Last weekend, a Maryland boat’s 640-pound blue marlin earned its anglers the biggest cash prize of any fish in history.
Over $10 million was up for grabs at the 50th Annual White Marlin Open in Ocean City, Maryland, but anglers were having a tough time landing fish that met the 114-inch minimum. Anglers caught 551 white marlin and 46 blue marlin throughout the course of the tournament, but only three were brought in and only two were weighed. One missed the cutoff by just two inches, which almost certainly lost those anglers millions of dollars.
Other anglers who didn’t make the cut included a little-known basketball player named Michael Jordan, who went after marlins from his 84-foot custom yacht cleverly titled Catch 23. This is just a guess, but I doubt His Airness does it for the prize money. But considering MJ’s legendary competitive streak (not to mention his gambling habits), I think it’s safe to say that the atmosphere on the boat was tense.
Anyway, on the last day of the tournament, the boat Floor Reel slid in with a fish that “left no doubt” about whether it would qualify, according to tournament officials. Caught by Maryland resident John Ols, the marlin measured 118 inches and weighed 640.5 pounds.
Because it was the only billfish that qualified for the entire tournament, it won all the prizes in that category, which totaled a whopping $6.2 million. Tournament officials say this is a new world record prize for the catch of a fish. The previous record, a measly $4.45 million, was won at this same tournament last year for a 77.5-pound white marlin.
Of course, you can’t have winners without losers. MJ was great, but he needed John Stockton and Karl Malone to beat in the finals every year (that’s a 90’s basketball reference for the kids out there). Even though Floor Real’s marlin was the only one to qualify, the tournament rules say that if no marlin are caught, the prize money goes to the heaviest tuna in that division. That means that before this marlin was brought in, the boat Ro Sham Bo was sitting on a $7.1 million prize for its 215-pound tuna. They still took home $1.7 million, but I can’t imagine their disappointment when Floor Reel sailed in with their catch.
The Ocean City White Marlin Open was first held in 1974. It’s known as one of the richest billfish tournaments in the world, but this year officials say anglers were particularly conservation minded. It is unusual that of the 605 billfish caught during the five-day tournament, all but three were released.
“With over $7 million of the total $10.5 million purse reserved for billfish, it was remarkable that not one boat brought a non-contender to the scale before the closing day on Friday,” according to a press release.