OCEAN CITY- Once again, the Ocean City-based boats dominated the leaderboard and brought home hundreds of thousands of dollars at the close of the 20th Annual Mid-Atlantic $500,000, which ended last Friday.
The Mid-Atlantic $500,000 continues to be one of the top sportfishing events in the region with over $2 million in prize money doled out to the winners in several categories. Tournament headquarters has always been the Canyon Club in Cape May, N.J. and that hasn’t changed, but the increased number of boats fishing out of the resort area has given the event a decidedly Ocean City flair in recent years.
Eight years ago, MA500 organizers opened up Ocean City as a second port from which to fish and the change was met with great enthusiasm. For the first two years, however, any Ocean City boat that caught a qualifying fish had to transport it to the official scaled in Cape May. Six years ago, however, Sunset Marina in West Ocean City was added as an official sister port for the event and the local anglers participating in the MA500 began to weigh potentially winning fish at their home port.
For the last three years, a boat fishing out of Ocean City has swooped in on the last day to take the tournament’s top prize and steal the thunder from their New Jersey brethren. The trend continued this year with the Ocean City-based “Reelentless” taking the top prize in the prestigious white marlin division, but the dominance by the local boats was even more pronounced than ever this year.
Angler Robert Warder fishing aboard the Ocean City-based “Reelentless” weighed a 79-pound white last Tuesday on day two of the tournament and the big white held on all week to claim the top spot on the leaderboard. Warder and the “Reelentless” crew earned the top prize of $667,359. Another boat with local ties, the “Sea Slammer,” weighed a 78-pound white last Thursday to take second in the division and earned $115,793. Third-place honors in the white marlin division went to angler Tom Perry and the crew on the “Game Over” out of the Ocean City Fishing Center and were awarded $46,556 in prize money.
In the blue marlin division, only one qualifier was weighed during the MA500 last week and again it was an Ocean City boat. Captain Wade Lober and the crew on the “Why Not” weighed a 416-pound blue marlin and were awarded $309,503 in prize money. Because the blue marlin was the only qualifier, the “Why Not” crew was awarded all of the prize money in the division.
The tuna division produced much of the drama during the MA500 last week as the big-eyes so prevalent in mid-summer returned to the canyons off the coast during the tournament. Again, the tuna division’s top prize was earned by the local boat “Reel Chaos” with angler Antony Matarese with a 233-pounder worth $178,553. The second-place tuna was a 224-pound big-eye caught by angler Barry Weshnak on the “Miss Annie” worth $115,413. Angler Tom Ely on the “Irish Twin” took third in the division with a 217-pound big-eye worth $67,021.
The heaviest dolphin was a 43-pounder caught by angler Don Pyle on the “Moore Bills” out of the Ocean City Fishing Center worth $9,440. Another Ocean City boat, the “Krazy Salts” and angler Dave Anderson took first place in the wahoo division with a 42-pounder worth $9,440.
A total of 444 white marlin were released during the tournament with just 16 boated. Similarly, 37 blue marlin were released and just three were boated and weighed. The forty blue marlin caught during the tournament with just three boated was the highest number ever recorded in the 20-year history of the event. The 504 total billfish caught by the 118 boats in the tournament represented a remarkable average of 1.4 per boat, which is also a record for the event. In all, tournament participants boasted a 96-percent release rate.