2008 White Marlin Open Wrap-Up

OCEAN CITY- The 2008 White Marlin Open, which concluded with a dramatic finish last Friday, will long be remembered around Ocean City for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the virtual dead heat in the tournament’s glamour division, which was ultimately decided by who got theirs first and who bucked up for all of the added entry levels.

Local angler Tommy Hinkle and the crew aboard the “Fish Whistle” out of Indian River weighed an 81-pound white marlin last Monday, the first day of the tournament, and held on to the top spot all week while watching several near misses raised at the scale. Monday was one of the busiest days ever at the official weigh station at the marina in Harbour Island, culminating with the big white caught by Hinkle, which set the bar early in the tournament.

The 81-pounder caught by Hinkle and the “Fish Whistle” crew held on to the top spot through mid-week with few challengers coming forward. Once the bar is set for white marlin, or any of the categories for that matter, anglers and captains know for the most part if a fish has a chance to crack to top three payout spots and the release rate increases.

However, the first real challenge came early on Thursday evening when the “Canyon Runner” out of Point Pleasant, N.J. pulled into the marina at Harbour Island with a white marlin catch flag flying. The big crowd at the marina watched in stunned silence as the crew aboard the “Canyon Runner” unloaded its long, fat white marlin. When it was hoisted on the scale, the red numbers flashed up and down, reaching 81.5 pounds, then 81, and finally 80.5 pounds.

Hinkle and the “Fish Whistle” crew had survived their first major scare since Monday and the nice white marlin caught by angler Brad Burgess of Baltimore cozied into the second spot on the white marlin leader board, but the drama was far from over with another full day to go and the majority of the boats with a fishing day left.

When the scales opened for business on Friday, angler Rodger Mooney and the crew aboard the “Hatterascal” out of New Bern, N.C. were waiting in the marina with a white marlin catch flag flying high. Again, the big crowd of spectators gasped as they caught their first look at the new challenger, and when the fish was raised on the scale, it settled in at 81 pounds even, creating a virtual tie in the highest profile division of the world’s largest billfish tournament on the event’s last day.

Murmurs went through the crowd uncertain of just what the tie meant in terms of declaring a winner and dividing the prize money, but when the dust settled, Hinkle and the “Fish Whistle” crew were declared the winners by virtue of the second tie breaker, which is the time the fish was caught. Hinkle caught his 81-pounder on Monday and Mooney didn’t raise his tying fish until Friday.

The first tie-breaker is whether or not either of the fish were gaffed in order to get them on the boat, and in this case, both of the 81-pound winning white marlins had been gaffed. In terms of the doling out the prize money, Hinkle and the “Fish Whistle” crew were in all of the added entry levels across the board, while Mooney and the “Hatterascal” crew were in entry levels A through D.

As a result, Hinkle and the “Fish Whistle” crew were awarded just over $956,000 in prize money, while Mooney and the “Hatterascal” crew were awarded just over $199,000. Burgess and the crew aboard the “Canyon Runner” came in third, just a half a pound behind the front runners and received just shy of $69,500.

Hinkle said this week winning the tournament’s top monetary prize was important, but he emphasized how special it was to join the fairly exclusive club of former winners.

“It’s every fisherman’s dream to be standing there on top at the end of the White Marlin Open,” he said. “This tournament attracts some of the best fishermen, best captains and best boats in the world, so catching the biggest white marlin and watching it hang on to the top spot all week was pretty special. I was just lucky enough to reel it in when the rod was handed to me because you never know what might be at the other end of the line when it’s your turn.”

As far as the money goes, Hinkle said many people not familiar with how the breakdown works assumed he was a near-millionaire, but the pie is sliced in several pieces with the boat’s expenses and shares for the captain and crew.

“It’s a nice chunk of change but it isn’t life-changing money,” he said when reached at work on Tuesday. “As you can see, the party’s over and I’m back to work as usual. We’ll be able to put some aside for out daughters’ educations, make some improvements around the house and have some left over to enjoy for ourselves.”

While the white marlin division created the most tension in the tournament, particularly during the tenuous last 48 hours, the blue marlin division created drama of a different sort during the 2008 event, and it had nothing to do with ties, close seconds or even real challengers. Angler Robert Lockwood and the crew aboard the “Last Run” out of Morgan, N.J. created the biggest stir during the tournament when they showed up at the scale on Tuesday with a whopping 935.5 blue marlin.

Lockwood’s massive blue fell just a few pounds short of the state and tournament record 942-pounder caught by Dr. Jim Daniel in 1989 and all but eliminated any real challenge for the top spot in the division. In fact, the big blue was the only qualifier weighed in the division until angler Ronald Marquette of York, Pa., fishing aboard a local favorite boat the “Press Time” out of Ocean City came in with a 534-pounder.

In the end, Lockwood’s huge 935.5 pounder easily took the blue marlin division’s top spot and was awarded just shy of $500,000. The 534-pounder weighed by Marquette and the “Press Time” took second place and earned a little under $136,700.

In the tuna division, the leader board was written, erased and re-written several times over the course of the week before angler Jimmy Hahn on the “Miss Andrea” settled the issue once and for all on Tuesday with a 172-pounder worth $181,720. However, Hahn and the “Miss Andrea” crew had to sweat out a few challengers on Friday, the last day of the tournament. Angler Brian Bohn on the “Warrior” out of Ocean City took second place in the tuna division with a 150.5-pounder caught on Friday worth $66,000. Angler Kelly Voss aboard the “Ocean Dan-Sar” took third in the tuna division with a 110-pounder caught on Friday worth $27,800.

In the dolphin division, it was Ocean City’s own Stephen Lewis and the crew aboard the “M.R. Ducks” taking the top prize with a 67-pounder worth $12,900. Andrew Confortini on the “Pipe Dreamer” took second and a check for $11,900 with a 57.5-pounder, while Mark Christopher on the “Liquidity” took third with a 52.5 pounder worth $2,000.

While the 81-pound white marlin caught by the “Hatterascal” on Friday garnered the most attention, the boat’s crew and angler Bob Hoste also weighed a 47-pound wahoo that day, large enough to sneak into the top spot in the division and earn another $2,000. However, Joe Maffei on the “Jezebel” out of Ocean City came in second with a 45-pound wahoo caught on Thursday that turned out to be the winner in prize money because of added entry levels and took home $17,833.

Similarly, the third place wahoo, a 44.5-pounder caught by angler Valerie Dunn on the “D.A. Sea,” earned $16,833, while a fourth place wahoo caught be George MacLean on the “Fin Chaser” earned $14,833 because of added entry levels. Finally, angler Donnie Scrivener on the “Waterman” weighed the only shark during the tournament, a 110.5-pounder caught on Tuesday worth $6,500.