After Slow Start, 38th WMO Lives Up to Hype

OCEAN CITY- Despite a relatively slow start, the 38th Annual White Marlin Open in Ocean City last week lived up to the hype in the end with a first-place white marlin waiting at the scale when it opened for business on the last day and a massive blue marlin, the one and only weighed during the tournament, hauled in on the second-to-last day.

The first phase of the tournament will likely be remembered more for what didn’t happen than what did happen, but by mid-week, most of the categories were filled up with big fish. No qualifying white marlin were weighed on Day One, in sharp contrast to the previous year when white after qualifying white was weighed in one of the most prolific days ever. Monday did produce its share of drama, however, as angler Dale Christensen and the crew on the “Playmate” out of the Ocean City Fishing Center hauled in a 241-pound tuna that cozied into the top spot on the leaderboard in that division.

On Tuesday, all was quiet again for the first few hours after the scale at host Harbour Island opened. Everything started to change when angler Chip Caruso and the crew on the “Pipe Dreamer” hauled in a 279-pound tuna to take over the lead in that division. Also on Tuesday, angler Wayne Bowden on the “Last Straw” out of Ocean City weighed a 225-pound tuna that took over the third spot on the leaderboard.

Around dusk on Tuesday, the first qualifying white marlin made its appearance at Harbour Island as angler Brian Kline and the crew on the “Tighten Up” out of the Ocean City Fishing Center brought in an 86.5-pounder temporarily worth over $800,000. The big crowd at the marina erupted with applause when the big white went up the scale, but it was only Tuesday and there was plenty of fishing still to come.

The first two days were relatively quiet for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the threat of Tropical Storm Emily, which fizzled over the weekend but still had lingering effects offshore. Wednesday was of little consequence as nearly all of the 237 participating boats took a mid-week hiatus. The slow start on Monday and Tuesday, and the traditional lay-day on Wednesday set up a big finale for the 2011 White Marlin Open as things started to change in the big money categories.

On Thursday, another local boat “Restless Lady,” which had already made an appearance on the wahoo leaderboard with a 68-pounder weighed on Tuesday, rolled into Harbour Island with a blue marlin on board. The big crowd gasped as the blue marlin was hauled over the transom and up the scale. When the big fish settled, it topped out at an impressive 699.5 pounds. After two years of thousand pound-plus blue marlin weighed during the tournament, the blue weighed by the “Restless Lady” last week was more than big enough to win most years and ultimately hung on to first-place as the only qualifying blue on the board and was worth $379,677 in the end.

Also on Thursday, angler John Schmitz on the “Sea Note” out of Kill Devil Hills weighed a qualifying white marlin, a 79.5-pounder, which never really challenged the 86.5-pounder weighed by the “Tighten Up” crew two days earlier. With just one day remaining, the “Tighten Up” held a tenuous grip on the top spot in the tournament’s glamour division, but 218 of the 237 boats in the tournament still had a day of fishing remaining and there was still more drama yet to unfold.

On Friday, angler Paul Coen and the crew on the “Wee Wun IV” out of Ocean City was waiting at Harbour Island with a qualifying white marlin nearly an hour before the scale opened for business. When the big white was hauled up the scale, it topped out at 88.5 pounds, nudging the “Tighen Up” crew out of first place by a mere two pounds.

However, the “Wee Wun IV” was not in all of the added entry levels and the “Tighten Up,” which was in across the board, held on for the tournament’s top monetary prize. When the dust settled, the “Wee Wun IV” took first place and was awarded $289,063, the “Tighten Up” was second in terms of weight, but earned $758,828, while the “Sea Note” took third and was awarded $126,377.

In the tuna division, the “Pipe Dreamer” took first with a 279-pounder and earned $312,990. The “Playmate” was second and earned $58,342, while the “Last Straw” was third and took home $2,000. The “Crisdel” snuck into fourth in the tuna division with a 209-pounder and earned $22,137 with added entry levels.

In the dolphin division, which showed the most activity throughout the week, angler Gordon McNamara on the “Ranger” took first place in terms of weight with a 41.5-pounder worth $2,000, but Donald Schline on the “Reel Estate” took second with a 39.5-pounder, but first in the money with $11,930. Angler Kevin Stafford on the “Alexis” took third with a 39-pounder worth $2,000.

Angler William Bayne on the “Reel Desire” took first in the wahoo division with a 71-pounder worth $26,325, while Ocean City local Brandi Zirkel on the “Restless Lady” took second with a 68-pounder worth $3,000. Shawn Hann and the crew on the “Marli” took third with a 58-pound wahoo and earned $24,325. The one and only shark weighed during the tournament was a 107-pound mako hauled in by angler Matt Cusamano on “Canyon Lady” worth $6,500.