Summer in Ocean City, Md. means the arrival of the world-famous White Marlin Open. In the offshore fishing tournament’s 49th year, organizers predict the prize purse will exceed $10 million for the first time ever.
The White Marlin Open (WMO) still claims the title of largest billfish tournament in the world (with 444 boats competing in 2021) and 2021’s $9.2 million payout was a world record. The 2022 tournament will be held August 8-12 and hundreds of boats are expected again this year.
While the tournament format hasn’t changed, there are some shifts that will make for interesting fishing. First, the shark division is eliminated because of new federal regulations on sharks.
In its place, a swordfish category has been added, as swordfishing increases in popularity. To fuel some competition in this new division, a “heaviest swordfish winner-take-all” entry level has been added.
Smaller boats will get to engage in the action more this year, with a new “daily billfish points added entry level”. That means boats under 40 feet LOA will have a special category to reward their billfish catch-and-releases.
Finally, the competition hours are expanded by 30 minutes. Anglers will get an extra half hour to fish, with lines and teasers allowed in the water starting at 8 a.m.
For fans, Marlin Fest is back on this year. This spectator festival was created as a social distancing solution during the pandemic, when it wasn’t safe for big crowds to gather at the scales at Harbour Island. It was so popular it’s become a recurring event. The free festival will stream the weigh-ins live each day on a Jumbotron on the beach at the Ocean City Inlet.
Tournament organizers say the WMO wouldn’t be what it is without its fans and followers.
“From the early risers who watch the boats pass through the inlet, to the crowds that flock to Harbour Island to watch the nightly weigh-ins, the spectators add an element of excitement found in no other fishing tournament in the world,” says tournament Director Madelyne Rowan.
While some will choose to watch the weigh-ins at Harbour Island, fans at Marlin Fest will enjoy daily live entertainment, food and drinks, vendors, beach tennis and cornhole tournaments. The part goes on daily from 1-9 p.m.
Find out more about plans for the White Marlin Open and updates on the boats registered at whitemarlinopen.com.
-Meg Walburn Viviano