OCEAN CITY -- For 80 minutes yesterday evening, Ernie Duckett thought he had caught a $71,000 fish. Then Bob Bell showed up at the scales of the White Marlin Open.
Not only had Bell caught a larger white marlin, but it also stands to be worth more money -- roughly $120,000 more.
Oddly enough, Duckett and Bell had the first two boats to the scales on the first day of the open, and the anglers on the other 219 boats entered may end up chasing them through the final weigh-ins Friday.
"This is the first time I have fished Ocean City this year," said Duckett, of Edgewater. "And to get something like this right off the bat is great. Now, the pressure is on everybody else. They can chase us for a while."
The chase was short-lived, with Bell checking in an 80.5-pound white marlin that outstripped Duckett's catch by 9.5 pounds.
Bell, who owns auto dealerships in the Baltimore area, said his white marlin was taken at Baltimore Canyon.
"We caught it at 8:47 this morning, almost as soon as we had the lines in the water," said Bell, who for the past several years has passed up this tournament in favor of fishing out of Jupiter, Fla. "But it was a great day, and with a little luck it will hold up through the week."
If Bell's white marlin isn't surpassed by another catch by then, he figures to win more than $200,000.
Bell and Duckett offer a contrast in styles at the Open, and that is what many anglers feel makes this a popular tournament.
Duckett is fishing from Capt. Dave Mueller's Fandango, an Albemarle 27 based in the Ocean City Fishing Center.
Bell is operating from the Shamrock, a 50-foot plus sportfisherman refurbished in a grand manner.
"But in this tournament everybody is pretty much equal," said Bell. "You don't need the Shamrock to win this thing. "A guy with a smaller budget and a smaller boat has just as good a chance."
The third-place white marlin was caught by Ron Belcher aboard the Prime Time.
They were the only three white marlin checked in that met the 65-pound minimum.
"But it has been a long time since we have had three such fish checked in on one day of the Open," said tournament director Chuck Motsko. "Last year, I think we had only three through the whole five days."
The competition in the tuna class was equal to that in the marquee white marlin class.
Immediately after Bell checked in his marlin, Victor Carbone of Shadyside came to the scales in the Parthenon with a 246.5-pound bigeye tuna caught at Poorman's Canyon after a four-hour battle.
But Carbone was knocked from the lead within an hour by Richard Joy, who checked in a bigeye weighing 266.5 pounds.
Joy, a former mate in this tournament, caught his tuna south of Norfolk Canyon.
"The boats that had the most success today went either north to Baltimore Canyon or south toward Norfolk Canyon," said open president Jim Motsko.
White marlin -- 1. Bob Bell, Shamrock, 80.5 pounds; 2. Ernie Duckett, Fandange, 71 pounds; 3. Ron Belcher, Prime Time, 67 pounds.
Blue marlin -- none weighed.
Tuna -- 1. Richard Joy, No Strings II, 266.5 pounds; 2. Victor Carbone, Parthenon, 246.5 pounds; 3. Sid Brown, C-Larke, 97 pounds.
Dolphin -- 1. Buddy Pierce, Double Dribble, 22 pounds, 2. Carlos Bentos, Caribena, 21 pounds. (no third place).
Wahoo -- none weighed.
Shark -- none weighed.