Last week I brought you bros an extensive recap of the 2016 White Marlin Open in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s White Marlin Open saw the largest purse of any fishing tournament in history, with the winning boat taking home a grand prize of $2.819 million.
Contradictory to the tournament’s name there was only ONE white marlin brought to the scales at this year’s White Marlin Open. Angler Phil Heasley aboard the vessel Kallianassa weighed a 76.5-pound white marlin. This relatively average/small fish was good enough to take home that grand prize of $2.819 million for the Kallianassa crew and all was fine and dandy until late last week when the tournament’s officials announced they were investigating ‘suspected rules violations’ and the millions of dollars were being withheld from the Kallianassa Fishing Team.
The White Marlin Open officials haven’t yet released the specific nature of the ‘suspected rules violations’ but they have gone public with this, and are now conducting a full investigation before any money is paid out. Under the White Marlin Open’s official tournament rules any prize paying out over $50,000 may include a polygraph test for every member of the fishing team, so I think it’s safe to assume that everyone aboard the Kallianassa will soon be taking a lie detector test (not that polygraph tests are even accurate).
On Thursday, White Marlin Open President James Motsko released this statement:
“Tournament directors, in coordination with the independent judges in the tournament, have made the determination to withhold the winning prize until it can be ensured that the prize is being paid to the proper recipient thereof,”.
That statement was followed up by this one on Friday:
“Today, Friday August 26, White Marlin Open, Inc. filed a Complaint for Interpleader in the Circuit Court for Worcester County, Maryland. By doing this the tournament directors seek to have a formal court proceeding in which a judge will determine the issues as to which angler or anglers will receive the prize.”
In doing this the White Marlin Open essentially absolves themselves of blame in the eyes of anglers. If they were to make a judgment on this record $2.819 million grand prize themselves it could potentially tarnish their credibility in the eyes of anglers for future tournaments, but by passing this over to the local circuit courts they will be receiving an official judgment by a Court of Law and as of this moment the tournament prize pool no longer belongs to the White Marlin Open officials, it’s now with the courts.
Make no mistakes about it, this is the BIGGEST SCANDAL to ever rock the fishing world. In fact, Florida-based author Carl Hiassen has a book titled ‘Double Whammy’ that’s almost mirroring the plot of this scandal (or so we think). In ‘Double Whammy’ ($8 on Amazon, there’s not too many great fishing books out there!) there’s a bass fishing tournament scandal in which an angler is hiding a massive bass out in a lake to later pull up out of a trap and make it look like he caught the lunker of a lifetime. Now, I’m not at all implying that’s what the crew of the Kallianassa did, I’m just using this as an example of free the world of fishing has been from scandal until now (it’s mostly appeared in literature).
Lastly, as far as I can tell this judgment on the Kallianassa rules infraction doesn’t affect any of the other anglers in the tournament. So the crew aboard the Hubris still takes home $767,091.00 for their 236.5-pound Big Eye Tuna:
According to DelawareOnline.com there are 13 anglers in line to receive the $2.819 million grand prize should it not ultimately go to the Kallianassa. And Naples-based angler Phil Heasley, the man who reportedly caught the winning 76.5-pound white marlin released a statement last week claiming that there was absolutely zero wrongdoing, via NaplesNews.com:
“The Kallianassa’s excellent crew and superb captain have always maintained the highest levels of integrity; they will be vindicated and walking tall in the fishing community,” Heasley said in a prepared statement.
Neither Heasley nor event officials gave specifics as to nature of the violation. Heasley did not respond to multiple voicemails seeking further comment.
As you can see I’ve taken a strong interest in this scandal, and as more details emerge over the coming days/weeks/months I’ll be sure to update you bros on the nature of the rules infraction and where the largest grand prize in tournament fishing history ends up.
To see more photos of the fish caught in the 2016 White Marlin Open you can just follow that link!