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A Captain’s Pre- Game

Preparing for the White Marlin Open is no Game

“Failing to prepare means preparing to fail” seems to be the motto of many, if not all fishing boat captains during the White Marlin Open. Captain Dave Midgett of All In is no exception.

Midgett explains, “We go from charter mode to tournament mode.” From the beginning of summer until now, All In has been focused on charter fishing and catching large tuna. But once the second week of August approaches, captains literally do a one-eighty and channel their focus to monster billfish.

All In settles at White Marlin Marina waiting to tackle the WMO

How It Starts

To register in the tournament boat owners, captains, and anglers must first decide which fish categories they will be aiming for. Whether it’s the largest tuna, heaviest fish, or the elusive qualifying white marlin, captains can enter the tournament for the small sum of $1,200. However, as each additional category is entered, the fee increases dramatically. With an all-in (all categories) entry into the tournament, boats can plan to pay up to $57,000.

Ready, Set, Reel

In preparation for the largest billfish tournament in the world, seasoned captains like Midgett begin to prepare all rods and reels by restringing all rods that will be used in the tournament. Some are prepped well in advance and stored, while others are used up until the day before and must be restrung at the last minute. All old tackle is swapped out for new. And then the real fun begins…

Ballyhoo after being prepped.

Breaking Bait

Since live bait is not allowed in the tournament, small frozen ballyhoo is bought and then thawed. Captains and mates proceed to prep the ballyhoo by making a few adjustments. First the fish are squeezed from the face to the tail on the underside to excrete anything in the fish’s belly.  Their backs are broken in half so that they emulate live bait while trolling. And lastly, the eyeballs are removed from their sockets so that anglers are able to string and rig them more easily. Midgett explained that they will prep between 50 and 100 ballyhoo that will hopefully last them for two days. If all the ballyhoo are not used on the first trip out to sea, ballyhoo can be soaked in a salty brine solution to keep them fresh and ready for the next trip.


Though bait is an important part of the fishing process, so is technology. Not only are captains setting their Garmin GPS’ and navigation tools towards the canyons, they’re continuously checking weather apps on their phones. Who knew? While the everyday weather app on an ordinary I-phone will suffice to see if a sunny beach day is ahead of you, it doesn’t show the weather offshore. After chatting with Midgett, he was able to show on his phone the weather offshore, which was very different from the weather shown here in Ocean City. “Just because it’s sunny here in town, it doesn’t mean it’s not raining where we’re headed. And vise versa.” On days where Ocean City shows partial rain, the weather at Poor Man’s Canyon may be crystal clear with bright blue skies. Apps like Windy and Wind Finder are commonly used.

Check Them Out

Two weeks ago, Captain Dave Midgett of All In Fishing Charters placed third in the heaviest tuna category. His hope is to land the winning marlin and reel in some big time money during this year’s White Marlin Open. When “tournament mode” returns to “charter mode” you can catch a charter with Midgett out of White Marlin Marina. They’re on the more affordable side of the charters costing about $2,500 with a 6-person limit. You’ll enjoy a 12 hour charter with a knowledgeable and experienced captain that is no stranger to the tournament podium. For more information on All In Fishing Charters check out https://www.allinsportfishingoc.com/.

All In charging the wide open ocean.

A special thank you to the owners of All In, Mike Waclawski and Brian Logue. And the best of luck to Captain David Midgett and anglers Scott and Mike Watson, Walt and Ryan Horseman, and Ray Shue.

Katie Ruskey
Katie Ruskeyhttp://kruskeyauthor.com
Katie Ruskey is a local author, splitting her time between Baltimore and Ocean City. Her debut fiction novel, Marlin Week, was released in August 2022 based on three captains that fish in the infamous White Marlin Open. Her first children's book, The A B Seas of Ocean City, Maryland takes young readers on a tour of OC. For more information on how to purchase her books, visit her website www.kruskeyauthor.com or follow her on IG/FB at Katherine Ruskey Author.

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