OCEAN CITY — Just when it seemed the 47th White Marlin Open set for next week could not get any stranger, event organizers announced on Thursday the tournament will be extended by two days for the first time ever because of the anticipated arrival of a tropical storm off the mid-Atlantic coast.
Through much of the spring and summer, plans for the 47th White Marlin Open (WMO) have been altered and changed multiple times because of ongoing COVID-19 concerns and the need to comply with social distancing for the thousands of spectators. One early plan called for a limited number of spectators at host Harbour Island, which typically sees thousands of visitors each day during the tournament, with a “satellite” viewing spot at the municipal park at 3rd Street including large viewing screens for the daily weigh-ins and family-friendly concessions and vendors.
Last week, WMO officials announced there would be no general public viewing at the scales at 14th Street and the public would have no access to Harbour Island, making the 3rd Street park the primary venue for the 2020 WMO. The daily weigh-ins will still take place at 14th Street, but the only individuals allowed to be around the scale will be WMO staffers, technicians producing the live-stream of the event and a likely a handful of photographers and media.
As if that all wasn’t strange enough and a big departure from the typical WMO, event organizers on Thursday announced yet another wrinkle for the 2020 event. Typically, the tournament is held from Monday through Friday with boats and teams of angler choosing to fish three of the five days.
However, Tropical Storm Isaias is churning in the south Atlantic and its projected path with a wide cone has the storm passing the mid-Atlantic area early next week, right when the WMO is expected to get off to a fast start. As a result, for the first time ever, event organizers announced on Thursday the 2020 WMO will be extended through next Sunday, turning the typical five-day tournament into a seven-day event. Captains and teams of angler will still have to choose which three days to fish, but with the predicted arrival of Isaias, Monday and Tuesday could be a wash anyway.
However, event organizers also announced on Thursday because of the late changes in the tournament format because of the expected storm, the primary venue at 3rd Street next week will still be open to the public Monday through Friday only because of logistics at the downtown park. It’s important to note the daily weigh-ins will be live-streamed each day through the event’s website, but on Saturday and Sunday next week, there will be no official public venue for the tournament.
So, in review, there will be no public access to the scale and the official weigh-ins at Harbour Island and the WMO’s primary public venue will be the downtown park at 3rd Street, but not for the last two days of the tournament. In addition, the WMO will be extended by two days because of the anticipated arrival of Isaias.
However, despite the anomalies, the WMO is and has always been a world-class sportfishing tournament deemed the “world’s largest billfish tournament,” and that will not change this year. However, the 2020 version will likely have a hard time living up to last year’s memorable tournament. The 2019 White Marlin Open was one for the books with a local angler winning the signature division for an unprecedented second time, a record payout and the old record for the number of white marlin released shattered.