The Passion and Purpose of Bad Company’s World Tour of the Best Fishing Destinations

A singular dream results in an incredible global fishing tour

A view of Mount Pico against the setting sun, viewed from an sport-fishing boat.
With Mount Pico and the rising sun as a backdrop, Team Bad Company heads out to fish for blue marlin in the Azores. Courtesy Bad Company / Tanner Matthews

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Mothership operations have existed for nearly 100 years, ever since Zane Grey began traveling to far-flung, exotic destinations aboard a sailing sloop he purchased in 1924 named Fisherman I. He retrofitted the yacht to accommodate two small fishing boats—a 32- and a 25-footer—which rode on deck cradles. Once launched from the larger sloop, the smaller craft offered the agility needed to maneuver on the marlin ­species he targeted, and the mothership-and-gameboat concept was introduced to the world. Since then, there have been a handful of globe-trotting operations that have traveled the oceans of the world to seek out the very best fishing destinations. A common denominator? The top two would have to be a passion for the sport and the means to successfully pursue it.

Anthony Hsieh has both, but passion has always been the driving force in his fishing career. As a teenager, he purchased a 17-foot Boston Whaler and trailered it from Southern California more than 1,000 miles down the Baja Peninsula to Cabo San Lucas, where he caught his first marlin. Pursuing that love of the game, Hsieh worked as a deckhand on Thunderbird, a charter boat out of California’s Newport Beach Landing, catching bait and rigging it for the customers, among the many other usual charter-mate duties. It was on those same docks where he met the captains who would later become lifelong friends and mentors, such as Steve Lassley, who began his fishing career at just 15 years old.

Pete Groesbeck is another old California ­skipper who ran the Ocean Pacific mothership, and still runs a ­multiboat operation today. Capts. Mike “Beak” Hurt and Joe Mike Lopez were among the first to offer advice, showing Hsieh the ins and outs of running his own boats—­lessons that remain a part of his ­foundations many years later. Hsieh chose his mentors wisely; Lassley, Hurt and Groesbeck have all been presented the IGFA’s Tommy Gifford Award for being among the sport’s top captains and crews. And while Hsieh has owned boats for more than four decades, 2022 marked the launch of something new and quite remarkable in its scope: a world tour scheduled to last for three years. And at its heart is an incredible lineup of motherships, support vessels and gameboats.

Two sport-fishers pulling a large blue marlin boatside.
A nice blue is ready for release at boatside Courtesy Bad Company / Tanner Matthews

The Ways and the Means

While Hsieh’s passion has always played a major role in his life, the means to pursue it came through years of hard work, dedication, tenacity and creativity. Hsieh and his family emigrated to the US from China when he was 8 years old; he became the negotiator for the family due to his parents’ language barriers. Soon, he was negotiating everything, including car and home purchases. He was good at it. Hsieh purchased the mortgage company he worked for as a college student, eventually selling the business to E-Trade.

He founded Home Loan Center, and then sold it to Lending Tree. In 2010, Hsieh founded LoanDepot—a tremendously successful internet-based nonbank lending company—and took it public in 2021. He hired a CEO to help manage the company’s day-to-day operations, a move that finally gave him the missing ingredient to the puzzle: time. Hsieh is finally able to pursue his dream of fishing the world’s top destinations, one that he’s had for more than 40 years.

But nothing of this magnitude would be ­possible without extensive planning and preparation, and Hsieh’s lineup is impressive. Capt. Dan Nedwidek has been a sport-fishing and mothership captain for the past 15 years, with considerable experience in the South Pacific, Central America, North Atlantic islands, Canada, both coasts of the US, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Europe. Along with a crew of six, he runs a 150-foot Damen support vessel that carries a 33-foot L&H walkaround, a 33-foot Rupert rigid-hull inflatable, and a pair of personal watercraft on deck. When offloaded, the deck becomes a helipad. The Bad Company ­support vessel carries 25,000 gallons of fuel and has a range of 5,000 nautical miles at 12 knots; the boat’s top speed is 18 knots; the deck crane can easily offload the fishing boats as well as the RIB and other toys; and the boat also supports a 57-foot Spencer, which was shipped to Gibraltar in 2022 to fish the waters of Cape Verde, Madeira and the Azores.

A team stands on the deck of a sport-fishing boat called Bad Company.
Anthony Hsieh (center) has assembled an incredible lineup of boats and captains to pursue his lifelong dream of chasing giant gamefish in the best destinations. One key player is Capt. Steve Lassley (second from left). Courtesy Bad Company / Tanner Matthews

But that’s just the start. Hsieh also owns a 144-foot Trinity sport-fisherman, recently refreshed and currently in Fort Lauderdale to accommodate fishing in Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. He’s also building a 175-foot Damen, which is scheduled to hit the water this spring. This boat will be specifically designed to support Hsieh’s program, and will carry a 43-foot Release as well as a 1987 32-foot Blackfin—Hsieh’s first diesel boat from 30 years ago that’s being completely restored after having three previous owners and found riddled with termites. The 175 will also carry a 40,000-pound-capacity crane to launch the boats. With the extra length, Hsieh was able to add a climate-controlled hangar for a Bell 505 helicopter, as well as additional tankage for aviation fuel. The boat will have expanded accommodations for a crew of up to 15, plus five luxurious owner and guest staterooms. Bad Company Support will carry 43,000 gallons of fuel, cruise at 15 knots, have a top speed of 20 knots, and enjoy a range of 5,000 nautical miles at an ­economical 12 knots.

Hsieh’s favorite boat, however, is a 92-foot Jones Goodell that will continue to live in Cabo San Lucas. “This is the boat with the current release record of 330 striped marlin in a single day at Magdalena Bay a couple of years back,” he says. “And it’s also caught the first blue marlin in California waters in 81 years. The 92 and a 75-foot Delta, which lives in Newport Beach, are classic yacht-fishers that are perfectly suited for sight-fishing for swordfish on the surface.”

The Tour Begins

The Spencer, along with the Damen support yacht, launched Hsieh’s fishing world tour in June 2022 in Madeira, Portugal, where they had an absurdly astounding inaugural day: five blue marlin releases, ranging in size from 250 to over 800 pounds. Huge bigeye tuna were also regular visitors in the spread during their stay in Madeira.

Both boats repositioned in August to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel, the largest and most populated of the nine islands that comprise the Azores. Located nearly 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal, this area of the North Atlantic is influenced by the Gulf Stream as well as the volcanic structures of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the longest underwater mountain range in the world. It spans over 25,000 miles, from the Arctic Ocean down through the North and South Atlantic oceans. Where this range rises above the ocean’s surface, the islands of Pico in the Azores, Ascension, St. Helena, and Tristan da Cunha were formed. In the Azores themselves, the ridge forms an underwater structure of mountains and canyons that marlin love, and, with warmer-than-­average water temperatures in 2022, conditions couldn’t have been better. Azorean charter boats were releasing blues in the 500- to 800-pound range daily.

A sport-fisher fishing off a boat deck.
From his start as a deckhand in Southern California and then trailering his own Boston Whaler to Cabo San Lucas, Hsieh remains as passionate about the sport today as he was in his early years. He supports a ­number of charities as well. Courtesy Bad Company / Tanner Matthews

Capt. Steve Lassley is a vital component of this world tour. Hsieh first met him while working the Newport Landing docks as a teenage deckhand, and their friendship grew from there. After running his own boat for years, Hsieh hired Lassley to run his growing fleet in 2004 and they’ve been tight ever since, winning numerous tournaments, including a $3.9 million jackpot in the 2006 Bisbee’s Black & Blue. Lassley is well-respected for his abilities to explore new destinations, a trait that would be put to the test right from the start. He arrived in Ponta Delgada, Azores, with his son David, the official videographer for the tour, as well as Kevin Bohannon and OB Morton, both trusted friends of Hsieh’s and longtime professional mates in California and Kona, Hawaii. The team scouted around for a few days, then when Hsieh arrived, the serious fishing began. The team was getting multiple opportunities and released blue marlin each day. After five days, they finally raised a big one in the spread; the tightknit crew worked their magic, landing the largest blue marlin Hsieh had caught to date—a 907-pound beauty that they donated to a local charity.

After a short respite, the second half of the Azores expedition began. I joined marine artist Carey Chen, along with Capts. James Roberts and Pete Groesbeck. We departed from Miami in Hsieh’s Gulfstream 550 with palpable excitement, a bunch of kids headed for blue marlin fishing’s version of Disney World. We landed in Ponta Delgada just as the sun was beginning to rise over the North Atlantic, the morning glow ­casting a magical light as we drove to the marina through the limestone cobbled streets and past pastel-colored homes that are hundreds of years old.

After stowing our bags and a quick breakfast on the Damen, we loaded the Spencer and headed for the fishing grounds, giving me my first real look back at the island. It was so beautiful, with deep green meadows and manicured fields, soaring to the high peaks above. The Azores are biodiverse, with geothermal pools, hot springs and hiking trails throughout; the locals are quite conscious of the need to preserve this pristine beauty. The ocean was a deep sapphire blue, the sky just a few shades lighter. Vast areas of bait dotted the horizon, with birds diving and tuna crashing, sending white foamy sprays high into the air. We trolled around these areas until a large blue marlin came up on the left rigger and attacked the lure. The fish put on an immediate aerial display as Hsieh went to work in the chair and Lassley backed toward the fish, declaring it to be 800-plus pounds. Morton was ready to grab the leader when the hook pulled just a few feet from his reach. Our disappointment was tinted with elation though, because after that, we knew that the big fish were there.

The next day, we fished south of Ponta Delgada around Vila Franca do Campo, and Hsieh hooked another big blue but pulled the hook after a 20-minute fight. Day Three was much of the same. Surrounded by idyllic seas holding ample bait and other boats catching marlin, Lassley decided to make a bold move and head north to Horta on the island of Faial. Before we departed the next morning, Hsieh hosted a party aboard the Damen support vessel for the local charter captains and crews. With hors d’oeuvres passing and drinks flowing, we had a great intel session with the guys who had been plying these waters for decades—not only great local knowledge, but also relationship building that would serve the tour well, now and for many years in the future.

A digital rendering of the Azores islands.
The Azores produced superb blue ­marlin fishing in late 2022.

Making the Move

Just four days into the trip, both boats departed Ponta Delgada for the 150-mile run to Faial, with the Spencer leaving at 4 a.m. so that there would be nearly a full day of fishing remaining upon its arrival. The island is small, but the marina in Horta on the north side has been an important port for boats transiting the Atlantic Ocean since the early days of whaling and trans-Atlantic travel. Horta is a small, picturesque Portuguese town ­dating back to 1468, when the first settlers began to arrive from Europe and elsewhere. Faial also happens to be the ­closest island in the Azores to the Mid-Atlantic Range, which might be why big blue marlin are often caught here, perhaps more than the other nearby islands.

The Spencer began trolling around Faial and the adjacent island of Pico, the two islands separated by a relatively shallow channel. Mount Pico climbs to an elevation of 7,713 feet—the tallest mountain in Portugal—and the ocean floor plunges to nearly 10,000 feet not far from shore. The ocean life was fascinating, with acres of bait mixed with bigeye, yellowfin and the occasional bluefin tuna. The island’s flanks are breathtaking, with verdant hillside pastures filled with grazing cattle that produce the steaks and cheeses for which the Azores are famous, with postcard-­worthy ­farmhouses and rows of giant hydrangeas separating the fields.

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After a couple of hours of trolling, Lassley finally spotted a fish on the sonar that looked like a good one. The huge marlin followed a lure but suddenly veered off. “She came back, attacked the stinger, and was taking line as I got set up in the chair,” Hsieh says. “It was more of a steady pull than a panicked run. She stripped off 400 yards, then just stopped and held there for a minute. Steve came back on her, and about 20 feet from the boat, she skyrocketed out of the water as fresh and as green as ever, like she just realized she was hooked. That’s when the fish ripped another 600 or 700 yards of line from the reel, even with Steve in full reverse.

“I think during the second run, it must have been too hard on her cardiac system,” Hsieh continues. “I could tell that the pull on the line had changed and the marlin had probably died because it was pretty much straight up and down. For the next 45 minutes or so, I retrieved line slowly, a quarter crank at a time, until she finally came up dead. That fish was 3 pounds heavier than my last blue and weighed 910 pounds.” Lassley captured some amazing footage of the fight, edited by Tanner Matthews, which can be viewed on Bad Company’s YouTube and Instagram channels.

Over the next few days, we fished the Azores and Princess Alice banks, getting shots at tuna and blue marlin each day. We caught numerous big yellowfin tuna, which made for some pretty tasty poke bowls for lunch. Unfortunately for us, the weather was about to take a serious nosedive.

A large mothership yacht docked in a marina.
The 150-foot Damen carries a 33-foot L&H gameboat on deck, as well as 25,000 gallons of fuel for extended operations virtually anywhere in the world. Courtesy Bad Company / Tanner Matthews

Until Next Time

We had all been keeping a close eye on Hurricane Danielle, a storm that was moving north in the Atlantic and appeared to be headed close to the Azores. None of us were ready to leave early though, especially with the great fishing we’d had, so we decided to spend one last day before jumping on the jet to head home. We fished on the leeward side of Faial in big swells and were the only boat on the water. During a particularly hard downpour, the left flat was suddenly attacked by a large, voracious bluefin. Hsieh’s childhood friend Brendan Ryan had joined us the day before, and Hsieh graciously told him to grab the rod. Ryan settled into the chair and dug in for the fight, with Roberts quietly instructing, encouraging, and keeping him calm. After an hourlong tug of war, Bohannon grabbed the leader, and after a few photos and a short video, we successfully released the 800-plus-pound fish.

The tour continued in October, with the team ­heading to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to fish on the Bad Company Viking 60 through mid-November, where Hsieh had modest luck in tough conditions. In mid-­February, the 150 headed some 4,000 nautical miles to the South Atlantic, where it fished the 33-foot L&H while the Spencer headed to Spain for the winter, then to Cape Verde in April, and back to the Azores in August and September. The new Damen 175 will spend a month touring the Mediterranean for a shakedown trip after delivery from the builder in Turkey, then move through the Suez Canal and spend mid-2023 in the Indian Ocean. Next year, it will be the support vessel for the team’s adventures on the Great Barrier Reef and beyond.

This is a spectacular program that’s unlike any other ever attempted, and Hsieh sums it up: “Being a self-made man who has worked constantly my entire life, building companies and creating jobs, being away from the business for more than a week at a time was never really an option. This tour gives me the opportunity to really feed my passion for marlin fishing while also investing in a lifetime of memories.” Best of luck, Bad Company.

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