Tuesday night, White Marlin Open tournament officials announced there was a potential violation of tournament rules. The top winner and the prize money were being withheld pending an investigation.
Phil Heasley aboard the “Kallianassa,” from Naples, FL, brought in the only qualifying White Marlin to the scales. The fish weighed 76.5 pounds. When the scales officially closed on Friday, the fish was worth $2.8 million, a tournament record for single fish prize money. However, now it appears that the fish might be disqualified. A determination now will be made on how to best distribute the winnings per official tournament rules and regulations.
The specifics of the rule violations were not released. The official statement says that independent judges reviewed the evidence and “determined to withhold the winning prize until it can be ensured that the prize is being paid to the proper recipient.”
The following is the full statement by White Marlin Open President James Motsko, published on the tournament’s website:
“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.”