84-pounder good to end: $1.34M

1st-day white marlin catch holds up for grand prize

Outdoors

August 07, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

OCEAN CITY - First, Brett Jamison stunned himself and his crew by catching the big fish before his competition had really gotten started. Then, he had to endure four long, anxious days, wondering if his work would remain unsurpassed.

Last night, Jamison finally could relax and celebrate after walking away from the 31st White Marlin Open with an estimated $1.34 million for his trouble. Jamison, 25, of Virginia Beach, Va., an angler aboard the Canyon Express, earned a record-breaking prize in what is believed to be the largest, most lucrative billfish tournament in the world by hooking an 84-pound white on Monday.

For Jamison, a professional fisherman competing in his first White Marlin Open, it was a magical week. His seven-man crew took the Canyon Express 86 miles out into the Norfolk Canyon. By midday, they had their huge catch. It was the first fish weighed in the tournament.

"Less than a half a day of fishing. Unbelievable. The first fish weighed wins it overall? No, no, no. That's scary," said Jamison, whose nerves were tested for the rest of the week. "Today was the worst."

Hundreds of cheering spectators who had either lined up along the dock or watched the scene from condominium balconies at Harbour Island Marina cheered as Jamison was introduced as the winner. He caught the sixth-heaviest white in the tournament's history and the heaviest in 23 years.

As for what he intends to do with the money, which he said will be split five ways, Jamison said, "[I'm going to] pay off my condo, buy a nice truck and invest the rest of it. I don't think I have to eat ramen noodles anymore between jobs."

Jamison, who beat out Craig Williams of Hampstead - he earned about $90,800 by catching a 71.5 pound white on the Muff Diver - set the tone for a week that featured a parade of big fish.

Allen Roys of Stevensville blew away the field in the blue marlin category and won an estimated $360,000 by hooking an 895-pounder on the Reel Toy on Thursday, marking the second-largest blue in tournament history. Roys easily eclipsed the 640-pounder caught by Walter Johnson III of Medford, N.J., aboard the Anthracite.

Gregory DiGiovanni of Baltimore won the wahoo category ($4,000) by hooking a fish that weighed 108.5 pounds, the second largest in tournament history. Jack Dougherty of Philadelphia took first place ($100,000) by catching a 163-pound tuna.

The weather made for some uneven fishing throughout the week. The nearby presence of Hurricane Alex affected the first part of the competition. On Tuesday, just 46 of the tournament's 377 registered boats left the docks. Yesterday, high winds and rough seas caused roughly half of the approximately 200 boats to return after venturing out for less than an hour, according to tournament director Jim Motsko.

"A lot of boats didn't get their three days [of allowed fishing] in, which is rare. The weather wreaked a lot of havoc," said Motsko, who added that Jamison's early catch of the big prize winner may have hurt the morale of his competition.

"That really dampened a lot of spirits, took the wind out of a lot of sails," he said. "All of their strategy was blown out of the window this week."

In all, more than 2,000 anglers competed for nearly $2.3 million in prize money. Through Thursday, 186 out of 194 white marlin caught had been released. By tournament's end, anglers had donated about 5,000 pounds of fish to the Delmarva Food Bank.

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