The 39th annual White Marlin Open came to a close Friday night, with William Woody, of Pasadena, MD, and the crew of the Blew Bayou atop the leaderboard in the lucrative white marlin division. The 72.0-lb. white marlin earned them a check for $1.429 million.
The payout is the 3rd highest in tournament history. In 2005 Ken Coffer of Carolina Beach, NC, set the tournament record of $1.65 million fishing aboard the Desperado. 2006 saw Jack Hotz of Lewes, DE, earn $1.55 million for his winning white marlin.
Ironically, Mr. Woody’s 72.0-lb. white marlin, while earning one of the largest paydays, is one of the smallest winning white marlin in tournament history, and was the only white marlin weighed that eclipsed the 70.0-lb. tournament minimum. No blue marlin brought to the scales met the tournament minimum of 500.0-lbs. These two factors contributed to the near record payout. Tournament rules stipulate that if no qualifying fish are weighed in their respective divisions, prize money is to be distributed among all category winners. The other species include blue marlin, tuna, dolphin (mahi-mahi), wahoo, and shark.
Norman Pulliam of Yorktown, VA won $324,516 for his 238.0-lb. bigeye tuna, caught while fishing aboard the Right Hook. Arthur Kontos of Monmouth Beach, NJ won $20,648 for his 33.0-lb. dolphin, fishing on Let It Ride. Jamie Greer of Dayton, OH won $28,756 for his 70.5-lb. wahoo, fishing aboard the Canyon Runner, and Scott Cusick of Jackson, NJ won $5,150 for his 266-lb. hammerhead shark fishing aboard the Milling Around.
The Trophy Hunter took home top honors as the winning boat with 1855 total billfish points. They released 24 white marlin and 1 blue marlin over their 3 days of fishing. Kenneth Brown was named Captain of the Year and Stephen Belto and Isael Medina were Mates of the Year.
Boats are allowed to fish 3 of the 5 tournament days, and the majority of the action took place on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the tournament. Weather and sea conditions prevented many boats from fishing Monday and Friday. The winning white marlin was caught on Wednesday, August 8th, and held on to the lead for the remainder of the week. The White Marlin Open is famous for its last minute heroics, but it was not to be this year.
The tournament promotes the catch and release of billfish caught through high minimum weight requirements, and the mandatory use of circle hooks with all natural bait, and natural bait/lure combinations. It has been shown that the use of circle hooks greatly reduces fish mortality after release. Of the 960 billfish caught during this year’s tournament, 952 were released, for a 99% release rate.
This year’s tournament had 253 boats participate, seeking a total of $2.3 million in prize money.
–– Source: White Marlin Open