The 47th Annual White Marlin Open will be held August 3rd – 7th. While organizers promise an enthusiastic tournament, they are indeed instituting numerous safety precautions to ensure the health of all attendees.
When the White Marlin Open first began in 1974, Jim Motsko had one core idea in mind – To do something that he loved, all while supporting himself and his family. Years prior, while working as a mate on the pier each summer to put himself through college, Motsko first found his love for offshore fishing. Following stints as a banker and then a real estate agent, he decided to start his own fishing tournament which unlike others, would have guaranteed prize money, allowing him to compete in other tournaments. Little did he know that over the next 47 years, the White Marlin Open would award more than $71 million and that it would become the world’s largest and richest billfish tournament.
Madelyne Rowan, who serves as Tournament Director and is the daughter of Motsko, is proud of how the event has grown throughout its history. With just 57 boats in 1974, participation has grown tremendously and reached 404 boats in 2019. Rowan credits much of the tournament’s expansion to the development of the Sunset Marina in 1998. “It enabled a lot more out of town boats to come. However, there is still a waiting list which already covers the next four years.”, said Rowan.
Another major development that has allowed the event to expand its reach is technology. The MarlinCam, which broadcasts the tournament live on the Internet, captured the attention of 350,000 people in 75 countries in 2019.
Highlight of the Summer
With thousands of spectators in Ocean City and across the globe, Rowan dubs the weekend of the White Marlin Open as the busiest time of the summer. “Every business owner tells us that it’s the best week. It brings people into town and there is excitement! There is a sense of comradery and people look forward to this every year. If you could put the excitement in a bottle and sell it, we would be millionaires.” This enthusiasm is integral for the 2020 tournament, as businesses work to encourage tourists to safely return to Ocean City.
Harborside and Seacrets are both sponsors of the tournament and welcome boaters and spectators to their restaurants. Scott Studds, General Manager of Seacrets said, “There are large crowds for the White Marlin Open, and that surely brings in bigger numbers of people for us.” The Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel, which also sponsors the event, provides lodging for many boaters and spectators each summer.
Besides having a great time, there is one thing that participants should keep in mind before heading out on the water. “Read the rules and be familiar with them. Please read them!”, said Rowan. Click here to read the 2020 Rules and Regulations.
While the tradition of the White Marlin Open will continue this year, Rowan and other organizers want to “provide spectators with an exciting experience in an environment that is socially responsible.” The White Marlin Open has been working with the Worcester County Health Department to ensure that everyone stays safe.
Harbour Island, the main site for the tournament, is typically flooded with spectators, but that will not be the case this summer. To limit and monitor the number of people at Harbour Island, wristbands will be issued every day. Signage encouraging social distancing will be posted and masks are recommended but not required. Spectators can also expect to see hand sanitizing stations. Lawn chairs will not be permitted, and while this rule is not new for 2020, it will be strictly enforced.
Signs are not the only way that organizers plan to encourage social distancing. Two large screens are typically located above the weigh-in station, but to naturally encourage social distancing, one of those screens will be moved to the south end of the tournament site.
To keep everyone healthy, Rowan shares a sentiment that has echoed throughout the world for months. “Please do your part. If you are feeling sick, do not come and watch online instead.”, said Rowan.
Added Location and Transportation
The White Marlin Open has considered expanding to another site in Ocean City for several years. Amidst the pandemic and a world of social distancing, 2020 is the perfect year to add a new site! “We’ve started a whole other event at the 3rd Street ballpark on the bayside and we will have official gear, vendors, light concessions, and we are going to have more large screens to show the tournament live.”, said Rowan. Lawn chairs and beach blankets are allowed at this location and Rowan adds that it is more family-friendly than Harbour Island.
Transportation from the convention center to Harbour Island will still be provided and shuttles will make an additional stop at 3rd Street.
Currently, 142 boats are already registered, which is 25 more than this time last year. The majority of boat owners register in-person right before the tournament, especially small boat owners, who pay closer attention to the weather forecast.
We can’t wait to see you in Ocean City for the 47th Annual White Marlin Open from August 3rd – 7th! Click here for more information.