Of all the bluefin tuna fishermen in the world, Captain Bobby Earl of the Reel E’ Bugging probably has the most seemingly random background. He always had a passion for the ocean and fishing. But the Wicked Tuna star joined the Navy, led a financial career on Wall Street for 30 years, then jumped ship for the bed bug business before finally finding himself at sea full-time.
However, when he made the leap, Earl did so with a rundown 1972 boat falling apart at the seams. At least she floated.
The Wicked Tuna star talked about what motivated him to buy the boat in the first place during a July interview with The Flagship.
“About 2 years in, I realized that my 38-foot boat was not big enough, and we bought a 53-foot boat. It was a strange deal because I had no money. I googled Fishing Frenzy, and I found a 53 foot 1972 custom boat. It was falling apart, but it was all we could afford, and it was sea-worthy.”
It may not have been cutting edge, but the first Reel E’ Bugging immediately put Earl in contention with the other world-class tuna fishermen on Wicked Tuna. Little did Captain Bobby Earl know, his beloved boat had a date with destiny. In 2020, an explosion below deck called him to action. He ran down to find his friend Danny unconscious, grabbed him, called mayday, and the pair abandoned ship.
“I had sunk about $400,000 in the boat. But it was only insured for about $150,000 because it was over 50 years old, and you can only insure it for what they call ‘agreed-upon value.’ I had about $100,000 in fishing equipment, all my clothes, ID, credit cards gone. I was financially devastated and bankrupt,” Earl continued.
Watching His Boat Go Down in Flames Was Nearly the End for the ‘Wicked Tuna’ Star
So Captain Bobby Earl took a $300,000 loss on the first Reel E’ Bugging. To make matters worse, without a boat, he couldn’t even participate in Wicked Tuna. For that matter, the Discovery Channel hadn’t called to invite him back in the first place.
The show reportedly told Earl that he wasn’t the best fit for the North Carolina-based Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks as a New York native. The combination of financial trouble and the show’s lack of interest put Bobby Earl in a tough spot.
“It was a real struggle to find the will to do this again. And at one point, I was so emotionally beat up that I was not going to do it again,” Earl told The Flagship.
Fortunately, Discovery eventually changed its mind and invited Earl back to the show. With some help from his fishing colleagues and armed with a new boat, Captain Bobby Earl is back and better than ever.