Kauai Tops Makahiki Big Game Kayak Event! – Early catches in 9th season propel Tavis Kagawa and Kyle Yokohama

Early catches in 9th season propel Tavis Kagawa and Kyle Yokohama

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The “taxman” took his share of this yellowfin tuna caught by Kauai’s Kyle Yokohama, yet there was still 125.5 pounds of ahi left to weigh in and it counted towards the winning points total in the Aquahunters Makahini Big Game Kayak Fishing Championship held throughout Hawaii. Photo Courtesy Aquahunters

By Isaac Brumaghim

The 9th season of the Aquahunters statewide progressive online kayak fishing tournament, Makahiki 2016, has crowned Hawaii’s newest tournament champions. Tavis Kagawa and Kyle Yokoyama of the island of Kauai, Hawaii put together a great run in the first-time two-man team format. The tournament started April 1 and finished November 30.

Early in the season Tavis caught a 71-pound sailfish, landing the tournaments only billfish. The duo also started out with a good dose of ukus and kawakawas. Other teams were still feeling out the tournament when Kyle had his own big game battle and did all he could in his attempt to bring up his massive yellowfin tuna whole. Unfortunately for him (and us), Kyle could not keep hungry sharks from chomping into his trophy fish. What he was able to salvage still amounted to 125.5 pounds!

No one ever said the Makahiki format was easy, and aside from the elements you deal with during the grueling months while trying to attain all 40 fishing days, there are unpridictable accidents that happen. For Kyle, a broken hand just as the bite turned on in Kauai put him out 2 months and left partner Tavis to carry the team. Tavis scored on a steady dose of kawakawa, shibi, and uku to keep Oahu and Maui teams at bay. Kyle was able to rejoin Tavis and finish up the season steadily scoring shibi, uku, and nice sized kawakawas to help the Kauai team run away with it at the end.

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Tavis Kagawa not only got the Kauai team off to a great start with the tournament’s only billfish, this 71-pound sailfish, he also fished solo for two months when his teammate Kyle was out with an injury.

Rob Kramer and Roman Perez from Oahu finished second. Rob’s individual score of 1690 points was the most by any single angler this season. He was on a steady stream of 2 or 3 yellowfin tuna in nearly every outing. Roman was able to contribute enough to the team to keep them just outside first place which kept the race interesting. It was a treacherous year for Oahu fishermen, who had to deal with plenty of windy days. Rob ultimately pushed through adversity and stuck it out in the rough weather to outduel Maui for second.

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Roman Perez and Rob Kramer battled rough conditions most of the Makahiki time period to consistenly land tuna and the occasional big way. Rob had the highest individual point of any kayak angler in the event and Ramon chipped in to keep the second place team in the running all season. Photo Courtesy Aquahunters

On Maui it was a steady battle between veteran Makahiki tournament fishermen John Meriales and Lyle Fujimori and our first ever father and son duo, Wes and Justin Carbonell,  as the teams finished third and fourth respectively. John was able to entertain us with a good dose of the hard to find mahimahis and some good sized onos. Lyle mastered the uku, taape, goat, aha combo and was able to keep his daily scores as high if not higher than a two-pelagic day for most of the other anglers. Lyle had his share of nice pelagics as well which all contibuted to a top three finish in the end.

Wes and Justin Carbonell turned it on early, it was great to see their initial success on the bottom fish for uku and kagami. Competitors quickly realized the level of knowledge they had in bottom fishing on Maui and many of the Aquahunters brass were quietly impressed. Father and son really got the season off to a great start and motivated everyone to get after it. Justin had a solid season as his progression of pelagics began to catch up to his bottom fishing knack and his overall versaility kept them competitve to the end. Regardless of finish it must have been great to fish together!

The Makahiki was not without its annual record breaking moment, and this season’s record breaker was one for the ages. Maui’s Nick Wakida, who teamed with Kamuela Kalehuawehe to finish fifth, pulled up the world’s biggest kayak-caught yellowfin tuna during the Makahiki. Weighing in at 187.6 pounds, the record breaking tuna was worth 287 tournament points and vaulted Nick and Kamu into top five contention! But based on the design of the Makahiki one fish does not win it all, so Nick and Kamu surrounded his trophy catch with a consistent catch of ulua, kawakawa, and mahi to crack the cash payouts.

Cool Tournament Notes:
Tavis and Kyle are our first Makahiki champions representing the island of Kauai.
A deserving mention goes out to Nick, Rob, and Tavis who fished all 40 days, it has only been done a handful of times so three guys in a year is rare and a credit to their dedication.
Many believe Kyle Yokoyamas yellowfin could have possibly rivaled Nick Wakidas massive beast. Two giant yellowfin islands away, during the Makahiki, both potentially pushing 190 pounds, amazing!
Tavis’s sailfish made it nine straight Makahiki seasons with at least one billfish scored.
Four of the five top spots were taken by Maui and Kauai fishing athletes.

Top  finishers tell the highlight of their season:

Kyle: Hooking his giant ahi, even though it got taxed.
Tavis: First 5 uku day and two ukus over 20# this season
Robert: Meeting all the great people (from Aquahunters) involved by face, forum, or social media.
Lyle: 95-pound ulua and first ever 4-pelagic day which also fell on the annual Makena Landing tournament.
John: Highlight was the “screamer fat tuna” that he lost but at least he learned what he did wrong.
Wes: Scouting new fishing grounds and scetchy landings.
Justin: Having an excuse to fish and hooking up so many people with fish!
Nick: Catching his world record ahi because the tournament pushed him to go.
Kamu: Catching a kawakawa on his lunch break!

When the Makahiki’s Aquahunters were asked who earned the most respect during the fishing season, Kyle, Tavis, Justin, and Nick were the four names that were continually echoed by the rest of the field.

Aquahunters would like to congratulate our champions Kyle and Tavis for well representing Kauai, Aquahunters, and the kayak fishing sport, as well as the rest of our top finishers for being respectful, fair, and safe during the season. We will be honoring Tavis and Kyle and the others who placed in the money and will announce our Rookie and Lawai’a of the year on Oahu Jan. 21 at the Aquahunters Headquarters from 3-11. You will be able to follow the event through our many social media feeds.

Makahiki 2016 would not be possible without our top sponsors:

Primo
Penn Fishing
Berkley
Knekt
Da Fish Market
Costa Sunglasses
Aftco
Windward Boats
Ocean Kayaks
YakAttack
We would like to also share our appreciation of Bob Hoose of Penn Fishing for all his support of Aquahunters, the Makahiki, and Hawaii kayak fishing. Thanks for believing in us!

Mahalo to all our sponsors for suppporting the Makahiki and our athletes.

Looking back and looking forward

It has been an incredible run of 8-month-long marathons and its been a blessing to have had the Makahiki go on for this many seasons. I have personally been blessed to become friends/brothers to many of what the world now recognizes as best to ever sit and fish in a kayak. I’ll look back at the legacy of the Makahiki and we know this was the place where the best were developed through hard work over a period of time by pushing one another through competition, support, and inspiration. Our mission was always to build stewards of the ocean, we are proud of the development of our Hawaii kayak fishermen and the champions that have come out of the Makahiki! We smile as we begin the next phase of the journey, which includes some exciting developments for next season. Thank you for a great ride, Aloha!

More Photos:

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Quality ono were the backbone of John Meriale’s efforts for the third-place Maui team. Photo Courtesy Aquahunters.

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Lyle mastered the uku, taape, goat, aha combo and also caught his share of pelagics to help his Maui team to a third-place finish. Photo Courtesy Aquahunters

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Father and son team Justin and Wes Carbonell really got the season off to a great start with bottom fish and added enough pelagics to claim fourth place. Photo Courtesy of Aquahunters

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Kamu Kalehuawehe with one of his Makahiki catches that helped his team finish in 5th place. Photo Courtesy Aquahunters

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Nick Wakida’s record kayak ahi got his Maui team off to a great start and they were able to catch enough fish afterwards to keep in a money spot. Photo Courtesy of Aquahunters