Wolverine Wins the 2023 Bermuda Big Game Classic
Team Wolverine stands at an awards ceremony, holding a collection of prizes, trophies, and the awards check.
Photo 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.

A sport-fishing team stands on the cockpit of a boat named 'Amigo', next to their Largest Marlin catch.
Photo Courtesy Out Your Front Door

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.

Bermuda Big Game Classic 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, Marlin, Salt Water Sportsman, Sport Fishing, Out Your Front Door, Jarrett Bay Boatworks, Merritt’s Boat & Engine Works, Spencer Yachts, and Viking Yachts.

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.

About Bonnier:

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.