UPDATE: WMO prize money withheld pending investigation

Photo credit: White Marlin Open

Two weeks after an angler caught the only qualifying white marlin during the 43rd annual billfish tournament, officials announce the cash prize would be withheld pending an investigation.

Phil Heasley, an angler on the Kallianassa, caught a 76.5 pound white marlin which would be the one and only qualifying fish for the division on August 9. It would eventually end up being worth 2.8 million dollars in cash prizes.

In a statement published on their website, officials with the White Marlin Open now say the money is being withheld because of a possible violation rules; however, they would not specify exactly what the violation was.

John Lewis, a lifelong resident of West Ocean City, tells 47ABC he’s not surprised to hear the prize is being questioned.

“When you got 2.8 million dollars being awarded, you always know somebody’s going to be questioning and asking questions,” says Lewis.

He tells 47ABC he supports the directors’ decision.

“Knowing the tournament directors, whatever, they’re just trying to do their due diligence to make sure the money’s properly awarded and everything’s fair and maintain the credibility for the tournament,” he explains. “I know they try very hard to keep that and they always have.”

A full statement from tournament president James Motsko reads:

“On August 9, the winning angler in the White Marlin Category, provided catch information for the white marlin which, as it turned out, would be the sole qualifying white marlin in the tournament.

Subsequent investigation as required by the Rules & Regulations of the White Marlin Open indicated a possible violation of the rules.  Accordingly in an effort to achieve utmost fairness, the White Marlin Open Directors met with the independent Judges and complete information was provided to the Judges for their input with regard to the issue of the potential violation of rules.

After much discussion, and providing evidence of the possible violation of the tournament rules, the Judges agreed that the prize would not be awarded to the boat catching the qualifying white marlin, but would, in accordance with the rules of the tournament, be withheld pending the determination of the proper recipient of the prize money.

The White Marlin Open strives to obtain the highest integrity and level of transparency in fairness in all of its award and determination of adherence to the Rules & Regulations in all cases.  It is for these reasons that the Tournament Directors, in coordination with the independent Judges in the tournament, have made the determination to withhold the winning prize until it can be ensured that the prize is being paid to the proper recipient thereof.”

Officials say no other comments will be made at this time.

Categories: Local News, Maryland