The catch that won this year’s White Marlin Open was nearly 23 pounds shy of breaking the tournament record, but the angler who caught it probably couldn’t care less. The fish netted its captor nearly $3 million in prize money. The “catch?” It was the only white marlin caught in the tournament that qualified.
Phil Heasley and the Kallianassa were up from Naples, Florida, to fish the tournament in Ocean City, Maryland. He landed his 76½-pound white marlin on August 9, the second of the five-day event. It didn’t even approach the record 99-pound white marlin caught by Steve Bass in 1980, but that’s not the point—no one else did, either. None of the other marlin caught were heavy enough to even qualify for the weigh-in, so Heasley won by default.
The WMO’s tournament rules came into play and brought an incredible finale for Heasley. Since no one else could place in second or third, he got to take all three prize monies home. His total winnings came to $2,818,660.
Strangely enough, even though no one else could compete with Heasley for first place, there were more billfish, and specifically white marlin, caught in this Open than in any of its previous 42 years. Over five days of fishing, 329 registered boats hooked into 1,412 billfish, 1,358 of which were white marlin. However, of those 1,358, only 23 were boated.