The 2023 Bermuda Billfish Blast was won by the team fishing aboard Plane Simple, a 77-foot Spencer based out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, led by Jim Jensen and Capt. Chris Weeks with mates Derek Scherz and Anibal Moya. The team’s eight blue marlin and three white marlin releases gave them a total of 4,300 points, good for first-place honors, $115,275 in prize money and an invitation to the 2024 Costa Offshore World Championship in Costa Rica.
A total of 37 boats fished the 2023 Bermuda Billfish Blast, which offered a total cash purse of $506,850 plus an additional $360,000 as part of the Bermuda Triple Crown series. There were 139 billfish caught in the Blast, including 108 blue marlin and 31 white marlin. All but four of the blues and all of the white marlin were released.
This year, Jennifer Dudas did an exceptional job taking on the role of tournament director and leading her team of associate events director Lacey Hagler, sponsorship director Kat Haack, marketing manager Brooke Cantwell and photographer/videographer Michelle Gaylord.
Dudas added new optional jackpots including a Winner-Take-All Blue Marlin Jackpot and a new Daily Blue Marlin Jackpot, so teams are now allowed to boat one blue marlin per boat per day. As part of the Bermuda Triple Crown series, new series jackpots were also added, including the Bermuda Triple Crown Big Three Marlin Jackpot and the Heavy Hitter Winner-Take-All Largest Marlin of the series. Overall release and daily release jackpots remain as optional levels within the event.
Omnidirectional sonar was also addressed, requiring boats equipped with these electronics to wait until lines-in to deploy their equipment.
The tournament began with 300 in attendance at the newly remodeled Hamilton Princess Harborview Ballroom for a captain’s meeting and kick-off party consisting of a sprawling chef-prepared buffet and a Gosling’s Rum Tasting Bar.
The start of fishing on Day One landed on July 4, when teams are also permitted to fish the Blue Marlin World Cup simultaneously. Plane Simple released the first blue at 8:49 a.m. and kept it up for a banner day of five blues and three whites to claim the top of the leaderboard. At 1:58 p.m., Blue Bill, captained by Mike King, boated a big blue landed by angler Rob High and headed to the scales. Using the Island Construction crane and IWS ScaleMaster, Blue Bill’s fish weighed 714 pounds, putting them at the top of the board for the Blue Marlin World Cup for a few hours and eventually earning them Biggest Blue Marlin of the Bermuda Billfish Blast and a check for $180,900. The fleet of 379 released a total of 50 fish, including 38 blues and 12 whites, on Day One.
Stormy weather rolled through on Day Two along with a quiet early morning, then a late morning full of lost hook-ups. A steady bite closed out the afternoon with a total of 45 fish released, including 37 blues and eight whites. Captain Adam Mckeon of Bailey’s Ark called in a boated blue for angler James McReady at 4:11 p.m., which weighed in at 542 pounds on the Island Construction crane and IWS ScaleMaster, winning them the largest blue jackpot for Day Two. The largest gamefish was also weighed on the second day of the tournament by angler Ryan Small of Unbridled—a 46-pound wahoo. El Cazador may have won the daily release category with 2,000 points on the second day, but Plane Simple remained in the tournament’s top spot.
On Day Three, the fleet was still chasing Plane Simple’s epic first day. At 10:28 a.m., anglers Harris Huddle, Meredith Huddle, and Eli Blake on 64-foot Jarrett Bay Builder’s Choice, with Capt. Brent Gaskill and mates David Herbst and Nathan Newlin, finally snuck up with three morning blues to match with 3,800 points and move into second place. Close behind was the 85-foot Scarborough El Cazador with 3,000 points and Waste Knot at 2,600 points. Angler Randy Ringhaver on the 86-foot Merritt Bree, led by Capt. Kyle Liane and mates Brian Jamison and John Hauffman, boated a blue at 12:25 p.m. that weighed in at 667 pounds on the Island Construction crane and IWS ScaleMaster. Plane Simple and Builder’s Choice were neck and neck all day, with Plane Simple tacking on another 500-point blue and Builder’s Choice matching it yet again. Builder’s Choice ended up claiming second place on time with eight blues and three whites. Celebration and cheering was heard over the radio when angler Scott Poole Sr. on the Waste Knot released a blue at 4:03 p.m., catapulting them into third place less than 30 minutes before lines out. Five minutes before the call to stop fishing, lady angler Taylor Lambert on the 88-foot Merritt Reel Tight boated a blue that ended up weighing 541 pounds.
Plane Simple won first overall team, followed by Builder’s Choice in second, and Waste Knot in third place for the tournament. Top Angler was earned by Jim Jensen on Plane Simple releasing six blues and two whites. The Top Junior Angler trophy went to Jack Ricks, releasing five blues on El Cazador, led by Capt. Paul Alderman and mate Scott Behrhorst. Laura Russell won Top Lady Angler honors aboard De-Bait-Able, captained by KJ Zeher, with three blues and two whites.
The 37-team field of 218 anglers caught 139 billfish during the event, including 108 blue marlin and 31 white marlin over three days of fishing. The tournament culminated with a beautiful gala awards banquet in the Harbourview Ballroom at the historic Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. The tournament awarded $506,850 in purse plus trophies and prizes.
Bermuda Billfish Blast Sponsors
Bermuda Tourism Authority, Goslings, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, WEDCO, Royal Naval Dockyard, CAT Marine, Gregory Poole CAT, Pantropic Power CAT, Foley CAT, Ring Power CAT, PW Marine, Miles Market, The Waterfront Residence, Hawkins, Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, Garmin, Butterfield & Vallis, Spar Yard Marine Solutions, Yeti, Costa, Satcom Direct, Dassault Aviation, Blue Water Desalination, Australian Gold, Steve Goione Marine Artist, Fishing Tease, AFTCO, Release Marine, Seakeeper, Traeger, Island Construction Services, ICS Tires, Florida Detroit Deisel Allison, Atlantic Detroit Diesel Allison, Meater, Bodo Muche Studio, OluKai, Airmar, VanMark Jewelry Designers, Coastal Carolina Cutting Boards, Island Glass, Rego-Sotheby’s International Realty, Bausch Towers, IWS ScaleMaster, City of Hamilton, RUBIS Energy Bermuda, Penn, Big T Lures, Marlin, Salt Water Sportsman, Sport Fishing and Out Your Front Door.
About Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship
An angler’s dream, the pursuit of world-record-class blue and white marlin draw some of the finest sport-fishing vessels in the Atlantic, Gulf, and Caribbean regions to the island nation of Bermuda each summer to compete in the prestigious Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship. The three legs of the Bermuda Triple Crown are the Bermuda Billfish Blast, the Bermuda Big Game Classic, and the Sea Horse Anglers Club Bermuda Billfish Tournament. The champion is determined by the highest overall combined points of all three tournaments. At stake is a sizable cash purse, Champion’s rings, as well as the bragging rights of being named Bermuda Triple Crown Champions.