Everything Will Probably Change, But Here’s How White Marlin Open Stands After Three Days

Everything Will Probably Change, But Here’s How White Marlin Open Stands After Three Days
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OCEAN CITY — After a somewhat stormy first three days of the 2015 White Marlin Open, lightning struck on Wednesday when angler Cheryl McLeskey on the “Backlash,” out of Virginia Beach, raised a whopping 94-pound white marlin that as of Thursday morning could be worth $1.1 million.

McLeskey and the “Backlash” crew stunned the big crowd at host Harbour Island Marina on Wednesday when it rolled in with the big white marlin that topped out at 94 pounds and set the bar incredibly high for the remaining two days of the WMO. The 94-pounder was worth $1.14 million when the scales closed on Wednesday night, but 294 of the tournament’s 307 registered boaters where back out on rough seas on Thursday and 90 more still had a fishing day left on Friday, the last day of the tournament when fortunes have been historically won or lost in the 42 years of the event. This year a record $3.87 million in prize money is estimated.

Nonetheless, McLeskey, who could become the first lady angler to win the WMO, and the “Backlash” crew were the darlings of the 2015 as of mid-week, creating a buzz throughout the fishing-crazed resort during White Marlin Open week. However, with 384 total fishing days remaining heading into Thursday, the 2015 WMO is far from over.

The “Backlash” is not registered in Level WM, the highest payout Calcutta in the tournament, so it remains possible another boat that went in across the board could weigh a smaller white marlin on Thursday or Friday and claim the top level’s $855,000 in prize money. In addition, another of the 307 registered boats with fishing days left could haul in a white marlin topping McLeskey’s 94-pounder, which appears unlikely, but there is certainly a precedent for that to happen.

To put the McLeskey’s 94-pound white marlin in historical context, there have only been seven white marlins weighed that have exceeded 90 pounds in the history of the event and six of them went on to win the top prize. The White Marlin Open record was a 99-pounder caught by angler Steve Bass in 1980, a record that has stood for 35 years. In 2010, local angler Brian Roberts weighed a 97.5-pound white marlin that took the top prize.

Also in 2010, local angler Tommy Fowler weighed a 92-pounder that finished second to Roberts’ 97.5-pounder. As it stands, McLeskey’s 94-pound white weighed on Wednesday is the third largest in WMO history. In 2009, a 93.5-pounder won the tournament’s top prize, and in 1978, a 93.5-pound white also won the tournament and a 90-pounder won in 1981. Incidentally, the Maryland state record is a whopping 135-pounder caught by angler George Pierson with Captain Charlie Kratz on the “Five C’s” that has a permanent home on display at the foot of the Boardwalk.

Despite strong winds and rough seas, 294 boats went out on the tournament’s first day on Monday, which ended with no qualifying white marlin weighed.

Monday did produce some drama in the tournament’s other divisions. Angler Larry Hesse, Jr. and the crew on the “Goin’ Deep” weighed a 551-pound blue marlin on Monday that cozied into first place in that division. Through Wednesday, the “Goin’ Deep” was the only qualifying blue marlin on the board and stood to earn $595,000 in prize money. Again, with plenty of fishing days remaining on Thursday and Friday, it remains to be seen if the big blue holds up.

Monday also saw the leaderboard in the Tuna Division fill in. Through Wednesday, angler Logan Pusey on the “Rumor Has It” sat in first place with a 177-pounder currently worth $425,000. Angler Andrew Howard on the “Greene Turtle” sat in second in the tuna division at the close of business on Wednesday with a 157.5-pounder currently worth $64,000. Angler Mike Beckett on the “Pez Machine” weighed a 155-pound tuna on Wednesday that landed temporarily in third place and was worth $53,000.

Through Wednesday, angler Chris Manetta on the “Tra Sea Ann” sat atop the leaderboard on the dolphin division with a 42-pounder worth $16,500. Angler Jesse Morris on the “Turn Me Loose” held the second spot on the leaderboard in the dolphin division with a 36.5-pounder caught on Monday that was worth $12,500 heading into the final two days. Angler Joe Hollister on the “Brenda Lou” sat in third in the dolphin division with a 36-pounder worth $2,000.

In the wahoo division, angler Jay Mascaro on the “Warden Pass” sat in first with a 45-pounder weighed on Monday worth $12,500. Angler Jason Connellee on the “Sweet Water” sat in second in the wahoo division with a 43.5-pounder worth $1,500 at the close of the scale on Wednesday.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.