We all have bucket list experiences or achievements set in the horizon and no matter how simple or complex your goal is, there is no better feeling than living and enjoying that experience. The White Marlin Open was a bucket list item and in 2018, the stars aligned and what an awesome tournament it was.
The Richest Billfish in the World
Step one foot into any bar or restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland the first full week of August and the talk is centered on the White Marlin Open. Every square inch of dock at Sunset Marina has a beautiful sportfish yacht tied up with crews prepping bait and money flowing like water at Teasers. The big boys are in town to win it all. How much money? The total purse for 2018 was $5.45 million.
Teams strategically enter into the various divisions, daily categories, points, and multipliers to increase the odds for their targeted species or focus angling. Early base entry was $1,050 but with little in the pot, the potential for big money winnings is minimal. To go all in would cost you $35,000! The average entry based on the purse size over 383 registered boats was $14,230.
White Marlin Hunters
It was eye opening to see the 80+ft sportfishing vessels docked at Sunset. They were in town to hunt and win, no other agenda. Every mate and crewman had a role and even on lay days (you can only fish 3 out of 5 days), they were working on bait prep and meticulously washing down the boat and gear.
Canyon Hunter Sportfishing
I had the opportunity to climb aboard the Canyon Hunter, a 41ft Luhrs Express, captained by Travis Scott out of Indian River Inlet. Two mates Adam and Steve handled the bulk of the prep and legwork as I soaked in the experience (didn’t want to get in the way). The fishing days started with a 2:00am wake up and at the dock box by 3:15am. By 4am we were waiting inside the sea buoy of the Indian River Inlet and at 4:01am, the twin Cummins diesels throttled up and we were heading East! I was impressed with the energy and personal drive of Travis and the mates. This wasn’t another charter for them, this was make or break – they wanted to get to the scales come hell or highwater. Intensity and passion were at 110% and it was contagious.
Day 1 – Monday Aug 6, 2018
Exact location unknown, but it was 80+ miles South East out from the IRI sea buoy. The first catch was a small mahi we boated for tacos. Later we released two white marlins, both of which were under the tournament length requirements. The first white put on a show for us, dancing out of the water, pulling line and charging the boat. We chalked up the first day as a success.
Day 2 – Wednesday Aug 8, 2018
After taking a lay day Tuesday for some minor engine servicing, we were back at it. Although not as far out as Monday, it was still was an adventure with some sporty sea conditions. Yeah, I popped two Dramamine… she was rocking and rolling. But after a few hours, the seas calmed down and apparently so did the bite. Nothing all day until approximately 2:50pm when the Penn 80 started to scream. The boat went from dead silence to a roar in a fraction of a second… go time boys! Angler C.J. had the honors to reel in a 55lb Wahoo of which we instantly knew to point the boat to the Ocean City, Maryland inlet. With the Wahoo boated, it was throttles down and good times aboard the Canyon Hunter.
Not only was it amazing to be in the tournament, but we were really going to the scales! The energy couldn’t be any higher as we crest the final dock at Harbor Island and slid into the scales. All we could see was a mob of people excited for what was on deck. The scale stopped at 55lbs, currently taking first place in Wahoo and daily meat, and the crowd was going wild. Bucket list complete!
We were later bumped to 2nd on the Wahoo but Travis played the cards right and we held onto sizeable winnings. Needless to say, we were not going to be able to physically wake up in time for a Thursday run.
Day 3 – Friday Aug 10, 2018
Although the passion and drive was there, the bite was not on our third and final day. One early bite was all that was had for the day. Although humbling, we still accomplished what many boats did not and we had a heck of a good time doing it.
When it was all said and done, we finished 3rd in the Wahoo division and took the Wednesday daily meat winning us a total of $21,471 and an evening at the awards ceremony. It was an incredible experience to be in the White Marlin Open and recommend anyone who loves fishing to do it once in their lifetime. The prize winning and trip to the scales was just icing on the cake! Will I do it again, ABOSULTELY! It was also great to see families involved not just directly with a boat or angler, but even as a spectator. Children were all over the scale docks waiting for the next fish to be hoisted out of the fish box. It really is something to see even if you just stop by the scales one evening.