Reel Steel finishes strong in the Sea Horse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament to win the 2019 Bermuda Triple Crown.
The 2019 Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship saw 47 boats fish at least one leg of the series for a total purse of more than $1.2 million, plus trophies and prizes. Anglers caught 165 billfish, including 143 blues and 22 whites. The Bermuda Triple Crown has a strong following from elite billfish teams, with crews travelling from the Caribbean and United States to compete each year. In 2019, the Sea Horse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament had a record 38 teams participating.
Team Reel Steel, this year’s Bermuda Triple Crown winner, was dominating throughout the three Bermuda Triple Crown tournaments, scoring 6,600 points from 12 blue marlin and three white marlin releases during nine days of fishing. The 66-foot Hines Farley was consistent in raising fish during all three events.
Utilizing a team effort, Reel Steel won two of the three legs of the Bermuda Triple Crown, including the Bermuda Billfish Blast and Sea Horse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament. They finished second place in the team division of the Bermuda Big Game Classic. The team consisted of owner Mike Verzaleno, Captain Jason Parker, mate Drake Cropper, John Cantiverii, Charles Coats, Kayla Verzaleno and Marc Verzaleno.
Runner-up Team Flyer, an 86-foot Merritt, scored 6,000 points in the Bermuda Triple Crown from 12 blue marlin releases. Team Flyer won the 2019 Bermuda Big Game Classic and was neck and neck with Reel Steel going into the third leg of the Bermuda Triple Crown. The team consisted of owners Kevin and Teresa Jaffe, Captain Bryce Garvey, mate Mike Overton, mate Mike Tarmey, Greg Axton, Dylan Jaffe, Gotzon Otxoa and Mark Woodbury.
Third place went to Team Big Deal, a 75-foot Spencer, scoring 3,700 points from seven blue marlin and one white marlin release. Big Deal had two top-10 finishes in the Bermuda Triple Crown to jump ahead of Team Pescador with 3,600 points. Team Big Deal consisted of owner Ed Russo, Captain Brian Rabbit, mate Ben Zafir, mate Sergio Vargas, Matthew Russo, Bill Pembroke, Kim Pembroke and Mike Pembroke.
All three teams entered the new Bermuda Triple Crown Jackpot at the beginning of the series, so each team received a check for their performances.
- First Place, Reel Steel, $58,500
- Second Place, Flyer, $35,100
- Third Place, Big Deal, $23,400
This is the first time Team Reel Steel won the Bermuda Triple Crown, although it’s not their first time competing in the tournaments. Mike and Marc Verzaleno handled the angling duties, catching all the billfish for the team. The team picked up $293,760 in total winnings on their way to the Bermuda Triple Crown series win. For their series win, Reel Steel was awarded VanMark custom rings, King Sailfish Mounts trophy, Garmin Quatix watches, Bacardi Special Edition Rum, Costa sunglasses, Grundens boots, AFTCO Championship apparel, Soundview Millworks trophy, and Steve Goione limited-edition Bermuda Triple Crown print. The boat also received a Release Marine custom trophy, YETI cooler, AFTCO harness, AFTCO gaff, AFTCO belt, Lucas Oil products, Baitmasters of South Florida gift certificate, and custom Big T Lures.
The big fish of the season was caught during the Bermuda Big Game Classic on day three by angler Jason Friedman, aboard the boat Overproof, captained by Peter Rans. Back at the scales, the fish weighed 697 pounds. For their fish, the team won the Day-Three Largest Marlin Jackpot and Winner-Take-All Largest Marlin Jackpot. This is almost a repeat of 2018, when Freidman landed a 930-pound blue marlin on day three of the Bermuda Big Game Classic.
The other two top marlin weighed this year were by Blank Check and American Beauty. On day two of the Sea Horse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament, Blank Check, captained by Danny Hearn, landed a 666-pound blue marlin caught by angler Steven Walker. The blue marlin won Blank Check all three days of the Largest Marlin Jackpot and the Winner-Take-All Largest Marlin Jackpot. On day two of the Bermuda Big Game Classic, American Beauty, captained by Travis Rolan, landed a 616-pound blue marlin caught by angler Aaron Fenn. The blue marlin won American Beauty the day two Largest Marlin Jackpot for the tournament.
In total, 9 qualifying fish over the 500-pound minimum were landed during the 2019 Bermuda Triple Crown with one from the Bermuda Billfish Blast, seven from the Bermuda Big Game Classic, and one from the Sea Horse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament. None of the top three teams in the Bermuda Triple Crown weighed a marlin.
Many of the participants continued to support the Costa IGFA Great Marlin Race Pop-up Satellite Archival Tag (PSAT) program. Before the tournament season began, Costa Sunglasses and the IGFA fished aboard Team Fa-La-Me to target and tag blue marlin. A sponsored tag was also deployed by teams Reel Steel, Fa-La-Me and Waste Knot during the series.
The Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship is a series of three tournaments presented by the Bermuda Tourism Authority with participants enjoying dinner parties, quality gifts, entertaining video productions, live bands, open bars and a participant-friendly environment. The three tournaments include the Bermuda Billfish Blast, Bermuda Big Game Classic and Sea Horse Angler Club Billfish Tournament.
Bermuda Triple Crown sponsors include Bermuda Tourism, Hamilton Princess Bermuda, VanMark Jewelry Designers, Bacardi Spirits, YETI, marine artist Steve T. Goione, King Sailfish Mounts, Garmin Marine, Lucas Oil, AFTCO, Hawkins Private Island, Baitmasters of South Florida, The Waterfront Residence, Release Marine, CAT Marine, Gregory Poole CAT, Pantropic Power CAT, Foley CAT, Ring Power CAT, GPLink, Global Rescue, PW Marine, Miles Market, Island Construction Services, Soundview Millworks, Big T Lures, Costa Sunglasses, Rubis Energy Bermuda, Grundens, Marlin magazine, Salt Water Sportsman magazine and Sport Fishing magazine.