Fifty years of competition. Four hundred boats in 2023. A record purse of $10.5 million, with $6.2 million for the winning team. Those are just a few of the statistical highlights of this year’s White Marlin Open, held in August each year in Ocean City, Maryland.
Of the 605 billfish caught in this year’s event, 602 were released. For the first four fishing days, tuna ruled the scales and the prize money. That changed on the final day when Ocean City’s Floor Reel made the 6 p.m. bridge and headed for the scales with a fish they knew would qualify, the third billfish brought to the scales Friday. The first was from Skirt Chaser out of Manteo, North Carolina, a 67.5-pound white marlin that made the 70-inch minimum but just missed the 70-pound minimum qualifying weight. No Limit brought in a blue marlin that missed the 114-inch minimum length by 2 inches, so it was not weighed.
However, the blue marlin from Floor Reel left no doubt when it was measured at 118 inches and electrified the crowd while tipping the scales at 640.5 pounds. Landed by angler and owner John Ols, it proved to be the only qualifying billfish and won most of the money reserved for both white and blue marlin—the team’s $6.2 million payout set a new world record.
Since no qualifying white marlin were weighed, the field was wide open for some additional seven-figure payouts. As the only qualifying fish in the event’s 50th-anniversary winner-take-all jackpot, Ro Sham Bo’s 215-pound bigeye tuna was worth $1.7 million. The heaviest tuna was a 265-pound bigeye caught by the team on Reel Tight from Ocean City, winning just over $1 million.
In the release division, Brian Demile from Trash Man was the top angler with 770 points, followed by High Yield’s Bernard Linney with 700 points. The top female was Sweet Spot’s Holly McAlhany with 560 points.