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Remembering first White Marlin Open

By Phil Jacobs



Okay, so it’s not like I was there with the founding fathers or anything.

But I do take a special interest in this year’s 41st White Marlin Open, because I was there for the very first one in 1974.

I was the sports editor of the Eastern Shore Times and the Beachcomber, and I can remember meeting with tournament founder Jim Motsko. There was a White Marlin banner created and he told me then about the excitement this tournament would create. Don’t forget, this was long before the Internet, and the ways of marketing sometimes came down to posters, banners and T-Shirts. Now you use your favorite search engine, and there’s an ocean’s worth of White Marlin Open information available.

Back then, the grand prize was $20,000. Now the winnings can literally reach into the millions of dollars. Just over 50 boats participated back then with last year’s total reaching 262.

Vince Soranson’s 68.5-pound white marlin was the tournament winner. He also caught the tournament’s heaviest tuna at 19 pounds.

Now that the White Marlin Open has grown to become one of Ocean City’s major summer events and attractions, it just reminds me of what life was like back in 1974.

My editor then was Gee Williams, now Berlin’s mayor. I was an intern in between my junior and senior year at the University of Maryland, College Park. I was more accustomed to covering the Terps’ basketball team playing on “Tobacco Road” and the then national champion lacrosse squad. But here in Ocean City I was to be the sports editor of the two publications.

So in my world of covering basketball, football and lacrosse for the University of Maryland, I thought I’d pretty much be covering restaurant softball leagues and rec lacrosse here.

There was some of that, yes.

But on the first day of my new job, Gee presented me with two items. One was a list of phone numbers of guys to call at various fishing tackle shops. The other item was a wall-sized map of fishing locations Ocean City fishermen frequent. There went my Baltimore Orioles poster I was going to tack on the wall.  Instead, I was instructed to learn the names and locations of places like Jack Spot, the Washington and Baltimore Canyons, the Twin Wrecks and other offshore fishing hot spots.

I also decided to go visit the owners of the tackle shops so that I could introduce myself as someone who would be entirely reliant on their information.  By the end of the summer internship, I knew more about the hoochie lure than anyone back home in Baltimore would care to discuss.

And I remember asking fisherman very seriously “what color hoochie did you catch the fish you caught?”

On a couple of occasions, I went out on the fishing boats and did my level best not to get nauseous looking through the viewfinder of a single lens camera while the guy in the fighting chair was pulling in a silvery game fish with the help of a first mate.

There was a day when I would meet a Captain Guy at 4 a.m. for an entire day of actually going to Jacks Spot or one of the canyons. He was hosting a couple of men who had hoped to catch tuna that day.

I don’t remember much about the actual fishing. What I marveled at was Capt. Guy’s incredible knowledge of fishing, the ocean and mostly his common sense outlooks on life. He took us far out into the ocean where we saw two fishing factory vessels, one from an Asian country, and the other from the former Soviet Union. Capt. Guy pointed his binoculars towards them and told me to take a look. He was so angry at what he saw. There were huge nets being pulled in and men in yellow hard hats scurrying around the two gigantic ships, literally yanking out of the ocean anything and everything.

Being with him as we would eventually turn back towards Ocean City was an experience I cherish to this day. Capt. Guy used to take out celebrities fishing for the show “A

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