The world’s largest billfish tournament has had no shortage of drama at Ocean City’s Harbor Island scales this year. A record number of boats (444) were vying for a record handbag ($ 9.2 million) and the end was a blow.
First-ever tournament qualifier, 82.5-pound white marlin caught by Mike Atkinson off shore Mudguard bender of Virginia Beach, held the lead and a payment of $ 5 million all week – until Sushi brought home a bigger fish on Friday night, with just 30 minutes left in the tournament. Fisherman Butch Wright from Arnold, Md. Caught the 85.5-pound white marlin. His crew won a record $ 3,238,160, while Mudguard bender keeps $ 1.8 million.
Sushi Sportfishing posted a photo of the marlin while it was coiled up, with the caption “Fish of a Lifetime in OMM”.
Another tournament first came when SEVEN, of Jupiter, Fl. Took first place in the tuna division, winning $ 1.2 million for their 137 pounds, then turned around and caught the blue marlin winner with a 775-pound monster worth an additional $ 1.1 million. No boat in the 48-year history of the White Marlin Open has ever won two divisions.
In an inspiring turn of events, the crew of Stressin Knot‘, the 34-foot boat that sank 60 feet offshore on the first day of the tournament, managed to come back to finish the tournament on a different boat. Stressin Knot captain Bryan Matz tells Bay Bulletin, four of the six original crew members who were rescued from a lifeboat by another onboard fishing crew Fish bone, came out at the end of the week and caught a qualifying tuna.
“Although it was quickly beaten by a larger fish, we were delighted to be safely out and back, to have hit the scales in the largest billfish tournament on the east coast and to at least prove to ourselves that we can compete with the big boats, ”says Matz.
-Meg Walburn Viviano