For the second straight year, there are credibility issues delaying the disbursement of prize money in the world’s largest billfishing tournament, the White Marlin Open.
It was learned last week that at least one of the nine individuals who won more than $50,000 in this year’s tournament failed a polygraph shortly after the tourney. The individual has been retested and the results were unknown as of Thursday.
This marks the second straight year the tournament has been unable to close the books of the event in a timely fashion because of suspicious activity by a money winner. Last year’s situation was clearer than this year’s drama. In last year’s event, there was clearly a catch report that was doctored and suspicious activity by the top money winner and members of the fishing team. The end result after nine months of legal wrangling was the presumed winner was disqualified and the prize money should ultimately — after a court appeal — be distributed to others winners in that year’s event.
In last month’s event, the details of the failed polygraph are not known yet, but there has been plenty of allegations made against the tournament for not wanting to pay out the prize money. Nothing could be further from the truth, as that would undermine the whole concept of the fishing tournament. Additionally, many folks are questioning why polygraphs are even required in the first place.
If the White Marlin Open didn’t require polygraphs for big money winners after the event, excuse the pun but it would be like the Wild Wild West out on the ocean. There would be malfeasance at every turn because of the huge riches up for grabs.
Nearly all the anglers and boats entered into the fishing tournament each year are honorable people, but there are always people willing to bend the rules or overstep the regulations if there’s a chance they won’t get caught when millions of dollars are on the line.
When participants enter the Open and pay their entry fees and added entry level expenses, they are well aware of the rules. They understand passing a polygraph is a condition of getting paid should they be lucky enough to hook a beauty. If you are truthful and playing by the rules, there’s no reason to be concerned.
The online critics of the tourney and the concept of testing to ensure fairness are off base when they state the White Marlin Open doesn’t want to pay the winners. That’s exactly the concept of a fishing tournament. People pay the required fees to enter the tournament, bet money on their luck and either get paid or don’t based on what they catch. In many ways, this year had the makings of a perfect tournament. It had a little bit of everything. Terrible weather on Monday followed by a string of up-and-down fishing days capped off by a huge white marlin upsetting the leaderboard on the last day. It was a storybook ending with a lot of suspense. Ideally for all that would have been the end of the event.
Credibility must be maintained to preserve the tournament’s reputation, competitive balance and integrity. There’s too much money being spent on sponsorships and tournament participation to not take honesty seriously and to ensure everything is legitimate. A little bit of time (and testing) to ensure all played by the rules is only fair and should be expected.