OCEAN CITY, Md. - With bait, tackle, and fishing rod in hand over 80 fishermen set sail in Ocean City Sunday for the 30th annual OC Tuna Tournament.
"Since '08, since everyone hit that little recession, we've been slowly building back up. We've had numbers in the past over 100 but it's been a while getting back and seems like everybody's back into the game now and fishing a lot," explains Rolfe Gudelsky of the OC Fishing Center.
It's not just the entries that are piling up but the money too. This year the purse is $785,000, up $100,000 from last year.
And that prize is reeling in some serious competitors.
"We're seeing a lot more traveling teams popping up here and over at sunset. The competition level's gone way up...a lot of our homegrown guys are doing really well in it. We also see guys coming up from the Carolinas or coming down from Jersey and stuff like that because of the money in the tournament."
But the homegrown talent and the prize weren't always a highlight.
Some in the City, like local legend Captain Ron, say that the tournament was very different when it first started.
"In the early years it was more for local people and we didn't have the large marinas here like we have now so you knew everybody that was in the tournament. Today we're not sure who's in and who's not in because there's such a variance of different boats around," explains Ron.
Captain Ron says the event has evolved into a tournament that draws skilled fishermen, amateurs and kids.
The big reason is a new rule that allows several people to reel in tuna.
"In the past that hasn't been the case...if anyone touched the rod then you would be disqualified so now you got to bring it in and anybody on the boat you can take turns so that makes it more interesting for inexperienced people."
But regardless of the big bucks that can come with winning the tournament, we're told its also about the experience.
Captain Ron says, "There's naturally the money involved but it's also the prestige of winning the tournament and seeing if you can beat the guy that's got the boat next to you."
The tournament's expansion is also helping local business.
The Ocean City Fishing Center tells us that this has become the second largest tournament based out of Ocean City.
This helps attract tourists and visitors and keeps local shops busy.
Captain Ron explains, "The average boat has six anglers, the captain and mate, that's 8 people... you know everyone's got to stay some place and everybody's got to eat so it's big money. Plus, with what the boats spend just getting ready and with the fuel... fuel's expensive and you're going to burn hundreds of gallons a day to go out there and fish so yeah that brings a lot of money into the economy."
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