OCEAN CITY – ‘Wow’ is about the only way to describe the massive 1,062-pound blue marlin that stunned the big crowd at the 36th Annual White Marlin Open on Wednesday, toppling a state and tournament record that had stood for 20 years.
When angler Robert Ferris and the crew aboard the “No Problem” pulled into the marina at Harbour Island with the tail of a monster blue marlin hanging out of the bow of the boat, the big crowd sensed it was about to see something special. When the fish was hauled out of the cockpit of the “No Problem” and hoisted up the scale, it topped out at an amazing 1,062 pounds, upending a record that had stood since 1989.
Dr. Jim Daniel, fishing aboard the aptly named “Memory Maker” with Captain Marty Moran, set the previous tournament and state record back in 1989 with an amazing 942-pound blue marlin and it stood the test of time for 20 years, but the record finally came down on Wednesday night with the 1,062-pound caught by veteran angler Ferris and the crew aboard the “No Problem.” The blue marlin division was wide open going into Wednesday without a single qualifier weighed during the first two days of the tournament, but Farris and the “No Problem” crew all but settled the issue once and for all with the grander.
“No Problem” boat owner and veteran tournament angler Mark Becker said yesterday the huge blue marlin came up in the baits around 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday and took three hours and five minutes to get in the boat. The veteran “No Problem” crew, including Captain Skip Opalko and mates John Hurst and Scott Lawrence, had seen plenty of big blue marlin over the years and boated more than a couple, but Becker said they didn’t know just how momentous the catch would turn out to be.
“It did a little greyhounding, which was quite a spectacle, so we got a look at it early and knew right away it was something special,” he said. “We didn’t know exactly what we had until a couple hours later when we finally got it to the boat. It was a beautiful thing.”
With a seemingly unreachable 93-pound white marlin weighed on Tuesday, many of the boats fishing in the tournament on Wednesday rigged for blue marlin, which was still wide open without a single qualifier on the board. However, Becker and the “No Problem” crew were still going after a big white.
“Even though we knew that big 93-pound white was hanging, we were still going after white marlin,” he said. “That’s the big money fish. That’s what we were here for. We had two blue marlin lures out, but we were still looking for a bigger white.”
Becker said it would have been him in the chair and not Farris if it was not for a little last-minute wrangling with the angler rotation.
“Ironically, I was next in the rotation,” he said. “Bob had just caught a little mako, but I said that doesn’t count and he kept his place in the rotation. Not long after that, this big blue came up in the spread and the rest is history. It went down about eight times. It must have stripped off about 500 yards of line. We’d gain some ground on it and it would take off again. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime situations.”
Hooking the big blue marlin and finally getting it to the back of the boat was only half the battle. Hauling the beast aboard the 58-foot Viking presented its own challenges.
“It was a chain gang type of effort,” he said. “It just barely squeezed through the door. Once we got in on the boat, the beak was hanging over one gunnel [gunwale] and the tail was hanging over the other gunnel. It was an amazing spectacle.”
Naturally, the exhausted crew knew once the fish was in the boat they were about to do something special.
“Everybody was just elated, as you can imagine,” he said. “Everybody was just hooting and hollering. We had four boys on the boat from Arkansas and one of them had never been in the blue water before, much less seen a fish like this.”
Before the “No Problem” made its way into tournament headquarters, the news a big blue marlin was heading to the scale and already started to circulate. The buzz reached a crescendo when the “No Problem” pulled into the marina with the tail of the beast handing over the side.
“When they hoisted it up, the weighing station just about came over on top of us,” he said. “Everybody was going nuts. It seemed like we were movie stars for a while there.”
Captain Marty Moran, who was at the helm when Daniel and the crew on the “Memory Maker”, caught the previous state and tournament record in 1989, said yesterday he knew the day would come when the old mark fell. Moran was in the crowd at Harbour Island on Wednesday and made his way up front to greet the new record-holders.
“Twenty years is a long, long time, but I think this record will stand for a lot longer,” he said. “You never know. There are a lot of big fish out there, but as these numbers get larger, the chances of breaking the record get harder. Who knows, somebody might go out there and find one bigger today, or tomorrow, or even next year.”
Moran said yesterday he was sorry to see the record fall, but had nothing but admiration and respect for Farris and crew on the “No Problem.”
“We would have loved to have held onto the record, but any time somebody goes out and catches a fish like this, it’s a monumental occasion,” he said. “Most people will never see a fish like this in the wild in their lifetime, much less hook it up and actually boat it. It’s a special fish and we tip our hats to them.”
At 1,062 pounds, the big blue earned a special place in White Marlin Open folklore, but Moran speculated it was likely much bigger before it was boated and ultimately weighed.
“Our fish might have been a grander,” he said. “You lose a certain number of pounds per hour and we had ours on the boat for four or five hours. By the same token, the big blue caught yesterday might have 1,100 pounds or more before they got it to the scale.”
A large part of big game sportfishing is being in the right place at the right time, but Moran discounted any notion the big blue marlin caught by Farris and the “No Problem” crew had anything to do with luck.
“Luck is the perfect combination of opportunity and preparation,” he said. “A lot of people might get the opportunity, but their gear isn’t quite right, or their knots don’t hold, or the boat handling let’s them down or any number of things. Other people might have the preparation side all tight, but never get the opportunity. It cuts both ways, and to have both sides of the equation fall into place is pretty special.”