Fender Bender Wins 2024 Bermuda Billfish Blast with Record-Breaking Payout

The 20th anniversary of the Bermuda Billfish Blast sees a record payout of $1.1 million, with Fender Bender taking top honors and Big Deal landing the tournament’s heaviest fish.
A sport-fishing team standing in celebration in the cockpit of a sport-fishing boat. The two center anglers are holding up a large over-sized check.
Team Fender Bender of Manteo, North Carolina won the largest single payout in Bermuda Billfish Blast history on release points alone. Courtesy Out Your Front Door

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A fleet of 44 boats fished the 2024 Bermuda Billfish Blast, Leg 1 of the Bermuda Triple Crown, generating a record-breaking cash payout of $1.1 million for the event’s 20th anniversary. The fleet released 122 billfish, including 92 blue marlin, 29 white marlin and one spearfish. Other than the six blue marlin that were weighed at the scales, all fish caught during the tournament were released.

Capt. Colin Oxnard and the 62-foot Spencer, Fender Bender, won the tournament with 3,600 points after releasing seven blue marlin and one white marlin. That effort was good for $408,228 in prize money – the largest single payout in the tournament’s 20-year history. The Fender Bender team was also awarded an invitation to the 2025 Costa Offshore World Championship in Costa Rica. 

Big Deal, a 75-foot Spencer captained by Brian Rabbitt, won the award for the heaviest fish in the tournament after weighing in a 673-pound blue marlin on Day One. Ed Russo fought the fish for three hours and 40-minutes, ultimately netting the team a check for $212,960.

This year, Tournament Director, Jennifer Dudas, introduced a new suite of optional jackpots designed to reward teams in both the release and big-fish divisions, allowing for a big payout. Given the amount of money on the table, all billfish releases were verified through video review by the tournament committee.

The Bermuda Billfish Blast opened at the newly remodeled Hamilton Princess Harbourview Ballroom for a captain’s meeting and kick-off party. The 300 attendees enjoyed a sprawling buffet and a Gosling’s Rum tasting bar.

Fishing began on an overcast July 4th, with many boats simultaneously fishing the Blue Marlin World Cup. Capt. KJ Zeher and the Debaitable crew, with Laura Russel in the chair, boated a big blue just after lunch that ultimately weighed in at 636 pounds. However, their celebration would be short lived as word spread about the long fight being waged offshore aboard the Big Deal. The battle captivated audiences in Bermuda and around the world, as the outcomes of both the Bermuda Billfish Blast and the World Cup were at stake. Finally, shortly after 9 p.m., amidst a growing crowd and significant online interest, Big Deal’s fish tipped the scales at 673 pounds. This weight secured the Day One daily prize, ultimately won the tournament, but came up short to a Cape Verde fish in the World Cup. The fleet released a total of 27 blues and eight whites on Day One, with Fender Bender holding the lead for release points, thanks to its three blue marlin.

The bright Bermuda sun came out on Day Two, producing an almost identical fishing outcome as Day One. The fleet released a total of 28 blue marlin and nine white marlin. After a late afternoon, Capt. Peter Rans of the Bermuda-based charter boat, Overproof, called in a boated blue for angler Jason Friedman at 5 p.m. The fish weighed in at 630 pounds, winning the daily blue marlin jackpot. Pescaria took the Day Two daily billfish release jackpot with three blue marlin.

A sport-fishing team at the weigh in station, standing next to a large marlin.
The Big Deal kept the world waiting for a 9 p.m. weigh-in on July 4. The 673-pound fish took top honors at the Bermuda Billfish Blast. Courtesy Out Your Front Door

The Overproof team picked up where they left off on Day Three, boating a blue marlin at 10:37 a.m., which ended up weighing in at 537 pounds. Capt. Bull Tolson of Sea Toy called in a boated blue marlin at 1:41 p.m. with the same exact preliminary measurements as Overproof’s fish – 115-inch short length and a 61-inch girth. Sea Toy’s blue marlin ended up weighing 551 pounds. Neither, though, would be big enough to win the Day Three daily.

That honor would go to Capt. Sean Dooley and the Viking 82. Angler Thomas Garmany persisted through a five-hour fight for the 622-pound blue, which awarded them the daily blue marlin jackpot of $36,960 for Day Three. Mama Seata, captained by Ronnie Fields, took the daily billfish release jackpot with two blue marlin releases and one white marlin. On Day Three, a total of 31 blue marlin, 12 white marlin and one spearfish were released.

Read Next: Learn More About the Bermuda Triple Crown.

At the awards gala in the Harbourview Ballroom, Fender Bender claimed top overall team, followed by Mama Seata in second, and Pescaria in third. Russo on the Big Deal claimed Top Angler honors, thanks to his four blues and one white. The Top Junior Angler trophy went to Miller Crumpton after releasing four blues and two whites aboard Mama Seata. Taylor Lambert won Top Lady Angler honors aboard Reel Tight, captained by Joe Figiel, with three blue marlin releases.

A new Winner-Take-All Non-Sonar Jackpot was introduced this year to award teams fishing without the benefit of Omni sonar. Team Pescador won this category by releasing three blue marlin and one white marlin.

Next up in the Bermuda Triple Crown is the Bermuda Big Game Classic, set to kick off on July 13.

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