Local Angler Recounts Winning White Tale

OCEAN CITY- Despite a couple of anxious days last week,
local resident and veteran White Marlin Open angler Brian Roberts certainly
appears to have taken winning the glamour division of the 2010 event in stride.

Berlin resident Brian Roberts, a certified public
accountant and loan officer for National City Mortgage and battle-tested White
Marlin Open angler, took the 2010 event’s top prize with a whopping 97.5-pound
white marlin caught last Tuesday. The typically laid back Roberts had to sweat
out the rest of the week, but when the curtain fell on the 2010 WMO last
Friday, Roberts and the crew on the “Shelly II” had held on to first place and
its estimated $856,000-plus prize.

The white marlin division changed several times during a
frantic first day last Monday, but Roberts and the “Shelly II” crew basically
settled the issue once and for all on Tuesday with their 97.5-pound white, the
second largest in WMO history, second only to the 99-pound tournament record
white caught in 1980. Roberts and the “Shelly II” crew had made a brief
appearance on the leader board on Monday with a 67-pound white, but the
seemingly insignificant catch laid the groundwork for the epic 97.5-pounder
caught the next day. Roberts said this week the “Shelly II” returned to the
same area in about 900 fathoms out past the Poor Man’s Canyon.

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The big white came up in the spread and hit a naked
ballyhoo on a pitch-bent rod set up by Roberts expressly for that purpose.
However, the fish was under the dredge, which complicated the catch. Roberts
and the crew were able to pull the bait out of the big white’s mouth to get it
out from under the dredge and it was still there.

“The fish just lit up blue and purple and I knew it was a
special fish,” said Roberts. “I knew it was a huge fish and I could tell it was
a white marlin by its pectoral fin. It was the first white marlin I’ve landed.
Usually, I work the cockpit and hand the rod off to someone else, but I had
rigged this particular rod for just this situation and I stuck with it.”

The fish was first hooked up around 1:30 p.m. and was in
the boat by 2:30 p.m., which made it time to head into the scale at Harbour
Island. On the way in, the “Shelly II” crew learned of the 92-pound white
weighed by angler Tommy Fowler and the “Sea Toy” minutes earlier, but remained

“We had done our measurements four or five times and we
knew we had a monster fish,” said Roberts. “We were so excited and we never
doubted for a minute it was a contender.”

Roberts and the “Shelly II” crew, which included Captain
Don Haynes, Jay Phillips, Bo Duke, Tom Foor, Tim McClenhanan, John Schech and
Bryant Bunting, fished again on Wednesday, the last of their three days, and
already the waiting game started building the tension.

“All the sudden, my whole crew started playing practical
pranks,” said Roberts. “I called my father when we got in range and he told me
a 100.5-pounder and a 99-pounder had already been weighed. I was ready to call
my wife when he told me it was just a hoax.”

Roberts spent the next two days doing routine things, like
hanging out on the “Shelly II” and cleaning the boat on Thursday. On Friday, he
went surfing just to break the tension, but said he was never overly concerned
with hanging on to first place or the hundreds of thousands of dollars at

“I realized the money didn’t matter,” he said. “I always
dreamed of catching a huge white during the White Marlin Open and I dreamed of
fishing on one of those big sportfishing boats with the best gear and the best
crew and I had just done all that.”

Roberts said achieving a life’s dream was paramount to
winning the money, which he said wasn’t exactly life changing although it
certainly helps.

“It all works out,” he said. “I’m still the same person I
was. I still had to go to work on Monday. The trick is not to think you’re on
top of the world because you really aren’t.”

Last week’s big win also turned around Roberts’ earlier
luck of a different sort in the WMO. In 2005, he was fishing in the tournament
on a 28-foot center console boat that swamped in heavy seas and capsized,
launching Roberts and his crew mates into the open ocean for about an hour
before another boat fishing in the tournament came around and rescued them.