The 46th White Marlin Open can be considered the most successful tournament yet for a number of reasons: 404 boats fishing for a World Record $6,186,870 in prize money is a good start. The red hot billfishing set a tournament record for the number of billfish caught and released. The prize money paid included two anglers that each won over $1,500,000, a blue marlin won $962,165, a tuna that took $935,915, a dolphin that won $74,900, and a shark that won $231,300.
As impressive as the payouts were, equally remarkable was the huge number of marlin caught & released. By definition nobody saw them at the scales, but the release flags flew all week. The tournament record was 1,358 whites caught in 2016 but the anglers toped that by over 100 fish. The final count was 1,459 whites caught with 1,429 released with the top release boat, “Big Deal” out of Brielle, NJ breaking a 39-year-old record for most billfish releases by boat. The previous record was 26 white taken by the “Escapade” in 1980. In addition to the white marlin, the boats took 47 blue marlin with 46 released, and 13 sailfish were released as were the 2 spearfish caught. The total number of all billfish caught in the 46th Open was a staggering 1,521.
In the money divisions, basically, the big fish in most categories on Thursday held their spots after the last day of fishing. Ocean City, Maryland native Tommy Hinkle weighed a 79.5-pound white marlin on Thursday while fishing aboard the “Fish Whistle out of Indian River DE. The fish took 1st place and netted Tommy $1,504,720. Hinkle had also won the top white marlin in 2008 making Tommy the first angler in tournament history to win the top white marlin twice! The “Backlash” out of VA Beach, VA kept their $1,502,450 for the 73.5-pound white caught on Monday by angler Michael Wagner from La Plata, MD. “Chasing Tails” with angler Nate Walker, both from VA Beach, VA caught their 74-pound white on Monday and earned $135,000 (they were entered in fewer added entry levels than Backlash).
The 465.5-pound blue marlin caught on Tuesday by Craig Dickerson from Pasadena, MD aboard the “Haulin N Ballin” out of Ocean City, MD was the only qualifier in that division and Dickerson won $962,165 for his blue.
The “Crisdel” out of Ocean City, MD weighed in a 201-pound bigeye caught by Russell Garufi from Bishopville, MD on Monday and stayed in first the whole week to kept $935,915. The “Seakeeper” from Wilmington, DE weighed a 150.5-pound Allison tuna on Friday. The angler was Andrew Semprevivo from Mystic Island, NJ who took 2nd place and won $135,432 for his efforts. Ocean City native Ronnie Fields weighed a 145.5-pound tuna off the “Mjolnir” out of Bay Point, FL on Tuesday and held on to win $128,675.
The 277.5-pound mako shark caught Monday by Greg Robinson aboard the “Polarizer” out of OC, MD was the only shark weighed and held onto $231,300 won from the “Big Fish” pool.
The “Give It Away” out of Jupiter FL took over 1st place in the wahoo division with a monster 91-pound fish caught by Anne Aramandia from New Braufels, TX who won $24,475. Other winners in the wahoo division were the “The Natural,” who won $23,475, “Keepin It Reel” who won $20,475 and the “Nighthawk” out of Brielle, NJ with angler Jay Monteverdi, also from Brielle who won $20,475.
The big winner in the dolphin division was the "Miss-Tress" out of Brielle, NJ with Randy Drozd also from Brielle. The “Miss-Tress” was in the small boat dolphin division and the 38-pound dolphin weighed on Friday won $74,900. The 1st place 41-pounder taken off the “Playmate” out of OC, MD won $20,380 while the 2nd place dolphin was caught off the Stewart, FL boat “Irene”. Angler Frank Sinito form Jupiter, FL won just $3,000 as the boat was not entered in extra added skill levels.
In the Small Boat Division, it was Tommy Hinkle with the top white which helped his winnings grow to $1,504,720. The heavy fish was taken by the “Reeldiculous” angler Graham Ward who caught a 121-pound yellowfin good for $108,000.
Top Release Anglers
White Marlin Open Grand Champion Ed Russo from Carlstadt, NJ Fishing on “Big Deal” out of Brielle, NJ 1,190 points, 17 white marlin released
2nd Place Angler Robert Wedeking from Princeton, NJ Fishing on “Override” out of Brielle, NJ 910 points, 13 white marlin released
3rd Place Angler Victor Roof, Jr. Fishing on “Game On” out of Charleston, SC 875 points, 10 white marlin and 1 blue marlin released
4th Place Angler Nicholas Rodriguez from Dover, DE Fishing on “Par Five” out of Dover, DE 735 points, 8 white marlin and 1 blue marlin released
5th Place Angler Dante Rodriguez from Egg Harbor, NJ Fishing on “MJs” out of Cape May, NJ 735 points, 8 white marlin and 1 blue marlin released
Top Release Boats
1st Place Boat “Big Deal” out of Brielle, NJ 1,960 points, 28 white marlin released* $84,150
2nd Place Boat “Uno Mas” out of Ocean City, MD 1,785 points, 23 white marlin and 1 blue marlin released $31,860
3rd Place Boat “Tar Heel” out of Wanchese, NC 1,750 points, 25 white marlin released $28,800
* Broke a 39-year-old Tournament Record for most release points by a boat. The previous record was 1,949 billfish pts. by the “Escapade “ in 1980 which consisted of 24 white marlin released and 2 boated. The “Big Deal” out of Brielle, NJ caught and released 27 white marlin to earn the WMO top release boat ever.