The 400 registered boats for the 50th White Marlin Open were probably the most conservation-minded group that has ever fished the Open – or any other billfish tournament held in recent memory. Of the 605 billfish caught during the five-day event, 602 were released. With over $7 million of the total $10.5 million purse reserved for billfish, it was remarkable that not one boat brought a non-contender to the scale before the closing day on Friday.
For the first four fishing days, tuna ruled the scales and the prize money. That changed on the final day when the Floor Real out of Ocean City, MD made the 6 o'clock bridge and headed for the Harbour Island scales with a fish they knew would qualify. It was the third billfish brought to the scales Friday. The first was the Skirt Chaser out of Manteo, NC with a 67.5-pound white marlin that made the 70” minimum needed to weigh, but just missed the 70-pound minimum to qualify. The No Limit out of Indian River, DE brought in a blue marlin that possibly lost a bit of length in the hours after being boated and missed our 114” minimum length by two inches, so it was not weighed.
The blue marlin from the Floor Real left no doubt when it was measured at 118” in the boat before electrifying the crowd while tipping the scales at 640.5 pounds. Caught by John Ols from Laytonsville, MD, it proved to be the only qualifying billfish and won most of the money reserved for both white and blue marlin. The $6.2 million awarded sets a new world record for the catch of a fish.
As Hayes Gardner reported in the Baltimore Sun, the Open “has a 12-page single-spaced rule book.” Buried in the rules are the contingencies for awarding prize money if a category is not won. Little known to the public was the fact that before the blue marlin qualified on Friday, a 215-pound tuna caught off the Ro Sham Bo out of Ocean City, MD by Rusty Shriver of Leonardtown, MD, was winning over $7.1 million dollars. (If no marlin are caught, that prize money goes to the heaviest tuna in that division.) With the only qualifying fish in the special 50th-anniversary winner-take-all level, the Ro Sham Bo did win the $1.7 million dollars it held.
The heaviest tuna was a 265-pound bigeye caught off the Reel Tight out of Ocean City, MD by Brian Stewart from Shady Side, MD, who won $1,019,441. The 247.5-pound bigeye caught by Chris Mentlik from Street, MD off the Fishlik out of Chincoteague, VA took second place and $366,662. The Game Over out of Ocean City, MD took third and earned John Zimmerman from Boynton Beach, FL $169,929.
All spots in the wahoo division were covered with Shooting Star out of Indian River, DE taking first place and $4,700 with a 57-pounder caught by John Harris from Boyertown, PA. Captain Deadly out of OC MD took second and $31,065 for angler Chad Jackson from Ft. Myers, FL. The third-place wahoo was caught by Matthew Gessler from Chads Ford, PA of the Boy’s Toy out of Indian River DE. His 46-pounder took $29,065. It should be noted that the Gessler family has been fishing the Open for decades. The father, sons, and daughters have all won money in the Open. In the 1993 Open, then-15-year-old Tommy Gessler Jr won the top marlin and the Rolex watch that came as a special prize that year.
The dolphin division was won by the Roncito out of Ocean City, MD. The 32-pounder won $32,065 for angler Andrew Spangenberger from New Freedom, PA. The Aquila from Beach Haven, NJ weighed a 31-pound dolphin caught by Timothy Goodman from Palm Beach, FL taking second place and $82,520.00. (The Aquila also won money from other categories) In third with a 31-pound dolphin was OC’s Maverick winning $30,065 for Will McAteer from Kent Island MD.
The most prestigious categories are for billfish releases. The top Anglers were Brian Demile off the Trash Man with 770 points followed by, Bernard Linney off the High Yield with 700 points. Dave McKendrick fishing on the Taylor Jean took third with 665 points. Top female angler was Holly McAlhany on Sweet Spot with 560 points, second place female angler was Kelly Weber on Max Bet with 420 points and third place femalw angler was Jaclyn Tenuto on Sequel with 350 points.
For a complete list of points for all boats and anglers click here.
To see the other categories of winners, including small boats click here. Daily winners click here. Payday winners can be found here.
Next year’s White Marlin Open will be held from Aug 5th through Aug 9th with millions on the line again. We hope to see you at the scales as a participant or spectator.
A list of all money winners is listed below by boat.
Floor Reel $6,235,436.00
Reel Tight $1,019,440.75
Game Over $169,928.50
Ro Sham Bo $1,782,403.00
Reel OPPOR-TUNA-TY $88,406.67
Taylor Jean $28,925.00
Fin Planner $58,740.00
Max Bet $60,965.00
Trash Man $44,945.00
Shooting Star $4,700.00
Capt Deadly $31,065.00
Boy's Toy $29,065.00
Bow Down $47,704.00
Skid Row $47,704.00
Full Service $35,778.00
No Limit $69,153.00
Hey Buddy $25,365.00
Sea Fix $25,365.00
Prime Hook $32,336.67
Covered Up $8,306.67