Hamilton, Bermuda — As a fitting end-cap to the 2023 Bermuda tournament season, the team fishing on Lunático won first-place honors in the 50th annual Sea Horse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament, held July 20-24. Hailing from Palm Beach, Florida, and fishing aboard a 63-foot Titan, the team of Capt. Cory Gillespie, mates Neil Ashley, Andrew Kennedy, and Slade Crumpton and angler/owner Lance Converse released a total of six blue marlin and four white marlin to rightfully achieve their status as top team overall. First place earned Lunático a combined check of $58,950 and an invitation to the Costa Offshore World Championship.
2023 marks 50 years since the inception of the Sea Horse Anglers Club Bermuda Billfish Tournament, formed by a handful of local enthusiasts determined to protect billfishing as a sport. Recognizing their precious commodity and the paramount need for local sustainability, they were one of the first tournaments to set a 500-pound minimum weight for blue marlin. The success of the Sea Horse helped propel Bermuda to the world stage as a premier blue marlin destination.
As the third leg of the Bermuda Triple Crown, the Sea Horse tournament is distinct from the two previous events in terms of host venues. The kick-off party and captain’s meeting is held at the Docksider Pub in Hamilton, where teams were welcomed to the casual environment of a traditional English pub, catered buffet with local Indian-fusion fare, and the option of draft beer or liquor. The “prize-giving” awards ceremony was hosted at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, the third-oldest Royal club outside of British shores and rich in history dating back to 1844.
All three days of fishing during the tournament were consistent, with 24 to 26 blue marlin caught each day. On Day One, Builder’s Choice, hailing from North Carolina and led by Capt. Brent Gaskill and angler/owner Harris Huddle, won the daily release jackpot worth $18,600 with three blue marlin releases aboard their 64-foot Jarrett Bay. Lunático positioned themselves in the hunt, trailing closely with 1,300 points from two blues and three whites. The 77-foot Spencer, Mama Who, captained by John McIntyre, weighed a 581-pound blue marlin reeled in by Sales de LaBarre, securing them the Daily Largest Blue Marlin Jackpot of $19,200, and ultimately securing them a third-place check from the Bermuda Triple Crown Big Three series jackpot for another $19,800.
The Day Two billfish release jackpot was won by El Cazador with four blues and one white for a total of 2,100 points. The team hailing from Stuart, Florida, of Capt. Paul Alderman, Bobby Ricks, Sail Ricks, Sarah Ricks, Gillian Ricks, Jack Ricks, Chad Hammann, Scott Behrhorst, and Mitchell Morel also won third-place overall and the third-place overall release jackpot for a combined prize check of $38,715. At 9:50 a.m., the 75-foot Spencer Big Deal out of Brielle, New Jersey, surprised the fleet by boating a blue marlin angled by Bill Pembroke. Using the Island Construction crane and IWS Scalemaster, Capt. Brian Rabbitt along with Pembroke and their two-mate team of Ben Zafir and Sergio Lobo weighed their blue in at 692 pounds. This not only won them cash for the Overall Biggest Blue Marlin, but also the largest blue marlin daily for Day Two and Day Three, since no blues were weighed on the third day of the tournament. Big Deal was awarded with a total combined check of $96,000 from the Sea Horse Anglers Club in addition to $29,700 from the Bermuda Triple Crown Big Three series jackpot.
The Palm Beach-based team aboard De-Bait-Able, captained by KJ Zeher and with mates Travis Butters and Jessie Rudolph, won second place overall with five blues and one white for a combined prize check of $35,370. Laura Russell was the angler for all six billfish to earn her the title of High-Point Angler Overall and High-Point Lady Angler.
High-Point Junior Angler was achieved by Jack Eudy from team Black Jack, who released five blue marlin with Capt. Wren Fogle at the helm.
Reel Lax, a 71-foot Jim Smith from Naples, Florida, captained by James Barnes, released four blues on day three to claim the daily billfish release jackpot of $18,600.
Capt. Andrew Dias put the local Bermudian team on Triple Play in the money for the biggest gamefish overall by angler Marcus Dias, a 168.1-pound yellowfin tuna, earning them $3,465. Team UnWined, led by Capt. Chris Osborne and angler/owner Joseph Vieira, won a new category this year, the Bermuda Registered Boats Jackpot, to take home $2,000 cash.
The 2023 Sea Horse Anglers Club Bermuda Billfish Tournament fleet of 33 boats and 277 anglers caught a total of 75 blue marlin and 16 white marlin, all of which were released except two. Teams also caught 15 yellowfin tuna ranging from 100 to 168.1 pounds. Among prize packages and trophies awarded, this year’s Sea Horse Anglers Club tournament paid out a record total cash purse of $290,900.
For more information about the Sea Horse Anglers Club Bermuda Billfish Tournament or the Bermuda Triple Crown, contact tournament director Jennifer Dudas at [email protected].
Sea Horse Anglers Club Bermuda Billfish Tournament 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, The Docksider Pub & Restaurant, A&M Construction, Oliver’s Travels, Temperature Control, L S Lures, D.R.D. Construction, C-Mart, 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 draws 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.
Bonnier is an outdoor adventure company that fuels passion for fishing, boating, sailing, motorsports, hunting, and travel. Bonnier has the nation’s leading portfolio of experiential events and iconic media brands in the marine category and an extensive series of nationwide motorsports and hunting events. Publisher of Salt Water Sportsman, Marlin, Sport Fishing, Boating, Yachting, Cruising World, and Sailing World, Bonnier also produces award-winning SFTV television programming and is the worldwide market leader for international billfishing tournaments. Each year, Bonnier hosts a network of expeditions, expos, jamborees, tournaments, and regattas across the US as well as in Mexico, Bermuda, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Australia, and the Virgin Islands. Bonnier is owned by Sweden-based Bonnier AB, a globally operating conglomerate with more than 200 years in publishing.
About the Marlin Group:
The Marlin Group is the world’s largest network of big-game fishing enthusiast brands, with an integrated portfolio of media and experiential event properties which cater to anglers, captains, mates, and others who pursue the ocean’s apex predators. The group publishes Marlin, the industry’s No. 1 source since 1981, and is the worldwide market leader for international billfishing tournaments, with the Offshore World Championship in Costa Rica, the Bermuda Triple Crown, Scrub Island Invitational Series in the British Virgin Islands, and the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament in Mexico. Marlin Expeditions—formerly Marlin University—has led anglers on educational excursions to the globe’s best big-game fishing destinations for more than 20 years, and in 2023 will visit Costa Rica, Guatemala, Cape Verde, Panama, Australia, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The Marlin Group is an operating unit of Bonnier LLC, an outdoor adventure company that fuels the passion for fishing, boating, sailing, motorsports, hunting, and travel.