OCEAN CITY — Two months after the conclusion of the 2017 White Marlin Open (WMO), tournament officials on Tuesday announced all of winners have passed their polygraph exams and are eligible for the prize money in their respective categories.
Per tournament rules, any angler who wins $50,000 or more in any category is subject to a post-tournament polygraph examination to make sure all rules were followed. After the 2017 WMO in August, concerns were raised with the outcome of the polygraph exams for at least one of the winners although tournament officials have not made public which winning angler was subject to additional testing. However, WMO officials announced on Tuesday after considerable vetting, any concerns about rules infractions were eliminated.
“The tournament directors of the White Marlin Open are determined to protect the integrity of the tournament as the largest billfish tournament in the world,” a statement from the WMO released on Tuesday reads. “As has been the policy of the White Marlin Open since 2004, at the conclusion of the 2017 tournament, the top money winners were polygraphed. After an extensive process and after reviewing the evidence, the tournament directors have confirmed the eligibility of all the winners previously announced and, in accordance with the rules of the tournament, those winners will receive the prize money for their categories.”
As a result, the top finishes in each category will now receive their prize money over two months after the completion of the 2017 WMO. In the signature white marlin category, angler Glen Frost on the Wire Nut finished first with a whopping 95.5-pounder weighed on the tournament’s last day worth $1.6 million. The 95.5-pound white marlin was the third largest ever in the 44 years of the White Marlin Open, eclipsed only by the 99-pound record holder caught during the 1980 event and a 97.5-pounder caught in 2010.
Angler Mike Donohue on the Griffin took second with an 86-pound white marlin worth $1.5 million. Local angler Joe Andrews on the M.R. Ducks took third with a 79.5-pounder worth $164,673. There were no qualifying blue marlin weighed during the 2017 WMO, but the tuna division certainly produced its share of drama. Angler Joseph Sadler on the Intents out of Jupiter, Florida took first place with a 68.5-pounder worth $866,553, a new WMO record payout in the tuna division.
Angler James Boynton on the Blue Runner took second in the tuna division with a 67-pounder worth $90,380. Angler Kris Rainear on the Warden Pass also weighed a 67-pound tuna and earned $52,950. In the new small boat division, angler Mike Cutler on the Lisa weighed a 59-pound tuna on the tournament’s last day and earned $112,050 in prize money.
Also in the small boat division, angler Jimmy Michael on the Dawg Haus weighed a 58-pound tuna on Friday and earned $51,300. Oddly, the one and only dolphin weighed during the tournament was caught by angler Andrew Cohen on the Silly Money, a 23-pounder worth $74,841. WMO officials said in the statement released on Tuesday the post-tourney polygraph exams are administered in order to ensure compliance with all of the rules.
“The tournament directors made every possible effort to ensure complete fairness to all participants including a post-tournament protocol to verify compliance with the rules,” the statement reads. “The White Marlin Open, like many other tournaments, has found that the use of polygraphs is an effective method of ensuring compliance with the rules, particularly with over 350 boats participating over tens of thousands of square miles. The rules allow the tournament directors to require additional polygraphs for the anglers and others on the winning boat and provide the angler with a right to obtain a separate polygraph at his or her own expense. After all tests were complete, the tournament directors carefully reviewed the results, consulted with the polygraph examiners and a leading polygraph expert and reached a decision about each winner.”
As a result, each of the aforementioned anglers and boat crews who won in excess of $50,000 will now be paid accordingly by the WMO. In the statement, WMO officials said the increased scrutiny this year resulted in a longer time period for the winners to be paid.
“The White Marlin Open strives to obtain the highest integrity and fairness in all of its awards and determinations of adherence to the rules and regulations,” the statement reads. “The tournament directors are committed to taking as much time as needed to reach the appropriate decision including the involvement of a top expert whose schedule we needed to work around, leading to a longer timeline this year. It is for these reasons that the tournament directors have made the determination to award the prize money to the winners.”
The apparent concerns over the polygraph tests for one or more of the winners in the 2017 WMO came one year after the 2016 winner was ultimately disqualified for alleged rules infractions. After angler Phil Heasley and the crew on the Kallianassa apparently won the white marlin division in the 2016 WMO with the lone qualifier worth a tournament-record $2.8 million, inconsistencies with post-tourney polygraph exams resulted in tournament officials filing an interpleader action in Worcester County Circuit Court to allow a judge to decide if the prize money should be awarded.
The case was eventually moved to U.S. District Court and federal judge ultimately ruled in favor of the WMO and determined the Kallianassa’s winning white marlin in 2016 was caught prior to the 8:30 a.m. start time for lines in the water. Heasley and the Kallianassa crew have since appealed that decision and the appeal is still pending.
The federal judge ruled in favor of a plan to redistribute the Kallianassa’s record $2.8 million payout to the winners in several other categories in the 2016 WMO. However, the $2.8 million is still being held by the federal court pending the outcome of the appeal.