Hard times may have hit Tauranga's premier fishing tournament but it didn't stop one of the most exciting and unusual fishing stories to emerge in the 23-year history of the contest.
The heaviest fish, a 325kg blue marlin, was caught in circumstances never witnessed before by four friends who have competed in the One Base Fishing Tournament for nearly 15 years.
Instead of a fight lasting three or four hours, the huge fish was brought alongside Double Strike in a mere 18 minutes by Te Awamutu's Keith "Wolfy'' Wolfsbauer.
But once the gaff was inserted and it started to be hauled on board, the marlin suddenly realised what was happening and "went ballistic''.
In a furious struggle lasting nearly 20 minutes, the fish knocked two of the men off their feet, took chunks out of woodwork and left everyone nursing bruises and scratches.
They finally got the marlin into a position where they were able to subdue it with a baseball bat.
"No one on board had seen anything like this,'' Mr Wolfsbauer said.
His only explanation for the easy task of bringing the marlin alongside the boat was that the hook may have hit a nerve near the eye and disoriented the fish so much that it was not aware of exactly what was happening until it felt the gaff and the boat.
The catch smashed the club record for a marlin caught on a 24kg line - the previous record was 272.2kg. It was caught on Friday morning about 20km past Mayor Island where the seabed drops to a kilometre deep.
It was the second time that a tournament-winning marlin had been caught from Double Strike - the first time was in 2000.
Meanwhile, hard times are taking their toll on the tournament, with entries down a third on last year.
Organiser Grant Holley said angler numbers were down 130 on last year.
"A lot of guys just can't get the time off nowadays,'' he said.
The contest, run by the Tauranga Game Fishing Club for 23 years, peaked at more than 1000 entries but had steadily declined in recent years to reach 425 last year and 295 this year. Mr Holley said businesses were operating a lot leaner and anglers could no longer tell their bosses they were taking a few days off to go fishing.
He did not blame the two-nautical-mile exclusion zone around the Rena for the lower numbers, even though the Astrolabe Reef had been a favourite fishing spot for some competitors.
"All major events have suffered the same fate - not just fishing tournaments,'' he said.
The club would review the tournament and make some changes in a bid to revitalise the event.
Mr Holley said the weather forecast might have put some anglers off, with the first day declared a non-fishing day, leaving just Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
A 177.2kg striped marlin caught by Bryce Kidd of Tauranga was the third-heaviest fish but was significant for being the heaviest striped marlin caught in New Zealand this season.
The heaviest snapper, 8.26kg, was caught by Nathan Kilgour off Motiti Island and the heaviest kingfish, 31.7kg, was caught by David Hunt at Waihau Bay.
An estimated 80kg marlin was tagged and released off The Hook by Sam Hogg.