Ocean City’s 47th White Marlin Open, the world’s largest billfish tournament, has officially begun with record turnout despite two significant forces of nature working against it.
An unprecedented 433 boats are entered to fish for a world record purse of $6.7 million, compared to 404 boats and a $6.1 million purse last year. And among the 433 boats is Catch 23, basketball legend Michael Jordan’s 80-foot Viking sportfisher.
Jordan was the talk of Ocean City when he entered his boat in last year’s tournament. Catch 23 has already competed in one mid-Atlantic marlin tournament this summer, as Bay Bulletin reported in June.
This bigger-than-ever White Marlin Open comes with some concessions to the coronavirus pandemic as well as Tropical Storm Isaias, which traveled up the Atlantic Coast Monday night into Tuesday with minimal aftermath in Ocean City.
To allow for safe distancing, spectators aren’t allowed at the docks this year for the tournament’s popular weigh-ins, which usually draw 5,000 people each night. Instead, the tournament has opened a new family-friendly viewing site at the 3rd Street Bayside Ballpark that will show the live stream of the weigh-ins. Dubbed “Marlin Village,” the 3rd Street location sells White Marlin Open merchandise and hosts other vendors. It will be open through Friday.
In light of early storm predictions, the tournament’s fishing days were extended by two days, allowing boats to fish through Sunday. Boats will still be allowed to fish on any three out of the seven days.
Some of 2019’s biggest success stories are returning for the 2020 White Marlin Open, including Top Boat Big Deal out of Brielle, New Jersey and runner-up Uno Mas. Top money winner Fish Whistle from Indian River, Delaware, which won more than $1.5 million for a white marlin, will also be back.
While there is no public viewing site open on Saturday and Sunday, you can watch the live webcam at https://whitemarlinopen.com/. Winners will be announced Sunday evening, wrapping up around 9:15 p.m.
-Meg Walburn Viviano