“Tighten Up” Holding on in WMO

OCEAN CITY- As of late yesterday afternoon, the talk around the 2011 White Marlin Open was as much about what had not happened yet as what had happened so far.

As of Thursday afternoon, a single qualifying white marlin sat atop the leaderboard in the glamour division, a whopping 86.5-pounder caught by angler Brian Kline of Laytonsville, Md. aboard the local boat “Tighten Up” out of the Ocean City Fishing Center on Tuesday. After a 2010 tournament when the white marlin leaderboard was rewritten several times on an epic first day alone and again on Tuesday, the 86.5-pound white weighed by the “Tighten Up” crew late Tuesday evening was the only qualifying white on the board as of late yesterday.

About a half a dozen or so white marlin were weighed over the course of the tournament’s first three days, but none except the 86.5-pounder weighed by “Tighten Up” made the minimum 70-pound limit to qualify. Last year, local angler Brian Roberts on the “Shelly II” took first in the white marlin division with a 97.5-pounder worth over $850,000, while the second-place white weighed by Tommy Fowler and the “Sea Toy” came in at 92 pounds.

While the “Tighten Up” crew has had to wait out the remaining three days of the tournament, there is reason to believe the 86.5-pound white weighed on Tuesday will hold up. Before the two 90-plus whites that won first and second place last year, and the 93.5-pounder that won the year before, only three times in the 37-year history of the tournament has a bigger white marlin won the tournament.

Before 2009, one has to go back to 1981, or 30 years, to find a white marlin bigger than the 86.5-weighed by the “Tighten Up” on Tuesday. However, with most of the 237 participating boats saving the best for last, there will likely be challengers on the last day. The 237 participating boats each fish three days for 711 total fishing days. On Monday, 144 boats went out, followed by 141 on Tuesday and just 90 on Wednesday. About 112 boats went out yesterday, meaning 224 of the 237 boats registered in the tournament are out roaming around the canyons today looking to unseat the “Tighten Up” and the 86.5-pound white.

As of late yesterday, the Kline and the “Tighten Up” crew sat alone on the white marlin leaderboard and stood to earn $843,507 for its 86.5-pound white, although with plenty of boat out on Thursday and nearly the entire fleet fishing on Friday, the position was certainly tenuous at best.

In addition, not a single blue marlin had been weighed after the first three days of the tournament for the first time in recent memory. Last year, the crew on the “Let It Ride” weighed a whopping 1,010-pound blue marlin on Tuesday of Marlin Week, toppling a 790-pounder caught by the “Scandalous” on Day One which would have won easily in most years. In 2009, angler Robert Farris on the “No Problem” weighed a 1,062-pound blue marlin that toppled a state and tournament record that had stood for decades.

While the white marlin and blue marlin fishing has been decidedly cool through the first three days of the White Marlin Open this week, the action in the Tuna Division has more than made up for the lack of drama. Angler Dale Christensen on the “Playmate” made a big splash early on Monday with a whopping 241-pound big-eye that briefly held the top spot in the division. Fame and fortune were fleeting for the “Playmate,” however, as angler Chip Caruso and the crew on the “Pipe Dreamer” came in on Tuesday with a whopping 279-pounder to take over first place.

As of late yesterday, Caruso and the “Pipe Dreamer” sat atop the tuna leaderboard and stood to win $312,000, while the “Playmate” nestled into second with its 241-pounder temporarily worth over $58,000. Angler Wayne Bowden on the “Last Straw” was in third place with a 225-pound tuna, while Geoff Pence and the “Trophy Hunter” crew sat in fourth with a 63.5-pounder.

A look in the tournament archives reveals one would have to go all the way back to 1992 to find a bigger tuna caught during the White Marlin Open then the 279-pounder caught by Caruso and the “Pipe Dreamer” crew this week. In 1192, a WMO-record 326-pound tuna took first place in the tournament and none bigger has been weighed during the event since. In 1990, a 282-pound tuna won the tournament, the only other tuna bigger than the one caught by the “Pipe Dreamer” in tournament history.

The Dolphin Division has created perhaps the most drama thus far this week with several big gaffers brought to the scale. As of late yesterday, angler Gordon McNamara on the “Ranger” held first-place with a 41.5-pounder, but angler Donald Schline was the leader in terms of money with a second-place dolphin weighing 39.5 pounds worth over $10,000. The “Alexis” was third with a 39-pounder, while the Some Kinda Good” sat in forth and the “Fugitive” sat in fifth place.

Angler William Bayne on the “Reel Desire” sat atop the Wahoo Division board late yesterday with a 71-pounder, while local angler Brandi Zirkel on the “Restless Lady” sat in second with a 68-pounder and Shawn Hann of the “Marli” sat in third with a 58-pounder. No sharks had been weighed in the tournament as of late yesterday.