A couple of years before America entered the Second World War after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Ocean City to do a little fishing. He obviously had a great time, leaving the resort and dubbing it the “White Marlin Capital of the World.”
That moniker stuck for a while and was used from time to time in promotional literature, but it took on a whole new meaning in 1974 when a group of local fisherman decided they wanted to introduce a new event to the summertime calendar.
The first White Marlin Open was a reasonably modest affair, drawing just 57 boats to Ocean City. Compare that to the 45th event in 2018, when 382 fishing boats descended on the resort for a chance to win their share of a prize pool that topped $5 million.
Winning in 2018 was Pascual Jimenez from Mexico, whose winning catch was a white marlin weighing in at 83 pounds. The fish paid the Mexican fisherman a record breaking $2.58 million.
The White Marlin Open has become one of the highlights of the season in Ocean City, along with other notable events like Springfest, Sunfest and the newly created Jellyfish Music Festival.
It’s become so popular that the 2019 tournament will include a first-time entrant – the legendary Michael Jordan and his “Catch 23” Viking yacht will be sailing the waters off Ocean City this year in search of a prize-winning catch.
Delmarva Now Photo
The five-day fishing tournament has given and continues to give a major financial boost to the resort city, with thousands of fishermen and often their families eating, sleeping and having fun in coastal Maryland.
In an economic impact report prepared by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development a few years ago, they found that the White Marlin Open contributed $16 million to the local economy during the first week of August. This figure was determined through data collected from various sources and measured local expenditures during the five days of the tournament.
And the event has continued to grow since that study was completed in 2010, so obviously the economic impact has continued to climb as well. It trickles down everywhere, from bars and restaurants, to grocery stores, gas stations and many more local businesses.
But the fishermen aren’t worried about the money they’re spending, they’re much more concerned with the money they might be able to win each year in what has long been referred to as the “Super Bowl of Sport Fishing.”
With the huge amount of money on the line, however, there is inevitably going to be those who try to cheat. Organizers have taken note of this as well and instituted new rules aimed at detecting this type of activity.
The most notable is one that was put in place about 15 years ago, which requires anyone winning more than $50,000 to submit to a polygraph before being able to collect their prize.
So how exactly do you cheat in a fishing tournament anyway? Well, it’s been done in many different ways over the years, some caught and some not.
Some of the more popular illegal tactics include rigging illegal lures, stuffing catches with ice or sinkers to add weight to the fish, beginning before the official start of the tournament and even, believe or not, competitors claiming that a fish pre-purchased from a commercial trawler was their own.
That last one actually happened, hand to God!
The 2019 White Marlin Open in Ocean City begins on Monday, August 5, and runs through Friday, August 9. You can read much more on this year’s tournament, as well as previous ones, by visiting www.whitemarlinopen.com.