OCEAN CITY- Through the first three days, the 39th Annual White Marlin Open this week, much of the talk surrounding the tournament has been more about what has not yet happened then what has happened thus far.
As of late Thursday afternoon, a single qualifying white marlin sat atop the leaderboard in the glamour division, a modest 72-pounder caught by local angler Bill Woody and the crew on the “Blew Bayou” on Wednesday. In the days leading up to the 2012 WMO, the white marlin bite off the coast of Ocean City was going off with many of the resort’s sportfishing boats returning to port with several of the familiar blue white marlin release flags dangling from their outriggers.
However, after three full days of fishing, only Woody’s 72-pound white, temporarily worth $900,000, is on the leaderboard. Throughout the first few days of the tournament, a handful of white marlin have been brought to the scale at host Harbour Island that have fallen just short of the requisite 70-pound minimum and the word around the marinas by mid-week was that there were plenty of white raised and released, but few that approached reaching the required minimum.
That was expected to change late yesterday, however, on what was the last real big day of fishing in the tournament. After just 10 of the registered 253 boats went out on Monday on Day One, 243 fished on Tuesday, another 238 went out on Wednesday and 244 were fishing yesterday. With 253 boats fishing three days in the tournament, the total number of boat days is 759. After 244 boats fished yesterday, the number of boat days used up was already at 735, leaving only 24 boats with a day left heading into Friday.
Around 6:25 p.m. on Wednesday, the “Blew Bayou” rolled up to the scale at Harbour Island and unloaded the long, but thin white marlin. The big crowd on hand waited in hushed silence as the white was raised on the scale and let out a huge cheer when it topped out at 72 pounds, becoming the first qualifier in the first 72 hours of the tournament.
Almost as conspicuous by its lack of activity as of late yesterday was the blue marlin division. Just before the scale closed for the night on Tuesday, the crew on the “Storm Trouble” reported they were heading in with blue marlin to weigh and arrived at Harbour Island around 9:35 p.m. When the big blue was unloaded and hauled up the scale, it topped out at 456.5 pounds, just shy of the 500-pound minimum for the species in the WMO.
There is a formula used at sea based on fork length and girth that allows anglers to determine a ballpark weight for the blue marlin and the “Storm Trouble” crew clearly thought they had a potential qualifier. However, the formula has a margin of error and the fish lose considerable weight as the boat heads to shore, so the big blue came up just short and the division remained wide open late yesterday with no qualifiers on the board.
Perhaps the most drama thus far has come out of the tuna division, where big eye after big eye has appeared at the docks at Harbour Island throughout Tuesday and Wednesday as the leaderboard was written, erased and written again. On Tuesday, angler Dave Dunton on the “Canyon Express” posted a 236-pound big eye to briefly take over the top spot on the leaderboard. Also weighed on Tuesday was a 202.5-pound big eye caught by angler Jay Yeager on the “A-Lure” that cozied into the second place spot on the leaderboard.
However, almost everything changed on Wednesday in the tuna division. Angler Norman Pulliam on the “Right Hook” weighed a 238-pound big eye on Wednesday to nudge past Dunton and the “Canyon Runner” for the top spot in the tuna division. In an illustration of how fortunes change quickly in the WMO, which is part of the allure of the tournament, the 236-pound big eye weighed by the “Canyon Runner” on Tuesday was temporarily worth $324,000, but when the “Right Hook” edged it out by two pounds on Wednesday, the value of the 236-pounder dropped to $58,000.
Also on Wednesday, angler Chris Manetta on the “Tra Sea Ann” weighed a 229-pound big eye to settle into third place on the leaderboard in the tuna division with three days to go. Going into yesterday, Pulliam and the “Right Hook” crew were in first in the tuna division with a 238-pounder worth $324,000. Dunton and the “Canyon Express” were in second with their 236-pound big eye worth $58,000, and Manetta and the crew on the “Tra Sea Ann” sat in third and were in line to win $24,000.
On Tuesday, angler Doug Ortlip and the crew on the “Got Game” weighed a 27.5-pound dolphin to take the top spot in that division. A short time later, Brian Gill on the “Krazy Salts” also weighed a 27.5-pound dolphin to tie the “Got Game” for first place. On Wednesday, however, angler Chad Baker on “The Natural” weighed a dolphin at 27 pounds even, which sat in second place in terms of weight behind the “Got Game” and the “Krazy Salts” by a mere half pound.
However, Baker’s 27-pounder was worth more in terms of prize money because of added entry levels. Going into Thursday, the 27-pounder from “The Natural” was worth $14,000, while the “Got Game” was in line to win $9,000 and the “Krazy Salts” stood to win $7,000.
While the “Canyon Runner” crew was nudged from the top spot of the tuna division on Wednesday, it held onto the top spot in the wahoo division going into Thursday’s action. Just prior to unloading its temporary first-place 236-pound big eye on Tuesday, the “Canyon Runner” crew weighed a 70.5-pound wahoo to take first place in that division with the first qualifier on the board. Angler Peter Katsarelis on the “Amarula Sun” weighed a 66.5-pound wahoo on Tuesday to settle into second place with a lot of fishing still to come. After three days, the “Canyon Runner” was in first with its 70.5-pound wahoo temporarily worth $16,000. The “Amarula Sun” was sitting in second with its 66.5-pounder worth $3,000 heading into Thursday.
The shark category got its first official entry on the leaderboard on Wednesday with a 126-pound mako caught by angler Craig Dengler on the “Longfin,” which was worth $4,000 heading into Thursday.