John Ols, a resident of Laytonsville, Maryland, brought home the big bucks and a world record when he reeled in a tournament-winning marlin, weighing in at 640 pounds during the 50th annual White Marlin Open in Ocean City, Maryland, on Aug. 11. Ols, fishing on the boat Floor Reel, won $6.2 million out of a $10 million purse for his massive fish, setting a new world record for highest payout prize in a fishing tournament—ever.
The previous record-holding purse was $4.45 million, awarded at last year's White Marlin Open to another local boat. This is the third year in a row that an Ocean City boat has won the tournament, which is billed as the "World's Largest and Richest Billfish Tournament." It's easy to see why with that amount of prize money on the line for such big fish.
Interestingly, Ols whopper of a billfish was actually the only one that even qualified during the competition: The 400 boats caught 605 billfish, and 602 of these fish were released for not meeting the size qualifications.
Only two billfish besides Ols' winner were brought to the scales. Another boat, The Skirt Chaser, missed qualifying with a 67.5-pound white marlin that met the 70-inch standard but not the 70-pound minimum; while No Limit brought in a blue marlin that missed the 114-inch minimum length by 2 inches.
Ol's winning marlin, brought in on the last day of the tournament, was measured at 118 inches; and its impressive, 640-pound weight beat last year's biggest blue marlin by over 100 pounds. Because it was the only qualifying billfish, it was awarded most of the purse reserved for white and blue marlin, bumping up the winnings to astronomical levels.
Marlin are considered to be overfished and endangered. Releasing marlins that don't qualify for tournaments, rather than bringing them to the scales, helps the population stay healthy.
The White Marlin Open applauded the anglers in a news release, saying that they were "most conservation-minded group that has ever fished the Open or any other billfish tournament in recent memory."
While 6 million dollars is a heckuva big prize, according to the White Marlin Open, if Floor Reel hadn't brought in its marlin, an even bigger prize would have been awarded—$7.1 million—to a 215-pound tuna caught by Rusty Shriver on the RoShamBo, another Ocean City boat.
Buried deep in the rule book is a contingency for awarding prize money from categories that are not won. If no billfish had qualified, the marlin prize money would have rolled over into the tuna category. Instead, RoShamBo walked away with $1.7 million.
Prizes are also awarded for whoever releases the most marlin, with Brian Demile on the boat Trash Man taking home the top prize in that category.