Last-day heroics lead to a huge victory for a hometown favorite
The White Marlin Open, a giant among tournaments, attracted 353 teams and offered a total cash prize purse of $4.97 million in this year’s 44th annual event, held August 7-11, 2017, in Ocean City, Maryland. A forecast for rough seas the first two days meant that most of the fleet took their mandatory lay days early in the week, yielding some late heroics for several participants.
Mike Donahue’s 86-pound white marlin on Griffin held the lead for several days, which had the team eyeing a possible $2-million-plus windfall. However, when
Wire Nut pulled into the Harbor Island weigh station in the tournament’s closing hours, they put an end to those dreams.
Wire Nut’s Glen Frost weighed an impressive 95.5-pound white marlin, which led to a throaty roar of approval from the hundreds of spectators. Frost, an attorney from Stevensville, Maryland, says: “We thought it was a blue marlin at first, and it was absolutely unbelievable when we got [the fish] into the boat. We had a feeling that it might be the first-place white. The length wasn’t that good, but the girth was just out of this world.” The marlin was the third-largest in the tournament’s 44-year history and earned the Wire Nut team an incredible payout of $1,654,800 in cash.
Donahue’s white marlin held on for second place, and thanks to the team’s participation in the optional jackpots, they walked away with a check for $1,525,960. Joe Andrews on M.R. Ducks had the third place white marlin at 79.5 pounds, winning $164,673.
In the tournament’s release division, Rob Gothier Jr.’s BAR South team finished in first place with 735 points from their eight white marlin and one blue marlin releases. Fender Bender was second with 700 points and 10 white marlin releases, while Weldor’s Ark was third with 665 points from seven whites and a blue marlin, all released. There were no qualifying blue marlin landed during this year’s tournament.
The game-fish standings were also impressive. The event’s top tuna
went to Joe Sadler on Intents with his 68.5-pound yellowfin. Thanks to their jackpot participation, the team earned a tournament-record $866,553 for their efforts. Capt. Rhett Bailey said it was their first bite of the tournament and that they nearly didn’t weigh the fish because they were focused on the billfish division. James Boynton on Blue Runner was second with a 67-pound tuna, worth $90,380.
In the dolphin division, which remained open until the final day of fishing, Andrew Cohen from Silly Money made a splash with his 23-pounder, worth $74,841, another tournament-record payout for the category. Gary Capuano’s Day One-leading wahoo on Hog Wild led throughout the tournament to win $27,841.
BILL-LESS BLUE TOPS IN BILOXI Fierce competition also yields a new state-record swordfish
Thanks in part to a beautiful weather forecast, the 2017 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic hosted a record fleet of 120 teams, fishing out of Biloxi, Mississippi, for a tournament record of more than $2 million in total prize money. A bonus for the team breaking the current Mississippi state record by landing the event’s largest swordfish also helped boost participation.
Despite the fish losing its bill in the battle, Capt. Russell Craft and the team on Aries, a 76-foot Viking, landed a blue marlin large enough to win this year’s tournament; their 668.7-pounder was worth $397,925 in prize money. The team fishing aboard the 68-foot G&S Mollie cashed an even larger check, winning second place as well as top release team. Mollie’s 654.5-pound blue tallied just over $403,000 in winnings.
Born2Run, a 72-foot Viking, was third with a 563.92-pound blue marlin, good for $242,940. Competition in the swordfish division was especially fierce thanks to a bonus of $325,000 and a new Nissan Titan truck for the largest fish breaking the current Mississippi state record. In the end, that prize went to Pay Dirt, with a 242.5-pound swordfish.
White Marlin Open tournament director Jim Motsko (left) presents the Wire Nut team with a seven-figure check during the awards ceremony.