Article Courtesy: marlinmag.com | Originally published: 7/18/2023 | Click here for original article.
Consistent fishing yields a big win for the North Carolina-based team
Above: Courtesy Out Your Front Door
Hamilton, Bermuda—The team fishing aboard Wolverine, led by Capt. Rocky Hardison and based in Morehead City, North Carolina, landed in first place during the 2023 Bermuda Big Game Classic. Anglers Gary Fletcher, Wes Nardoni, and Worth Farrington released six blue marlin and one white marlin during the three days of fishing to earn a cash purse of $105,525 and an invitation to compete in the 2024 Costa Offshore World Championship. When asked how owner and angler Gary Fletcher got into big-game fishing, he reminisced about reading an article in Marlin Magazine in 1999, which enticed him and his son to book their first marlin fishing trip. Fast-forward 24 years later, after Fletcher built a custom boat and has fished all over the world; he and his team are proudly accepting first place in the second leg of the prestigious Bermuda Triple Crown.
Day One saw a total of 30 blues and eight whites for the 40-boat fleet and ended with the team on Reel Quick in the lead with 1,500 points, Wolverine in second place on time with 1,500 points, and Plane Simple—the current leader of the Bermuda Triple Crown series—in third with 1,100 points. Seven yellowfin tuna were weighed, ranging from 90.6 pounds to Flyer’s 175.9-pounder, caught by Gunner Moore, which ultimately won the biggest gamefish trophy and a check for $4,207.50. However, the highlight of Day One was when the local Bermudian team UnWined weighed a 510-pound blue marlin on the Island Construction crane and IWS ScaleMaster. Capt. Chris Osborne radioed in angler Joseph Vieira’s hook-up at 12:07 p.m., and the team persisted for more than five hours to boat the fish at 5:36 in the afternoon. The anticipation at Barr’s Park was evident when the scale tipped past the 500-pound mark and landed on 510 pounds, prompting the entire UnWined team to jump and backflip into the water. Their blue marlin ended up earning them the daily blue marlin jackpot of $33,300.
On the second day of fishing, the teams released a total of 27 blues and seven whites. No blues were brought to scales on Day Two, which doubled the stakes on Day Three’s daily blue marlin jackpot by rolling over the unclaimed $33,000. Anglers Jack Hendrix and Hugo McLean on Grand Slam did some work on Day Two to claim the daily release jackpot with three blue marlin releases.
The third day of fishing produced 26 blue marlin and nine white marlin. All marlin were released except one, which turned out to be the most lucrative fish in the tournament’s history. Amigo’s Capt. Brad Schoenfeld called in a boated blue at 2:28 p.m. by angler David Denbow. The team from Port O’Conner, Texas—Wyatt Denbow, Kyle Drushel, Chad Starr, Jeff Welch, and Chris Williams—was rightfully ecstatic when their blue marlin weighed in at 573 pounds. Ultimately, this earned them three of the optional jackpot levels: Day Three Daily Blue Marlin, which had doubled from Day Two, the Largest Blue Marlin Level One jackpot, and the Largest Blue Marlin Level Two jackpot. Combined, Team Amigo won $310,800, the largest amount the Bermuda Big Game Classic has ever awarded for a single fish.
Grand Slam finished in second place in this year’s event, along with jackpots for Overall Billfish Release and Daily Billfish Release for Day Two for a total of $74,115. The team of Capt. Dave Grubbs, mates Jack Hendrix and Parker Plott, and anglers Wallis Higginbotham, Hugo McLean, and Jake Stiteler released a total of five blue marlin and one white marlin.
Just A Dog, a 62-foot Viking led by owner and captain Mike Farrens from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, put angler Chase Farrens on five blue marlin, one white marlin, and a 151.7-pound tuna to take home third place overall as well as top angler honors. They also won this year’s Manufacturer’s Cup, awarding them a total of $35,202. The 2023 sponsors of the Marlin Magazine Manufacturer’s Cup include Jarrett Bay Boatworks, Merritt’s Boat & Engine Works, Spencer Yachts, and Viking Yachts. All teams fishing aboard boats built by these manufacturers were automatically entered in the division, with the winner receiving a cash prize of $8,000 and a congratulatory two-page spread in the November/December edition of Marlin.
The trophy for Top Lady Angler went to accomplished angler Taylor Lambert of Reel Tight, who released four blues with Capt. Joe Figiel at the helm. The Lamberts and their team of Nicole Layog, Omar Nunez, and Ricky Nunez fish aboard a brand-new 88-foot Merritt, which is home-ported in Hillsboro Beach, Florida.
Top Junior Angler honors went to Braxton Allen of the 63-foot Spencer Wall Hanger from Morehead City, North Carolina. Braxton released four blue marlin and one white marlin with Capt. Brian Allen at the helm and team members Lydia Allen, Stacy Allen, Brandon Moore, Dylan Rhudy, and Taylor Rhudy in the cockpit.
The 40-boat fleet of the 2023 Bermuda Big Game Classic caught a total of 83 blue marlin, 24 white marlin, eight tuna, and one wahoo during three days of fishing. The total cash purse awarded this year was the largest in its history at $590,750.
The Classic is the second leg of the Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship. Currently, Plane Simple is in first place with 6,600 points, with Builder’s Choice in second with 6,000 points and Wolverine moving into third with 4,700 points. The third and final leg of the Triple Crown series is the 2023 Seahorse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament, which takes place July 20-24.
For more information about the Bermuda Big Game Classic or the Bermuda Triple Crown, contact tournament director Jennifer Dudas at Jennifer.Dudas@bonniercorp.com.