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White Marlin Open Joins Sports Fishing Championship Ahead of 50th Anniversary

The world’s largest, and, by far, richest billfish tournament has entered a new chapter in its storied history. The White Marlin Open, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this August in Ocean City, Maryland, has joined the Sports Fishing Championship (SFC), the largest governing body of saltwater tournament fishing and media rights holder, as its newest legacy event.  

Ocean City’s long-standing favorite fishing event now serves as the finale to the Billfish Championship circuit’s four Atlantic Division events and will be the last domestic stop before it concludes at the International Billfish Tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  

The celebrated tournament attracts anglers from all over the world, including basketball legend Michael Jordan and other celebrities. It’s come a long way from an inaugural $5,000 top prize in 1974 to the record-setting $4.3 million top prize awarded in 2022. Since its start, the event has awarded a whopping $95 million in total prize money.  

“This is a historic day for our sport and industry,” said Mark Neifeld, commissioner and CEO of Sport Fishing Championship. “We are honored to showcase the rich fishing history and world-class competition that the White Marlin Open brings to SFC. This is a momentous partnership that signifies our joint efforts, and the efforts of all of our tournament partners, to create a legacy championship for the sport of saltwater fishing that will be passed down for generations to come.”  

Held from August 7 through August 11, anglers will have the opportunity to hook a record-breaking white and blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, swordfish, or dolphin. 

“The White Marlin Open is thrilled to join Sport Fishing Championship,” said Madelyne Motsko, the tournament director. “The White Marlin Open is a proud industry leader in tournament competition, conservation and fan experience. By teaming up with SFC, we can further showcase our historic event and the Ocean City, Maryland, community to an international audience while reaching more fans across the globe.” 

Tournament directors expect the purse for this year’s event to be over $10 million, and have added a new $50,000 entry category. The new white marlin ‘Winner Take All’ entry category, also known as the “Anniversary Level,” will add to the millions of dollars already at stake for the heaviest white marlin. 

Additionally, for the third year in a row, Marlin Fest will coincide with the tournament—a free viewing event located on the beach at the Inlet featuring a festival-like atmosphere as well as real-time, unobstructed views of the live stream of the tournament weigh-ins via large screens. 

Held at the Inlet from 11 am to 9 pm each day of the tournament, the event welcomes families to bring beach chairs and blankets to spread out and enjoy live music and views of the anglers as they bring in their daily catches to nearby Harbour Island. Vendors will be onsite selling a variety of items including official Marlin Fest merchandise and White Marlin Open gear, as well as food and alcohol.  

This year, Marlin Fest will support the Ocean City Reef Foundation, an organization committed to the enhancement, and restoration, of Maryland’s seafloor by deploying reef substrates and monitoring coral coverage. The foundation’s goal is to build living reefs that will help bring back species of fish, lobsters, crab, and shrimp closer to shore.  

Marlin Fest is a free event, no ticket or registration is needed 

Anglers such as Kevin Hood of Anne Arundel County are also excited that the WMO is now part of a larger tournament circuit—which means larger prizes for the competing crews. “It gives some very good central coast billfish crews a chance to compete for a bigger prize,” says Hood who has competed in 17 of the previous 49 WMOs. Last year, 408 boats and over 3,500 contestants competed in the tournament.  

“It’s remarkable to reflect on 50 years of tournaments, especially back to our first event held in 1974. We drew 57 boats, and 150 anglers, and paid $20,000 in prize money,” stated Jim Motsko, founder of the White Marlin Open. “Fast-forward to today and we continue to stay true to our mission of world-class fishing, with our added entry categories more than doubling that initial payout in 1974.” 

The White Marlin Open invites anglers to donate their catch, making the WMO the largest supplier of protein to food pantries in Maryland annually. This year, the tournament will be partnering with Catch N Carry to clean, portion, flash freeze, and distribute donated fish directly to local food pantries throughout the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 

The event will be televised internationally, putting more eyes on the tournament and the local community. “To bring more people from the national tour and show them how much the locals get involved, the competitors, their sportsmanship and the spectators, will be very good,” adds Hood. “It makes good memories from a great sport.”  

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