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Luke Ovgard details a specific fishing technique while in Hawaii with Macyn Nagao.

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — "Whipping, huh? Howzit?"

"Pretty slow," I replied.

"I've caught some big omilu here whipping. Keep on 'em!"

My first trip to Kona, Hawaii's "Big Island" had been productive by all measures but one: whipping. Here on the mainland, we call it casting lures, but in Hawaii, it's whipping.

I spent about five minutes whipping every hour. Whipping also was the method of choice at sunset. Tragically, I had little to show for it. I'd taken the kind of whipping no angler wants to endure almost every time I tried, landing just a single orangemouth lizardfish for all my troubles. It was a unique fish, but it was overmatched by my gear, and I definitely whipped it before it knew what happened. I snapped a quick picture and let it swim into the twilight sea.

Having struck out trolling for spearfish (hebi), wahoo (ono) and yellowfin tuna (ahi), I even tried whipping from the boat on the open ocean, but to no avail. Once again, my spirits took the whipping.

COURTESY PHOTO: LUKE OVGARD - Not only is Macyn a great fisherman, he takes decent photos, too. This bluefin trevally I caught whipping probably was the highlight of my trip to Kona.

Lessons from a local

Despite my failures whipping, I'd done very well for reef fish and morays while sitting on bait. It required constant attention, quick reflexes and a soft touch, but it was still bait fishing. I wanted to catch a gamefish on a lure, and I refused to admit defeat even as my time in Hawaii drew to a close.

Enter Macyn Nagao.

Though we'd never met in person, my brother's friend from college, Macyn, lived in Kona. I'd long admired his spearfishing posts, and I figured spearfishing would be fun to try if he were teaching. He offered to show me his ways. Alas, the weather was not cooperative for someone with my complete lack of diving experience, so we opted to just fish with rod and reel. We started on the pier, grabbed some lunch, then moved to the rocks behind his apartment complex as the sun began to set.

I brought the light bait rod and heavy moray rod, but he suggested we start out whipping. Though I'd brought a rod well-suited for whipping to Hawaii and used it frequently, I'd left it in the car this one time, figuring I could use a medium-light setup if I needed to. If I caught another small lizardfish, I would hardly be undergunned.

COURTESY PHOTO: LUKE OVGARD - Macyn Nagao and I first met in Hawaii, where we bonded over our shared love of food and fishing. Macyn caught this beautiful yellowtail coris from the Kailua-Kona Pier.

Landing a fighter

The aquamarine waters mesmerized me. The geologically fresh shoreline was reminiscent of a snowmelt river's work in a just-forming canyon. I mounted a rocky ledge, checked my footing and drank in the beauty and contrast of the coastline at my feet. With the surf rushing in and out of the rocks, varying topography and submerged rock piles, I read the water. I cast out, instantly missing my other rod. As I jerked the Rapala back toward me, I figured that if there were predatory fish here, they'd be in this pocket.

I hadn't cast five times when a predatory fish absolutely crushed my lure and went on a blistering run. The bass rod nearly doubled as 20-pound braid flew off the reel. The waves were crashing hard, and as the fish zipped in and out of the shoreline breaks, I had to move to keep it from diving under rocks and slicing the line.

I kicked off my flip-flops behind me and went barefoot, moving where I needed to handle the raw power of what had to be a 20-pound fish.

It was pulling almost to the breaking point, but I refused to let my gear fail. Twice the fish spooled me, and as I thumbed the knot on my spool, I was able to pull enough line back onto the reel that it wasn't a problem. Gingerly, I tightened my drag and wound the fish in closer, closer. We didn't have a gaff or a net or beachhead, and the fish was both 5 feet below me and too heavy to just lift up.

Out of options, I climbed down the rocky staircase when the tide went out and then brought the fish in with the rising water. I used the fish's tenacity and the momentum of the wave to make it swim into a crack in two rocks where Macyn and I landed it and carried it up the shoreline.

It wasn't 20 pounds. It wasn't 50 pounds. It wasn't quite 5, but it fought unlike any 5-pound fish I've ever caught. Even New Zealand's kahawai — the strongest fight per-pound I'd yet experienced — paled in comparison. And virtually every fish paled in comparison to the vivid cerulean fins that give the bluefin trevally, omilu, its name.

Macyn intended to make sashimi out of it, so we found a pool above the tideline and placed it there to stay fresh while we continued fishing. Whipping yielded a bluespotted cornetfish, an absolutely wild looking beast, but then the bite died.

We switched back to bait and caught and released our fill of small fish before calling it a night.

COURTESY PHOTO: LUKE OVGARD - Hawaii is home to one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world because anglers eat almost anything edible they catch instead of overfishing one or two popular species. This bluefin trevally was phenomenal even though jacks in other parts of the world are not popular table fish.

Fresh fish

Ideally, for sushi or sashimi, you want to brush a fresh fish with salt to draw out the moisture and sit it in a cooler or refrigerator for a few days to let the muscle fibers relax. Sadly, it was my last night, and I wanted a reward after all that whipping before flying home. Macyn obliged.

Though the omilu was still a little tough, it tasted delicious. We paired it with some chips and fresh ceviche made from Hawaiian chub, a small mostly vegetarian fish popular with locals to complete an incredible meal we'd endured one whipping after another to experience.

COURTESY PHOTO: LUKE OVGARD - The bluefin trevally, or omilu, is one of the most beautiful fish I've ever seen. Add to that the best per-pound sport value I've experienced, and this just might be my favorite catch of 2021. It crushed a Rapala CD-9.

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