44th White Marlin Open wraps up Friday

OCEAN CITY, Md. - The 44th White Marlin Open kicked off this week in Ocean City. It was a record year in many ways.

The 353 boats in the largest bill fishing tournament on the east cost is a record and so is the prize money: nearly $5 million, $4.97 million to be exact.

All that to catch a fish.

"And it gets exciting. $4.97 million up for grabs and we all want a peace of that," said owner of Haulin' N Ballin' out of Ocean City, Aaron Jezierski.

He and about 3,000 other anglers are looking for a piece of the prize money and to get a piece of the $5 million in prize money you can't be faint of heart or faint of wallet. Just to gas up you boat for one day can cost $1,700 to $2,000 and then you have to take care expenses for the crew.

"To take the boat out, to have the captain, mates, prep for the week is $10 to $12 thousand," Jezierski said.

On board the Haulin' N Ballin', Jezierski has brought in  world renown captain, Howard Lynch. Lynch splits his time fishing in the Atlantic and off of Costa Rica.

Also from Costa Rica is mate Bryant Gonzales. He was flown in for his expertise. Tyler Green is the other mate, he's from Millersville.

"This is the Superbowl of tournaments, there's no tournament bigger," Green said.

There are different categories of fish, marlin, dolphin, tuna, Wahoo and all come with different pay outs.

Wednesday the boat Intents brought in the biggest tuna at 68 pounds. It's still the biggest tuna and it could be worth $460,000.

Van Wichers was on the boat the captured the tuna,.

"A lot of fishing left to do, hopefully it holds up," he said.

The tournament runs from Monday to Friday. You can only fish three of the five days and the last fish must weigh in by 9:15 p.m. Friday.

With nearly $5 million of prize money on the table, there are a lot of rules and regulation each boat must adhere to to make sure each angler is on the up and up.

"You can't put you lines in before 8:30 and they have to be out by 3:30 in the afternoon, "Jezierski said. "You have check in times and then they sit you down and they hear your story and they polygraph test you to make sure it was a legitimate team effort that abided by all the rules."

Last year four people polygraphed on the winning boat failed that exam and $2.8 million was taken away and divided up amongst the other winners.

Most anglers are happy for the strict rules.

"That brings the credibility, that brings what a true honest sportsman is but, nobody's going to hand you a $5 million check unless they know for sure that it happened the way that they mandated it," Jezierski said.

Mate Tyler Green says,"...and when you come tight on that fish, you never know it could be worth $3 million. It could be a big life changer when you get it."

Haulin' N Baulin' caught four fish Friday. The winners will be announced Saturday.

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