OCEAN CITY- The 34th Annual White Marlin Open fizzled to a quiet close last Friday after a remarkable Thursday that saw the leader board, and the fortunes of several anglers, change rapidly in a couple of dramatic hours.
This year, Thursday was the day that provided the most drama with the eventual winner, an 83-pound white marlin worth nearly $1.4 million caught by angler John Frankos on the “Rebel” out of Nags Head, N.C. highlighting a flurry of activity on Day Four. The 83-pound winner was brought to the scale at Harbour Island shortly after 4 p.m. last Thursday and took over the top spot in the tournament’s high-dollar glamour division.
A short time later on Thursday, angler Gregory Hoffa, fishing aboard the “Nasty Habit” out of Cape May, weighed a 76-pound white to cozy into second place and knock angler Craig Ziegler and the crew on the “Intrinsic” further down the leader board. The leader board changed again on Friday with the only significant fish weighed on the tournament’s last day- a 78-pound white marlin caught by angler Rhett Bailey aboard the “Viking 54, which moved into second place.
When the whirlwind 24-hour period was over, the “Rebel” had hung on for first place in the White Marlin division and a check for just under $1.4 million. Bailey and the crew on the “Viking 54” took second place in the division and a check worth $137,427, while Hoffa and the “Nasty Habit” crew took third and earned $90,784.
The Blue Marlin division created its own share of drama last week with a big change on the leader board on Thursday. Angler Bob Belansen fishing aboard the “Beast” set the tone early in the blue marlin division with a 567-pound blue caught on Monday, but Belansen’s stint atop the leader board was short-lived when local angler Bill Mathews of Berlin, fishing aboard the “Gale Force II,” weighed a 590-pound blue on Tuesday that took over the top spot.
The leader board in the Blue Marlin division stayed the same throughout the rest of the week until angler Carl Hurledaus, fishing aboard the “Wireless,” weighed a 632-plus pound blue marlin on Thursday. Hurledaus and the “Wireless” crew held on to first place in the division and earned $378,210. Mathews and the “Gale Force II” held on to second place in the division and collected $289,640, while Belansen and the “Beast” took third and earned $176,569.
The Tuna Division was interesting for different reasons with the top fish in the category taking home much less in prize money than the fourth- and fifth-place tuna because of added entry levels. For example, a whopping 259-pound tuna caught by angler Jonathan Stallings aboard the “Wet Floors” came in first place in terms of weight, but earned just $2,000 in prize money.
The second-place tuna in terms of weight was a 207-pounder caught by angler Greg Ryan aboard the “Trouble Maker” and was worth $3,000 in prize money. Because of added entry levels, the third-place tuna, a 191-pounder caught by angler Rob Grodzicki aboard the “Ursula Priscilla took the top monetary prize in the division with $251,818, while a 184-pounder caught by Steve Boyle on the “Miss Andrea” came in fourth and was worth $92,238. Angler James Rodgers on the “Hard Head” came in fifth in the division with a 176-pounder worth $36,895.
In the Dolphin Division, angler Eric Bjorkland, fishing aboard the “Smoker,” took first-place with a 32-pounder and earned $4,000. John Sullivan, fishing aboard the “No Worries,” took second in the division and earned $3,000, while Patrick Sciacca aboard the “Blinky III” came in third and earned $2,000.
Local angler Stephen Lewis, fishing aboard the “M.R. Ducks,” took first in the Wahoo Division with an 83-pounder worth $4,000. Stephen Schwing, fishing aboard the “Fish Whistle,” took second with a 78-pounder worth $3,000, while Paul Crampton aboard the “Marlin Magic” took third with a 74-pound wahoo worth $2,000.
In the Shark Division, angler Michael Brennan, fishing aboard the “Smoker,” weighed a 111-pound mako on Monday that held up all week and earned $4,500. The only other qualifier in the division, a 104-pound mako weighed by Joe Gunkel on the “Outlaw X,” took second and earned $3,500.