For centuries, Bermuda has earned a reputation as one of the premier destinations for blue marlin fishing as much as a luxurious travel getaway. Consequently, the teams participating in this year’s Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship not only encountered exceptional fishing, but also enjoyed a spectacular time ashore. Located a little less than 650 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Bermuda’s mild subtropical climate, lush manicured landscaping, pink-sand beaches, and crystal-blue waters are complemented by the exuberant welcoming culture of the locals and their pleasantly proper accents.
With 300-plus anglers and guests in attendance, the iconic Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club hosted the Bermuda Triple Crown teams with elite regard. Teams were treated to elaborate chef-prepared buffets and decadent desserts by the resident pastry chef during captain’s meetings and awards banquets, team gift bags were overflowing with quality sponsor items, and raffle prizes were both plentiful and worthwhile.
Forty-two teams competed in this year’s three-tournament affair, which offered a series cash purse of $360,000. The series is comprised of three legs—the Bermuda Billfish Blast, the Bermuda Big Game Classic and the Sea Horse Anglers Club Bermuda Billfish Tournament—which collectively boasted a record-breaking total payout of more than $1.7 million this year.
The well-traveled team fishing aboard the North Carolina-based 64-foot Jarrett Bay Builder’s Choice emerged as the grand champion of the 2023 Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship. The team, led by Capt. Brent Gaskill and angler-owner Harris Huddle, Meredith Huddle, Eli Blake, Nathan Newlin, David Herbst, Robert Cowan, and Rick Scheper, released 16 blue marlin and five white marlin for a total of 8,500 points during the series. For their outstanding performance, they were honored with champion’s
trophies, gold-and-diamond VanMark Jewelry championship rings, and a luxurious prize package.
Additionally, the team received a first-place-prize check of $49,500 and an exclusive invitation to the prestigious 2024 Costa Offshore World Championship. In total, Builder’s Choice collected $149,500 in cash awards throughout the tournament season.
Following the awards presentation, Harris Huddle said: “My crew and I are thrilled to be the Bermuda Triple Crown Champions. I cannot give enough praise to my crew—Brent, Nathan, David and Eli—for all their hard work to achieve this win.”
Under the leadership of Capt. Chris Weeks, Plane Simple’s skilled team of angler-owner Jim Jensen, anglers Brian Speedy and Jimmy David, and mates Hannibal Moya and Derek Scherz released 14 blues and eight whites for 7,800 points and second place, as well as $29,700 in cash. Plane Simple displayed a notable amount of dedication, professionalism and prowess throughout the tournament season to collect a total of $144,975 in cash awards.
The team aboard El Cazador secured a respectable third place in the competition. Under the guidance of Capt. Paul Alderman, the team showcased their talents, led by angler-owner Bobby Ricks, and accompanied by anglers Sail Ricks, Sarah Ricks, Gillian Ricks, Jack Ricks, Chad Hammann, Scott Behrhorst, and Mitch Morel. The team successfully released a total of 14 blue marlin and two white marlin for a commendable 7,200 points. As a result, they were awarded the third-place-prize check, totaling $19,800. El Cazador earned a total of $89,115 in cash awards throughout the tournament season.
The largest blue marlin of the 2023 Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship, a 714-pounder, was caught by the team on Blue Bill, captained by Mike King. Angler-owner Rob High boated his big blue on the opening day of the Bermuda Billfish Blast, the first tournament of the series. Their exceptional achievement resulted in winning two prestigious awards: the Heavy Hitter Winner-Take-All
Largest Marlin Jackpot and first place in the BTC Big Three Jackpot, which combined for a total of $211,500. Incredibly, this single catch alone allowed Blue Bill to amass an astounding total of $392,400 in cash awards, setting a new record for the highest combined payout ever for a single fish in the 20-plus-year history of the Bermuda Triple Crown.
Furthermore, the team was honored with the newly introduced Golden Gaff, a perpetual trophy that will forever feature Blue Bill as the first team name on its base, celebrating their remarkable accomplishment of landing the largest marlin of the 2023 series.
Also in the BTC Big Three Jackpot, the crew aboard Big Deal, under the guidance of Capt. Brian Rabbitt, with angler Bill Pembroke and mates Ben Zafir and Sergio Lobo, secured second place with a hefty 692-pound blue, earning $29,700.
Meanwhile, the crew aboard Mama Who, with Capt. John McIntyre at the helm, secured third place in the BTC Big Three Jackpot. Angler Sales de LaBarre reeled in an impressive 581-pound blue marlin and $19,800 for the third-largest marlin of the series.
Introducing a novel addition for 2023, dockmaster Larry Dean of the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and Beach Club proved victorious in the Marina Competition, whose teams amassed the most points with 52,734. Dean was awarded a rum barrel filled with Spirited Seas Ocean Aged Rum, courtesy of Goslings. In a gracious act of camaraderie, Dean accepted the prize by thoughtfully bringing three straws, signifying his gesture of sharing the delight with his competing dockmasters from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and PW Marine.
Read Next: Learn more about the Bermuda Triple Crown here.
Over the course of the series, the fleet of 42 boats caught a total of 337 billfish, comprising 266 blue marlin and 71 white marlin during nine thrilling fishing days. All but eight of the blue marlin and all of the white marlin were released, showcasing a commitment to conservation and adherence to tournament rules, which dictate a 500-pound minimum for weighed blue marlin.
In 2023, new optional jackpots were introduced, including a Winner-Take-All Blue Marlin Jackpot and a Daily Blue Marlin Jackpot. As part of the Bermuda Triple Crown series, new series jackpots were also added, including the BTC Big Three Marlin Jackpot and the Heavy Hitter Winner-Take-All Largest Marlin of the Series. The popular overall-release and daily-release jackpots remained as optional levels within the event.