The 2017 White Marlin Open awarded $4.9 million dollars in prize money including two individual awards over $1.5 million. Where does the money come from and how are the winnings determined? Added Entry Levels (AELs) are not well understood outside tournament fishing circles, but they have been vital to the popularity and growth of the White Marlin Open and are the foundation of the lottery-sized winnings. Using a few examples from the 2017 WMO should provide a better understanding of the AELs and how the winnings are calculated and distributed.

Tournament Registration Fee: The fee to register a boat to fish the White Marlin Open is $1,000. The registration fee allows the boat, and all anglers on the boat, to fish in the tournament. That’s not a bad deal; for a thousand bucks, you and 5 or 10 of your best friends (no limit on number of anglers per boat), can try their luck at netting some of the guaranteed $50K in prize money up for grabs for catching Atlantic gamefish. While some boats fish the Open at this basic entry level, most enter one or more Added Entry Levels that can greatly increase potential winnings.

Added Entry Levels: After a boat is registered in the tournament, the anglers have the option to customize their tournament experience by entering their boat into a variety of additional competitions called Added Entry Levels (AELs). The fees to enter AELs range from $300 to $10,000. To enter the boat in all AELs costs $31,000. AEL fees cover the boat and all anglers fishing on the boat. Many AELs are for billfish, but there are also Added Entry Levels for catches of tuna, wahoo, dolphin and even billfish releases. The angler’s ability to choose from a variety of Added Entry Levels enables them to fish the Open based on their resources, skill levels, boat size or the species they intend to pursue. The freedom to choose the level of participation has played a significant role in the tournament’s growth.

The tables are samples of Added Entry Levels in the 2018 tournament. Using these figures, we will give a few examples of how the prize money is calculated.

Billfish:

Level

Fee

 

Payout Pool

White & Blue Marlin Equal Split

 

A

$300

 

$80,730

Each level is separate and the prize money in each level is disbursed using the following formula:

 

30% to top white marlin - 30% to top blue marlin

12% to 2nd white marlin - 12% to 2nd blue marlin

8% to 3rd white marlin - 8% to 3rd blue marlin

95.5, 86.0, 79.5

B

$700

 

$183,960

95.5, 86.0, 79.5

C

$1,000

 

$261,000

95.5, 86.0, 79.5

D

$2,000

 

$484,200

95.5, 86.0, 79.5

 

 

 

$1,009,890

95.5 = $606K 86.0 = $242K 79.5 = $162K

 

Level

Fee

 

Payout

Winner Take All

 

E

$5,000

 

$999,000

All to Top White Marlin

95.5 White

WM

$10,000

 

$1,278,000

All to Top White Marlin

86.0 White

F

$2,000

 

$392,400

All to Top Blue Marlin

To Top Tuna

The 86-pound white marlin caught off The Griffin on Day 3 of the 2017 WMO was winning a lot of money. After 3 days of fishing, the 86-pounder was the only qualifying billfish and technically, was winning $3,286,890. How? A perfect storm of being in all the Added Entry Levels and no other qualifying fish to share prize money with. The Griffin was in all the Added Entry Levels above. There was a combined $1,009,980 in the ABCD with ½ ($504,595) reserved for blue marlin. The rules for A B C D says that if no blue marlin qualifies, that prize money will go to white marlin. So, the 86-pound white was winning all the ABCD money which was $1,009,890. It was also winning the $999,000 in Level E and $1,278,000 from Level WM. At the end of Day 3, The Griffin was winning $3,286,890. At the end of Day 4, The Griffin was still winning $3,286,890 as no other billfish qualified.

On Day 5 the Wire Nut weighed in a 95.5-pound white marlin and M.R. Ducks weighed 79.5-pound white. There was no qualifying blue marlin weighed. M.R. Ducks was also in all the AELs and the Wire Nut was in all except the Level WM. The tournament ends. Who gets paid what?

  1. In Levels ABCD, because there was no qualifying blue marlin, that prize money of $504,595 shifts to the white marlin winners and the $1,009,890 total is awarded along the ABCD payout guidelines of 60%,24%, 16%. All three boats were entered in Levels ABCD so the prize money was distributed by weight which resulted as follows:

    1. 95.5 = $606K

    2. 86.0 = $242K

    3. 79.5 = $162K

  2. Level E: Heaviest white marlin, winner-take-all level. Since all 3 fish were entered in Level E, the 95.5-pound white marlin is heaviest and wins all $999,000

  3. Level WM: Heaviest white marlin, winner-take-all level. Since the 86 and 79.5-pound whites were entered but the 95.5 pounder wasn’t, the $1,278,000 is awarded to the heaviest qualifier, the 86-pound white off The Griffin.

Final White Marlin Awards*: Wire Nut $1,654,800.00 - The Griffin $1,525,960.00 - M.R. Ducks $164,673

*Include all tournament winnings

TUNA: there are 5 tuna Added Entry Levels that all boats can enter, and one AEL reserved for boats under 40 feet.

Level

Fee

 

Payout Pool

Disbursement Formula

 

T1

$500

 

$107,550

1st 65% - 2nd 25% - 3rd 10%

 

T2

$1,000

 

$184,500

1st 65% - 2nd 25% - 3rd 10%

 

T3

$1,500

 

$233,550

Winner-Take-All

 

DT

$1,000

 

$180,900

1/5 pool per day = $36,180 per day

 

TB

$100

 

$10,000

$10,000 Bonus to Top Tuna in TB

 

 

 

 

$716,500

 

 

On Day 2, Blue Runner (entered in all above AELs), weighed a 67-pound yellowfin tuna that, at the time, was worth $471K. The breakdown: 65% of the T1 and T2 worth $190K, $223.5K from T3, $36K from DT and $10K from the TB. On Day 3 the Intents (entered in all tournament AELs including Level F) weighed a 68.5 tuna. The fish took over the top tuna spot and took over $423K of Blue Runner winnings with it. Lucky boat, right? The Level F held almost $400K for the heaviest blue marlin, but no qualifying blue was weighed. Level F rules say if no blue marlin qualify, that prize money goes to the boat entered in Level F with the heaviest tuna. Yep, that boat happened to be Intents and added another $392,000 to their winnings which totaled $866,553.

Small Boats: There are also Added Entry Levels just for smaller boats (under 40 feet), and 69 boats competed for the $163K in prize money for: Small Boat White (SBW) Small Boat Tuna (SBT) and Small Boat Big Fish (SBBF).

Level

Fee

 

Payout Pool

Winner

Tuna AELs Entered

SBW

$1,000

 

$51,300

Dawg Haus

SBW

SBT

$1,000

 

$40,500

Lisa

SBT BBBF

SBBF

$1,500

 

$71,550

Lisa

SBT SBBF

 

 

 

$163,350

 

 

The two big winners in the small boat AELs were the Lisa and the Dawg Haus. Lisa was entered in the SBT and SBBF but not the SBW. The was fine with the Dawg Haus because they were entered in the SBW, but not the SBT or SBBF. On Day 5 the Lisa weighed a 59-pound tuna and the Dawg Haus weighed a yellowfin of 58-pounds. The tuna were the two heaviest tuna caught by small boat entrants. No small boat weighed a qualifying white marlin. Who gets what?

The Lisa took the money from both AELs entered: the SBT paid $40,500 and SBBF paid $71,550 for total winnings of $112,050. Although no white marlin qualified in the SBW Level, the rules say if no white marlin are caught, the money goes to the boat entered in the SBW with the heaviest tuna. Lisa wasn’t entered in the SBW, but Dawg Haus was, so they took the $51,300 white marlin category with their 58-pound tuna.

Hopefully, learning more about the tournament format will increase your enjoyment of the event. The 46th Annual White Marlin Open fishing dates are Aug 5-9, 2019. Whether as a spectator or an angler, we invite you to experience the excitement generated by big boats, big fish and the big awards that make “Tournament Week” in Ocean City, Maryland so special.

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