Molly Palmer, 28, would have needed to reel in the fish by herself in order for it to qualify as a valid catch for the tournament, according to rules set by the International Game Fishing Association.
But her team helped her pull the massive marlin aboard — so all the Kailua-Kona angler got was a fish story.
Palmer told The Associated Press that her team wasn't overly concerned about getting disqualified hauling the fish on deck, because they just wanted to land the big catch.
"I didn't come here to set world records," Palmer said. "I didn't even really come here to win money. I came here to catch fish and that's just what we were there to do."
Palmer's fish weighed in at 1,022.5 pounds, well over the record of 950 pounds for a woman using a 130-pound line, tournament organizer Jody Bright said.
Cheating would have been easy and tempting. The Big Island Invitational Marlin Tournament runs in part on an honour system and Palmer, her captain and crewmates put up roughly US$9,000 to enter last week.
"I've had people try to slide things past me for a whole lot less money, for a less important thing than a world record," Bright said.
"We don't have officials on the field like you do in baseball or football or anything like that," he said. "Everybody's playing on the open ocean playing field and since there's nobody there checking to see if you stepped out of bounds or any of that sort of stuff there's a whole lot of opportunity to do things nobody would know of."
Palmer said breaking the rules never crossed her mind.
"The question was only can I land the fish or not," she said.
Officials at the International Game Fishing Association were not immediately available late Wednesday.
Bright said most of the fish caught during the three-day tournament were released, while those that died would be sold at market for seafood and marlin jerky.
Neal Isaacs, the boat's captain, said the team knew the fish was big — but not necessarily that big — when they saw it start jumping to free itself from the line nearly 40 minutes after it was hooked. The battle then became about whether the boat could position itself to give Palmer enough leverage to reel it in, he said.
She didn't want to give up, but the fish stayed in deep waters and eventually died on the line, drifting directly below the ship, Isaacs said.
"We pushed it, but her husband suggested we get out of the chair before she passed out," Isaacs said.
Angling is as much about math and physics as the open-water adventure. Palmer, at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, needed to get the marlin more than six times her size positioned higher in the water to make it easier for her to reel in her line without attracting sharks or breaking the line or any of the boat's equipment.
But she wasn't looking for any excuses.
"It was a bad decision that stopped me more than my physical limits," she said.