Coming off the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series win this past summer, we caught up with Craig Lindner Jr. to touch base with this savvy fisherman, businessman, husband and father. Lindner credits the dedication of his teammates, a love of big game—whether he’s hunting or fishing in the US, Africa or Europe—and the support of his family for the accomplishment. A Cincinnati native whose fishing roots began catching grunts and mangrove snapper from the Ocean Reef Club docks in North Key Largo, Florida, as soon as he learned to walk has continued with the Kona blue marlin he chases from his beloved 46-foot Gamefisherman, Bwana.
Q: Congratulations on your 2019 HMT Series win. That’s quite an experience, and well-deserved.
A: Thank you. It was a very rewarding experience with such a world-class team. Capt. Teddy Hoogs put us on them, and Capts. KJ Robinson and Carl Shepherd were with us for most of the series. It is a true pleasure to compete in such a well-run series in a great fishery. We had one of those seasons where everything just came together, and we were able to take advantage of the majority of the opportunities that were presented to us.
Q: You are also an accomplished tournament-winning South Florida sailfish angler—why Kona?
A: Every day you leave the dock you have a legitimate chance at seeing a big blue marlin. The calm waters generally hold good numbers of not only blues, but other billfish species year-round, but it’s the big ones that get me going. Kona’s access to the fishing grounds most times can be just five or 10 minutes after leaving the harbor. I love fishing for sails and appreciate the variety of gamefish in Florida and still do three to five sailfish tournaments each season, but when I’m in Kona, I’m focused on that fishery.
Q: Sight-fishing for sails in the shallows of the Keys or catching big blues in Kona? Go.
A: That’s a tough one to answer because I really enjoy both. But if I could choose only one, I would have to go with the big Kona blues. They are both great fisheries, and I’m very fortunate to be able to do both.
Q: How long have you been fishing Kona?
A: I first fished there when I was 16, and hoped I’d be able to own a boat there someday. In 2011, I decided to try to accomplish that dream when I purchased the 46-foot Gamefisherman Adios, which was based in Los Sueños. I brought the boat to Kona and renamed her Bwana. It’s the perfect boat for that fishery, and able to tackle all the blue marlin we can raise behind her.
Q: What’s it like to have one of Hawaii’s finest second-generation skippers at the helm of Bwana?
A: Teddy is a true professional—in every sense of the word. Not only is he an excellent fisherman, he’s a good friend. He puts his heart and soul into taking care of the boat, and continues to teach me about marlin fishing every time we go out. We work well together and have a lot of fun on the water.
Q: When you were hunting for a captain, what were the most important characteristics you were looking for?
A: Honesty, trustworthiness, work ethic and fishing skills. Teddy hits the mark on all of these attributes.
Q: What about when assembling your team?
A: There are several aspects to assembling a top-notch team. All the personalities need to gel, that’s for sure, and everyone needs to believe in and stand behind one another when it comes to making the decisions that need to be made on the water, no matter the circumstances. We give maximum effort right up until tournament control calls, “Stop fishing.” And with the addition of Capt. Bobby Cherry toward the end of last season, I can say having that much talent on the boat pays off—it did for us.
Q: What advice would you give a new boat owner who is trying their hand in the tournament circuit?
A: You must fish as much as possible to improve your angling skills. Fish as much as you can and get as many shots as you can. Knowing how to manage the drag properly—when to back off and when to apply maximum pressure—and feel is very important. The light-tackle experience I gained in South Florida and the Keys really helped me with that. I’m also a big believer in having a positive attitude: Never give up, and always give it your greatest effort.
Q: How do you juggle the rigors of family, business ventures and tournament fishing since Hawaii is so far from your home?
A: We typically go to Kona during my kids’ school breaks. The Big Island is a very nice place, and my family really enjoys it. They are supportive of me when we’re in the midst of tournament season, and luckily my kids also enjoy fishing; I hope to be fishing some tournaments with them when they get a bit older. I run my company’s real estate portfolio, and we have properties in just about every area of the Lower 48, so I travel a lot for work. Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Seattle all have nonstop flights to Kona, so I’m usually hitting at least one of those places on the way back. It works out pretty well for checking in on the properties on the west side of the country.
Q: Any plans to take Bwana away from her Kona home?
A: Not as of now. It’s a great boat for Hawaii, and that’s where I like having it. There are places that I’d like to fish again, such as Madeira and Ascension Island, but would love to fish the Great Barrier Reef for big blacks also.
Q: What does the future hold for you?
A: In five or 10 years, I hope to be doing a lot of the same. I am fortunate to work in a business that I enjoy and able to spend quality time with my family—hopefully still enjoying hunting, fishing and other activities in the great outdoors. —Capt. Jen Copeland