OCEAN CITY — A new first-place tuna was weighed late Tuesday on day two of the 44th Annual White Marlin Open, but with 297 boats fishing on Wednesday and 300-plus heading out on the tournament’s last two days, the story has yet to unfold for the 2017 event.
Two days of rough offshore conditions has essentially boiled down the 2017 White Marlin Open to a three-day shootout with a wide open leaderboard and nearly 1,000 boat-fishing days still out there. With rough seas offshore and strong storms inshore on Monday, just 136 of the registered 353 boats went out on Monday, the tournament’s first day, with scattered results for those who attempted it.
There were no qualifying billfish weighed on Monday and the top three spots on the tuna leaderboard were filled out with fish that most likely won’t hold up through the week. With rough seas lingering on Tuesday, just 12 boats went out and one was awarded for the effort. The Blue Runner out of Point Pleasant, N.J. returned to the scale at host Harbour Island late in the evening with five tuna on board.
The largest of the five, a 67-pounder, took over first-place in the tuna division and was temporarily worth $460,000 heading into Wednesday’s action. The first-place tuna after Monday, a 64-pounder caught by angler Jim Stavola on the Milling Around, was bounced down to second place and is currently worth $100,000. A second tuna weighed by the Blue Runner on Tuesday settled into third place in the division temporarily and is currently worth $30,000, adding to the boat’s first-place tuna prize.
However, that is all likely to change and it will likely happen on Wednesday. With 353 boats each fishing three of the five tournament days, that equates to 1,059 boat-days of which only 148 have been expended through the first two days. With 297 out on Wednesday, the action at the scales could come fast and furious. Well over 300 boats are expected to fish on Thursday and Friday, making the 2017 WMO essentially a three-day shootout with the leaderboard wide open in all categories with an estimated $4.9 million in total prize money still up for grabs.
Of the $4.9 million in total prize money, roughly $3.8 million is reserved for the glamour billfish divisions and no qualifiers have yet been weighed. That will likely change and maybe as soon as Wednesday. The scale opens at 4 p.m. and closes at 9:15 p.m.