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Cook Islanders cast line in world’s biggest fishing tourney

Monday 18 March 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Fishing, Sports


Cook Islanders cast line in world’s biggest fishing tourney
Junior Ioapa (far right) participated in the Kubota Classic Billfish Tournament in Whitianga NZ for the third time. He is pictured with Brice Revell (left), Daryll Foxy, Brad Raven, and Kevin Adlam. Their only catch was the 37.8kg yellowfin tuna. JUNIOR IOAPA/24031602

In amongst the 2000 fishers in the world’s largest fishing competition in terms of the number of boats participating, the Kubota Classic Billfish Tournament in Whitianga, Aotearoa New Zealand, were Cook Islands very own fishermen Junior Ioapa and Poe Poila from Rarotonga.

The Kubota Billfish Classic held from March 14 – 16 attracted 420 boat entries, making it the largest contest of its kind.

The prize pool for this incredible tournament hosted by the Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club, comes to around $1.8 million.

Ioapa has participated in the tournament for the third time going out with his good mates Brad Raven (owner of the boat Serenity), Brice Revell, Daryll Foxy, and Kevin Adlam.

He was pleased that they managed to catch a fish – a 37.8 kilogram yellowfin tuna and had a fish to weigh in rather than returning to shore with “poro” (none).

“I met these guys 10 years ago when they came to Raro and I took then out catching (fishing) and we have remained good friends,” said Ioapa.

“Raven built his boat Serenity a 45ft Perlin in Taranaki and brought it to the Whitianga water ways, this boat has won a few fishing comps in Whitianga and Tutukaka.

“We are looking forward to next year's competition.”

Poe Poila joined the Kubota for the first time heading out on boat Freelance 2 with the “Good Guys Kuki Krew” team of Steve Walling, Bruce Mack, Aaron Paku, Smiley Cogswell and Alan Greaney.

“This was my first time in this competition, it was a great experience to be here,” said Poila.

“We had a marlin strike on the first day that didn’t hook up, then we hooked a 50 to 60kg tuna that came up to the boat but then shook the hook off so we lost it…”

Although they failed to weigh in a fish, Poila said he enjoyed being a part of the amazing massive international event.

The major prizes in this tournament included the heaviest billfish prize of $350,000 in cash which went to the team who reeled in the 256.5kg Blue Marlin, the lucky gate prize a five-tonne digger from Kubota valued at $115,000, heaviest tuna $10,000 cash, heaviest mahimahi $10,000 cash, heaviest Kingfish $10,000 cash and more.