The Captain Morgan Snapper Bonanza surfcasting competition at 90 Mile Beach got off to a bang for Aucklander Jeremy Alai who hauled in a 9.91kg beauty with only his second cast, less than 30 minutes after fishing began.
Alai proved a composed winner after leaving the stage at Tuesday's prizegiving with his $2000 winner's cheque for the best fish of day one.
"Good start, stoked. A lot of luck," he said.
It is the second time he's been at the event, but he's no stranger to Far North waters, often travelling north to take part as a visitor in 90 Mile Beach Surfcasting Club fixtures.
However, the win also left him in the vulnerable position of having to wait and see what the other 700-plus anglers - a slightly smaller field than last year's - produced by Saturday afternoon, with all aiming to reel in the event's heaviest snapper and accompanying $30,000 cheque.
Organisers said the first day of the 2013 Snapper Bonanza was the best opening day in the history of this event or its predecessor, the Snapper Classic.
A total of 147 fish over 37cm were weighed in and the other snapper to join Alai's in the top five on day one were caught by Jared Blackburn, of Katikati, 6.17kg and winning $1000; Sefo Lesoa, of Auckland, 5.88kg, $500; Darin Maxwell, of Te Puke, 5.735kg, $300; and Darryl Willis, of Taranaki, 5.405kg, $200.
Also notable was the average weight prize of $1000 won by John Peraua with a 1.993kg snapper.
Meanwhile, the winning team was Team 10 earning $400 for weighing in a total of 14.235kg of snapper.
Four names have also gone into the major spot prize for the Mitsubishi Triton: Gary Willison, of New Plymouth, Mark van Diepen, of Auckland, Craig Lock, of Paihia, and Peter Morunga, of Tokoroa.
Also notable on stage on Tuesday were previous Bonanza/Classic heaviest fish prizewinners Darin Maxwell and Darryl Willis.
Apparently Alai was staying in the same house at Hukatere where Maxwell stayed when he caught the heaviest fish ever caught in the history of event, that notorious 12.33kg beast in 2012.
Tuesday's conditions were described as perfect - light to no swell, a cooling sou-east breeze and generally overcast.
There are two days left in the event with today the stay-away day (when fishing is done from both coasts but does not count towards the final prizegiving), and then Friday before the event winds up on Saturday afternoon when the heaviest snapper winner will be announced and the event's major lucky draw prizes awarded.