It’s that time of year in Ocean City, Md.—White Marlin Open week. This year, a record 408 boats registered, and that’s pushing the purse higher than ever—to a staggering $8.6 million.
The tournament got underway early Monday morning, when 292 crews went out fishing on the tournament’s first day. Conditions were very rocky in the ocean to start the week, with boats reporting 8-10-foot waves and seasick crew members. A number of tuna were weighed at the scales, but none of the tournament’s namesake marlin.
Tuesday, by contrast, only 15 boats were fishing with big waves predicted. With so many boats taking the day off, the water is expected to get crowded for the rest of the week.
The fans at Harbor Island and MarlinFest and those streaming the weigh-ins from home will watch the tournament play out with some interesting stories behind some of the competitors.
Of course, Michael Jordan’s head-turning boat Catch 23 is fishing again this year. It briefly held the third-place tuna on Monday. Also catching qualifying tunas on Monday were two anglers, ages 13 and 16!
An inspirational competitor is the crew on Still Reelin’. Their previous boat, Knot Stressin’, sank offshore during last year’s White Marlin Open and everyone aboard was rescued by another competitor. You may recall the dramatic video from Bay Bulletin. We spoke to the boat’s captain Bryan Martz, who was determined to return to the tournament this year.
“I purchased a used Albemarle 360 Express…over the winter offseason, members of the crew and I outfitted her with the gear we needed. Our crew is back minus one who is injured and cannot participate.”
The crew dealt with many obstacles this past year beyond losing their boat in the ocean in 2021, from deaths of loved ones to major surgeries. Their families are supporting their dream to come back to the WMO.
Martz says the aptly named Still Reelin’ weighed in a 56-pound yellowfin tuna Monday, but the fish didn’t place. “Perhaps our White Marlin Open story has been completed just yet. So, we will be out twice more during this White Marlin Open and together, we will never give up,” Martz tells us.
Serving to inspire the crew of Still Reelin’ and all 407 other boats is a new White Marlin Open anthem, released by award-winning country singer Jimmy Charles.
Charles, an Eastern Shore native with family in Ocean City, released the single the first day of the tournament. Proclaimed to be the official song of the White Marlin Open, “F.I.S.H. O.N.” includes a line about making a million dollars on the water—appropriate for the world’s richest billfish tournament. You can listen to his song below:
The competing anglers can fish for a total of three out of the five days of the White Marlin Open. With such a slow Day 2, a lot of boats are sure to be out Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with the possibility of some wild finishes. You can follow along live on the MarlinCam here.
-Meg Walburn Viviano