Anthony Hsieh

Anthony Hsieh and Bad Company: Fishing for Change

May 30, 2024 by Gemma Harris

The Bad Company World Tour and Anthony Hsieh are all about changing perceptions of the sportfishing industry — and doing it in style.

Years ago, the biggest sportfishing boat you would likely see in a marina topped out around 50 feet, but today, the category has entered the superyacht realm. Vessels are now specifically designed to chase giant billfish across the world’s oceans. Leading the charge is the Bad Company fleet, the largest private global sportfishing operation currently on a World Tour. 

Orchestrating such daring adventures requires the commitment of a specialized team; in this case, it’s helmed by Anthony Hsieh, the fleet’s brainchild and owner. What began with purchasing his first Boston Whaler at 18 has evolved into a formidable selection of 12 vessels solely dedicated to catching the world’s biggest and fastest fish.

 

For Hsieh, an immigrant from Taiwan who arrived in the U.S. when he was eight, fishing has been a lifelong obsession. “My personality has always been about adventure, and I am naturally addicted to things,” Hsieh said. “Fishing and boats have been part of my life for as long as I can remember; even when building companies and being a family man, I put in around 80 days a year on the ocean.” 

Making A Difference 

Hsieh isn’t your typical yacht owner. His motivation isn’t just to tick off destinations, but for the love of sportfishing, his curiosity about the oceans, and to do so while positively influencing wherever they go. 

“There are a lot of mysteries about sportfishing. More education is needed; you can gain all the excitement of the sport and, at the same time, help understand our oceans better,” he said.  

 

While crisscrossing oceans, the fleet has become active in marine research efforts. It currently deploys satellite tagging systems to help scientists understand the mysteries of apex predators’ migratory patterns and the link to ocean health. 

“Witnessing the decay of the oceans I grew up on and discussing it with local fishermen has become a significant interest over the last couple of years,” Hsieh said. Hsieh is using Bad Company’s reach to positively affect marine environments by contributing more data. 

Data from these regions sometimes come from areas that outsiders have never fished, such as their visit to Ascension Island. Hsieh gives back to communities when he can, facilitating fishing for the greater good.  

“People with financial resources can be a little too entitled. We certainly do not want that; we are there as visitors, and we understand that. We are very respectful when we visit these communities,” he said. His team visited a local school within the island and offered gifts upon their visit. 

Closer to home, Hsieh has also run the War Heroes On Water tournament for the past seven years. The three-day fishing tournament with Freedom Alliance is dedicated to honoring war veterans and raises $1 million yearly by taking approximately 150 war-wounded veterans fishing on board 50 donated yachts. 

“This relates to thrill and enjoyment and the healing process the ocean brings us all. Sharing the ocean with them does a lot of good; it has changed many lives,” Hsieh said.

Latest Additions

Taking the Tour up a level to do so, he recently commissioned his latest vessel, adding to the established fleet of various mothership and game boat combinations. The first of the YS 53 Damen design series, the Damen 175, Bad Company Support, is heavily customized and adapted and was recently delivered. Designed as a shadow boat to a yacht, Hsieh viewed it differently, as a “standalone, high-performance sportfishing game boat.”

 

“It’s like one of those 18-wheel trucks carrying a race car — we are going from race to race, like an F1 team, from continent to continent and country to country,” Hsieh said.

To realize the program’s ambitions — far from enjoying cocktails on a beach — he emphasizes that it needed range, speed, and, most importantly, comfort. “This new series from Damen is a significant jump from the last as far as interior accommodations and total comfort,” he said. A helicopter, a 43-foot Release Game Boat, and the 32-foot Blackfin are just a few highlights of this new boat’s kit. 

Despite the advanced vessels and accompanying resources, operating this program in unfamiliar waters brings logistical challenges for Hsieh and the team. The pandemic was first, as the Tour was postponed from 2019 to 2022.  

“It is more difficult to hire help because it is all such new territory; I would rather do the research and relationship building myself,” Hsieh said. Before they visit any area, geopolitical issues are considered, and relationships with local communities and governments are established a year prior. “You don’t want to have an entitled attitude; you want to feel invited,” he said. 

But explaining their mission to remote nations typically accustomed to commercial shipping proves challenging. “The idea of burning fuel, investing immense resources, just for the thrill of hooking a fish and releasing it, doesn’t register,” Hsieh said. However, the fleet’s social media presence helps validate their unconventional purpose and “confirms good intentions.”

Coordinating this adventure comes with continual hurdles, from ensuring fuel availability and quality to stocking provisions and navigating bureaucratic procedures. To overcome this, Hsieh has carefully assembled a professional team from his fishing crew and dedicated vessel crew to film production members.

A Team Effort

The program’s demanding schedules require seasoned and committed individuals. “Building a collaborative team atmosphere is crucial, given the distinct differences in cultures and personalities between yachting and fishing,” Hsieh said.

In terms of crew dynamics, each of the three motherships within the fleet is led by a dedicated captain. Hsieh’s primary captain, Capt. Steve Lassley, has fished alongside him for more than two decades. “My core fishing team travels with me, but none of the onboard crew interchange between vessels,” Hsieh said.

 

The program’s relentless pace involves around eight trips annually, ranging from 14 days to 35-day voyages. 

“It is important there is harmony within the team; the crew must understand our unique demands. This isn’t typical yachting — we don’t charter, have limited guests, and travel to destinations often with little infrastructure.”

While it may not resemble a “traditional yachting service” familiar to other crew, it encompasses a high level of commitment tailored to fishing. These trips aren’t about recreational fishing. “People think it’s fun and games, but it isn’t; it is a lot of hard work,” Hsieh said. Fishing from sunup to sundown means crewmembers work around the clock. “Our chefs are up from 4 a.m., prepping our 6 a.m. breakfast and pack[ing] lunches that we take for the day. Then, we get back around 6 p.m. for dinner, and they have to provision in between,” he said.

When it comes to traveling off the beaten track, engineering expertise and proactiveness are paramount. 

“It is difficult to find top-quality engineers; it is one of the most challenging positions in yachting,” Hsieh said. “I have a great engineer on the new 175, and I am very grateful for his talents and focus.”

Future Plans

Documenting their adventures across social media allows Hsieh to involve others in his lifelong passion after feeling like an “outsider” in his youth. “I want others to get a little piece of what we are seeing,” he said, excitedly adding, “Every spot we go to has been our favorite. It is an overload of human senses; I’m living out my childhood dream.” Over the next three years, the fleet will continue roaming the world and experiencing diverse cultures, from the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa to Australia and the South Pacific. 

 

However, the Tour won’t last forever. “It isn’t sustainable to maintain this level of intensity; we will probably pick one or two hemispheres so we can fish year-round, place assets there, reduce the size of our fleet, and take our trips down to five a year,” Hsieh said.  

When contemplating the future, Hsieh has been weighing up whether to add another personality to the team to document the adventures for a book. 

“Some of the things we are doing on social media are great, but nothing replaces words.” Perhaps this will be the fleet’s final chapter after the adventures have soaked in. 

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