and a small piece of shrimp. I dropped it right down about where my hang bait would be sitting and immediately hooked a good size hinalea lauwili (saddle wrasse)! Alright, good sign!!

I had 80lb test mono on the reel, a bimini twist doubled up the line which was albrighted to 8 feet of Berkley Big Game 120lb wire braid, a lot shorter that normal, but, I wanted all the knots already though the guides and tip when hanging the bait. I attached a 36 bkn with a flemish eye and crimp, hooked the hinalea on, dropped it down and watched and adjusted until I got it to stay right below the surface at it’s highest point of the swing. The water below was about 15 feet deep and the set up looked great!

Quiet night, puhi on the tako, nothing on the puhi. I walk over to check the hinalea, still there, lively as ever! The sky is starting to grey, time for the dawn patrol!

Before going to sleep I had set up my whipping rig with a black Pili so I only had to throw on the tabis and my backpack and I was ready to go! I glanced over at my hang bait as I walked past to the next point, I remember thinking it looked perfect, the surge was just kicking up enough white water to create some “natural cover” for the bait without being too rough.

Whipping, except for lack of strikes or follows was really nice in the soft morning light. I had worked my way along the shore about a quarter mile when I decided to turn back toward camp. I was working my way around a particularly rough section of shoreline when from the corner of my eye I saw something in the water, I turned to look and saw a spray of small bait fish and that distinctive black flash of an excited predator swirling below them! I had to slowly pick my way across about 20 yards of big rocks and large tidal pools to get to the actual edge where I could get a cast out into the zone. When I got there I crouched down on a rock and just watched the water for a minute, trying to catch a glimpse, a flash or another spray…….nothing. I stood and tossed  the pili out at a two o’clock angle, pop, pop, pop…nothing. I switched my footing and tossed it the opposite way about 10 o’clock position, pop, wham! It throws a semi-circle spray like a surfer does when they snap off the top of a wave, I raise my rod instinctively, “Gotcha!”  The omilu was about 8lbs, but, looked small compared to the black flash I had seen earlier. I took me a while to get the fish off the lure, as is typical it had hit the forward hook which was in it’s mouth, but, the trailing hook was also embedded in the area near it’s pectoral fins. I slipped the fish into a small pool and got back up on the rock to try for it’s partner. I worked the area for a for while with no success so grabbed the omilu and headed back to camp.

I was almost back to camp when I saw the boys looking over at me so I was mack’in it up raising my arms in  a “victory” motion when a bell rang and I heard that sweet sound of the ratchet on the hang bait line!! I could hear them laughing as I madly hopped rocks trying to get to the rod from the opposite side. I set the whipping rod down and un-clipped the safety cord. As I leaned forward to try and get the rod out something poked me in the back of the head! I had forgotten about the omilu in my backpack! I took a step back and took the backpack off (more laughter from the peanut gallery!) I finally managed to get the rod out of the holder and got to feel the fish, it was clear, but, still fighting strong. One of the advantages of hang bait is the fact that the fish will be closer after the intial run than when you bomb it out there, the trade off is it’s not fighting a long length of line in the water so the strength of the fish is more directly at you. Case in point this fish turned out to be much smaller than it initialy felt. Anyway, despite a clear lack of confidence in my skills by my so called friends, I managed to land it and one of the boneheads actually stopped laughing long enough to gaff it for me!

36 lb white ulua and an 8 lb omilu to go with it, not too bad a weekend!!

Spyda 2 Boneheads 0

The last time I fished in a tournament was back in the late 80’s on the Big Island. I thought at the time that it would be the last ever. Well, doing this blog and moderating on the forum has re-kindled the spark somewhat and I found myself spending the last weekend in August competing in the Ewa Beach Fenceline to Fenceline tournament that has been put on by Danny Chamizo the last three years.

The tournament is a grass-roots effort spearheaded by Danny to bring some notoriety to Ewa Beach, in particular Onelua Beach park which is more commonly known as Hau Bush. There’s been talk of closing the park which has long been a center of activity for those in the Ewa Beach community. Perhaps development money has put the pressure on some politicians. Locals understand some of the concerns like squatters (who have mostly been chased out) and cronics that tend to huddle up out there, but, wonder why the knee jerk reaction is to close the park instead of cleaning it up and making long overdue repairs and improvements. Makes more sense yea?

The Shoreline fishing tournament scene has evolved quite a bit over the years and has stepped out of the shadow of the off-shore boat fishing tournaments. There was a time when mention of a fishing tournament automatically meant trolling and boats. The shoreline tournaments can now hold their own within the local  fishing  community. A fact well evidenced by the support these tournaments are getting from the local businesses and the community in general. Another sign is the number of major tackle manufacturers who are now selling purpose built fishing rods for the local shore fishing angler. To be more specific, Ulua rods are now being sold by Daiwa, Shimano, Boone, Tica and Roddy Hunter! Add to that brands like Nitro and Hawaiian Angler that local tackle distributors are having made for this market overseas. No doubt the local shore fishing scene has exploded in the last ten to fifteen years.

Anyway, back to fishing. Bruddah Bill from ifishhawaii.com was kind enough to offer his back yard as a possible spot to fish the tournament. After Jeff picked up a couple nice Oio (which he released) on a scouting trip there, things looked good so we gladly accepted Bills generous offer.

Unfortunately for me I had just come off a two week vacation a week before the tournament week end, so, I would only be able to fish the early Saturday and Sunday morning tides after work.

I got to Bills sometime after midnight Saturday morning. Bill, Jeff and Norman had all their rods out and were just chillin. Nothing to report, quiet so far. Luckily some guys who weren’t in the tournament had vacated the area to right of Jeffs poles so there was room for me to get my rods out.

Norman workin da Dawn Patrol....

After working the poles the last 5 hours I was settling down to watch the sunrise when I noticed something in the water down past my last rod. As the sun rose and the light got brighter I could see two floaters about 30 yards apart, lay net…………………………………………

The net stays out there all weekend. Oh well.. All four of us end the tournament with no fish! We pack up and head to the weigh-in, to see what everyone else caught.

There are some pretty nice fish weighed in!  This is a relatively small tournament that is limited to 3.5 miles of shoreline so we’re all impressed! Danny put together a great event! He does it all! He puts himself on call the entire weekend for catch verification, puts up a lot of the prizes and does all the legwork for the rest.

Awesome event! I can only hope that the Ewa Beach community appreciates his efforts and answers the call when their voices need to be heard!

Mahalo to Danny, Bill, Jeff and Norman for a great weekend supporting a great cause!!

Summer Camp


The last two years we stayed at a beach house that sat on the right edge of a large sand channel. The fishing was OK, not quite up to it’s expected potential, but, OK. Oama had showed up right out back the first year, but, didn’t the second. We eventually found them about quarter mile down the beach in a little cove.

This year, that house we rented wasn’t available so we had to search for another place. Judy eventually found one close by, in fact about quarter mile down the road. Hmmm, quarter mile? Which direction? Finally pictures confirmed what we hoped, it was right there at the cove that held the oama!

OK, OK, so it’s a beach house not really camping, but, hey we all paid our dues doing the hardcore camping out on the lava on the Big Island for many years, so, now that we’re old(er), we deserve some comfort. Besides, the women no like the hardcore stuff anymore and this the only way we can get to go fishing for one week!

Aug. 3, 2010 – 1700hrs. Finally there! The house is nice, decent kitchen, flat panel TV! We had come out a week ago to check out the grounds (ocean) so we knew what to expect there. We have some tako in the cooler to start with and plans to do a dive for more Wednesday or Thursday.

Aug. 4, 2010 – 0500hrs. Poles were quiet last night, only a few puhi. Looking forward to trying my new toy, a Daiwa XSHA50. Brought two rods to try it out with, my old Harrington home built and a Kimura Fenwick. They are two totally different rods so it should be interesting.

Aug. 4, 2010 – 0630hrs. Off down the road for a quick tako dive, tide is already on the rise so gotta get in the water quick. We pick up three pieces, I got two and Dean got one to add to the two he already had in the cooler. This is plenty, no sense taking more until we need them.

Aug. 4, 2010  – 1030hrs. Poles are quiet, bait fish eating our tako. Fugu action, dam it!! Swivel and lead coming back no hooks! Time to test cast the new reel. First up the Kimura with an eight ounce lead. OK, haven’t thrown a conventional much in the last 14 years (got married in 1996)so not expecting to see the lead disappear out into the horizon. Half cast to feel the combo, not bad feels OK. Three-quarter, oops little over-run, not too bad, wow the 8oz lead skipping in on the surface! Dam this thing is fast! OK, lets try crank’um! Frick! Backlash!! Boy do I need practice! My timing is totally off, gotta wait on it a little more. Couple of more casts and it’s getting better, but, dam I’m tired! Not in shape, the arms not used to this anymore, not to mention the age factor too! (Lets see what other kine excuses I get!) I never was an “out to the horizon” kinda guy, but, I was at least a decent caster, this is not good! Switch to the Harrington, heavier and slower action, not too promising….first cast not too bad, little overrun. Second cast, fricken backlash again! I feel old….After a rest I switch to a 6oz lead, first decent cast! Not that far but clean, straight no problems! OK nuff! Put one bait on toss’um out!

Aug. 5, 2010 – 0530hrs. Up for the dawn patrol!  Tide is low and the reef out to the right is partially exposed. Poles quiet again last night, only puhi and a bird that got tangled in Daniels line!

Aug. 5, 2010 – 0630hrs. Had coffee, sun is rising, going for a (careful) walk on the dry reef, maybe I’ll stumble over a tako!

Aug. 5, 2010 – 1030hrs. Tide is heavy on the rise, checking and recasting fresh baits in earnest. Quiet…frustrating, but, gotta keep working’um!

Aug. 6, 2010 – 0530hrs. Dawn patrol, no action again last night. Recast my rods, drinking coffee by myself, thinking, thinking, what to do, what to change……cannot give up. Jeff is supposed to come by today to check out the spot, these are his stomping grounds, hopefully he can break the ice!

Aug. 6, 2010 – 1030hrs. Jeff arrives, hand shakes all around. He’s surprised to hear our catch report (no catch report actually). He gets his line out, holy crap, 30+ beyond our lines! The conversation shifts to Jeffs high tech bait-casting rods. Beautiful, purpose built (by Jeff) custom rods! (Good thing the wife went to a doctors appointment, she’d be getting awful nervous about now!) He generously offers to let me mount my new reel on one of his rods to give it a try.  It takes a few casts to get into a rhythm, but, when I finally get a decent one, whoa, at least 20 (probably more) over my best cast with my rod! Amazing! Incredible power, the snap back was what I had to get used to, the first few casts it was leaving me way behind!

Aug. 7, 2010 – 1130hrs. Tide on the rise, recasting my kimura with my new Daiwa on it, fresh tako leg. Decent cast, set the drag, bell on. I walk back towards the house when my bell rings, come on, not again! The puhi and fugu are getting on my nerves! Wait a minute, this is different…wha’da’ya know, a small omilu! I don’t believe it!

Well, wanted to tag this one, but, braddah Dean ready fo cry ’cause “I neva eat Omilu sashimi long time!”Alright, alright, but, next one gotta release! Nothing like a little action to juice up da boys! Everybody hustling now!

Aug. 8, 2010 – 0600hrs. Two tohei another bird believe it or not and one cat! Judy the animal lover insists we get the hook out of the cats mouth. To me, it should be who ever left a baited hook lying around helping her, but, nobody talking. So what do I get for helping get the hook out? A dam bite on my right index finger! On top of dat, I was the only one who got up when the bird got tangled in Deans line at 1 am so I had to untangle  it myself and got bit by the dam bird too!!

Aug. 8, 2010 – 1830hrs. I wade into waist deep water getting blasted by waves with a 10ft. extension pole and get one oama! That’s right ONE!! Ain’t nobody gonna tell me I never tried hard enough to get more fish in the cooler! So, I throw out the oama and what I get? Fugu strike!! One friken oama and one Fugu eat’um!! Drink beer tonight…

Aug. 9, 2010 – 0630hrs. Missed the dawn patrol for the first time this trip, too much beer last night!

Aug. 9, 2010 – 1100hrs. I decide to hump some of my gear down the beach to a sand channel Jeff was eyeing up when he dropped by Friday. Tide is rising, we’ll see!  Two and a half hours, checking bait every 20 minutes, nutin…..at least one nice young  lady when come sunbathe nearby so it helped past the time.

It don't get much better than this!!

Aug. 10, 2010 – 0700hrs. Pack up day, gotta be out by 1100hrs. I look out at Dean and he’s working his rod like he get something on! “What? Get something Dean?” “I think so!” not too positive the answer!  I go out there and the line is off to side and pulling, might be a fish! Sliver!! Ooooo, one good size white papio!! Well, better late than never! Still two papio in one week? Not too good…..

8 pounds, not ulua, but, Deans still a happy camper!