OCEAN CITY — The 40th Annual White Marlin Open last week lived up to the hype as usual with a flurry of big whites caught midweek, including the eventual winner, an 83-pounder caught by angler Tom Jones of the “Kingfisher” oddly on the “Odinspear”, and a massive big-eye tuna weighed late on the tournament’s last day on Friday.
The tournament got off to a rather slow start with no qualifying white marlin weighed on the first day. On Tuesday, however, the crew on the “Billfisher” broke the ice with a 77-pounder that temporarily took the top spot on the white marlin leaderboard. On Wednesday, a stir was created when two 77-pounders were weighed within a short period of time to create an unprecedented three-way tie in the signature white marlin division.
Before the big crowd that had gathered at host Harbour Island could wrap their heads around the possibility of a three-way tie for the first time ever in tournament history, the crew from the “Kingfisher,” who were fishing on the “Odinspear” after their own vessel experienced problems, rolled into the scale with another big white marlin to weigh.
When the “Kingfisher” crew’s white marlin was raised at the scale, it registered 83 pounds, knocking the three competitors tied at 77 pounds down the leaderboard. Angler Tom Jones and the “Kingfisher” then had to sweat out the remaining two days of the tournament to see if their 83-pounder would stand up and claim the WMO’s top prize.
On Thursday, 191 of the tournament’s 262 participating boats were out in the canyons in search of a white marlin to unseat Jones and the “Kingfisher,” but only one real challenger was brought to the scale, remarkably another 77-pounder caught by angler Richard Kornahrens on the “Lights Out.” With just 39 boats fishing on Friday, the WMO’s last day, no real threat challenged the “Kingfisher,” which held on to claim the tournament’s top prize.
When all was said and done, Jones and the “Kingfisher” crew took first in the white marlin division and earned over $1.2 million in prize money. Because no qualifying blue marlin were weighed, that division’s prize money rolled into the white marlin pot and escalated the earnings for the top finishers.
While the “Kingfisher” crew, fishing aboard the “Odinspear,” took the top prize with an 83-pounder, three boats tied for second in the white marlin division with 77-pounders. Angler Debbie McCann on the “Sea Mistress,” along with angler Larry McKinley on the “Sea Toy” and Kornahrens on the “Lights Out” each earned $102,498 in prize money for their matching 77-pounders.
In the tuna division, a run of huge big-eyes set the stage for what was arguably the most dramatic division in the tournament. Going into the last day, angler Mark Donohue on the “Miss Annie” was sitting atop the leaderboard with a 261.5-pound big-eye caught on Thursday, while Michael Ajamian on the “Goin In Deep” was close behind with a 255.5-pounder weighed on the same day. However, the leaderboard was erased and rewritten with a late entry on the last day.
On Friday night, angler James Czaban and the crew on the “Sushi” backed up the scale with a huge big-eye that would top out at 276 pounds and shake up the leaderboard. In the end, it was Czaban and the “Sushi” crew claiming the top prize in the tuna division and a check for $573,850, while Donohue and the “Miss Annie” took second and earned $65,120. The “Goin In Deep” crew took third and earned $27,108, while angler John Coleman and the crew on the “Ocean Dan-Sar” took fourth with a 148.5-pounder and earned $46,060 because of the small boat Calcutta.
In the dolphin division, it was angler Jeff Collins on the “Why Not” taking first with a 34-pounder worth $14,726. Bill Gerlach on the “Billfisher” was second with a 33-pounder worth $3,433, Glenn Orr on the “G Force” was third with a 30.5-pounder worth $12,726, Greg Fellers on the “Incorrigible” was fourth with a 29.5-pounder worth $10,293, and the crews on the “Krazy Salts” and the “G Force” shared fifth with a pair of 25-pounders each worth $10,293.
In the wahoo division, angler John Simmonds on the “Streaker” took first with a 70-pounder worth $21,588. Deacon Burke on the “Kingfisher/Odinspear” was second with a 66-pounder worth $20,588, Brian Schlosser on the “Aquadance” was third with a 57.5-pounder worth $2,433, and James Shenk on the “Heavy Metal” was fourth with a 41-pounder worth $17,155.
In the shark division, angler Mike Peet on the “No Quarter” was first with a 133.5-pounder worth $4,933, while angler Joe West on the “Cotton Picker” was second with a 313-pounder worth $3,933. All in all, about $2.47 million in prize money was doled out to the winners in several categories.