OCEAN CITY- The 2018 White Marlin Open was one for the books in so many ways, including a record $2.58 million paid out to the winner, a record $5.45 million in total prize money, a monster blue marlin weighed on day one and a wild finish that saw fortunes change hands on the last day.
Remarkable is about the best way to describe the 2018 White Marlin Open (WMO) which is no small feat for the world’s largest billfish tournament that has created so much drama in its 45 years. As the field of competing boats began to take shape on the eve of the 45th WMO, it had the ear-markings for being a spectacular tournament with 382 registered boats vying for a tournament-record $5.45 million in total prize money.
It didn’t take long for the 2018 to live up to its advanced billing with a whopping 881-pound blue marlin among the very first fish weighed when he scales opened at host Harbour Island on Monday. The 881-pounder, caught by angler Joe Rahman on the Auspicious, set the bar extremely high and stood up all week and was the one and only qualifying blue marlin weighed at the scale during the tournament.
Rahman and the Auspicious crew earned over $924,000 for the big blue, which was the sixth largest in WMO history. In a two-year stretch in 2009 and 2010, a pair of granders took first place in the blue marlin division including a tournament-record 1.062-pounder in 2009 followed by a 1,010-pounder in 2010. Before that big run on blue marlin, the record in that division was a 942-pounder way back in 1989.
As big as that story was, it is the White Marlin Open for a reason and the glamour division stole the show during the 2018 event. On Tuesday of Marlin Week, angler Bill Haughland on the Lights Out weighed the first qualifying white marlin, a 75-pounder that cozied into the top spot on the leaderboard.
However, on Thursday, angler Greg Giron on the Under Dog out of Virginia Beach weighed an 83-pounder that took over the top spot and was temporarily worth nearly $2.6 million in prize money.
Fame and fortune were fleeting for the Under Dog, however, as 337 of the 382 registered boats still had a fishing day left on Friday, the final day of the tournament. Late Friday evening, the Weldor’s Ark out of Morehead City pulled into the scale with two white marlin to weigh. The first weighed in at 71 pounds and the Under Dog was safe for at least a few more minutes.
However, the second white marlin pulled from the stern of the Weldor’s Ark topped out at exactly 83 pounds, or the same as the Under Dog’s first-place white weighed a day earlier. The big crowd on hand was hushed with whispers of what the tie meant exactly in terms of prize money.
It didn’t take long for tournament officials to sort out the tiebreaking situations, however. The Under Dog’s 83-pounder caught on Thursday had to be gaffed to be boated, which is perfectly legal according to tournament rules. A gaff is a spear-like piece of equipment used when a fish cannot be brought into the boat by conventional means.
“In the event of a tie in the weight of a white marlin, the fish that is not gaffed will be considered the winner of the two,” according to the official rules of the 2018 WMO.
The Weldor’s Ark’s 83-pounder caught on Friday did not need to be gaffed to be boated. As a result, the Weldor’s Ark earned to top prize in the signature white marlin division, a new tournament-record $2.58 million. The Under Dog earned $129,784 in prize money for its 83-pounder, while the Lights Out earned $84,804 for its 75-pounder.
The tuna division produced its share of drama with the leaderboard written, erased and rewritten all week. When the dust settled, it was angler Gary Sansburry on the Buckshot out of Ocean City taking first-place with a 75.5-pounder worth over $900,000. Angler Charles Matattal on the Blinky IV took second with a 73.5-pounder worth $135,421. Angler Jake Pilkerton on the Brass Monkey took third in the tuna division with a 71-pounder worth $215,916, while angler Ken Doody on the Game Over out of Ocean City took fourth with a 59.5-pounder worth $50,400.
In the dolphin division, it was angler Louis Genello on the Fin-Nominal taking first place with a 50-pounder worth $19,646. Angler George Mess on the Rigged Up took second with a 41-pounder worth $18,646, angler Rob Overfield on the Moxie Boys took third with a 36-pounder worth $16,646, angler Norman Rockwell on the Sea Note took fourth with a 23-pounder worth $15,300 and angler Kevin Steinhice on the Bonnie Lynn took fifth with a 22-poundere also worth $15,300.
In the wahoo division, angler Kevin Graybill on the Overboard took first with a 63-pounder worth $115,271. Kenny Sexton on the Desperado took second with a 58-pounder worth $1,846, Charles Dawson on the Canyon Hunter took third with a 55-pounder worth $21,471, Leo Cantillo on The Right Place took fourth with a 47-pounder worth $19,125 and Curtis Colgate on the Instigator took fifth with a 43-pounder also worth $19,125.