Michael Jordan’s presence at Ocean City fishing tournament draws crowds

Annual visitors to the White Marlin Open fishing tournament believe the chance to see basketball great Michael Jordan has drawn more visitors to Ocean City, Maryland, for the multiday event this year.

“Michael Jordan’s boat just came in; it’s an amazing-looking 80-foot Viking,” Karen Berthiaume, of New York, said on Thursday from a beach chair positioned in the sand along the Ocean City inlet.

Berthiaume’s friend Karen Banach said Jordan’s boat, Catch 23, was beautiful, and it drew a huge crowd this year.

“I think a lot of people just attended to see him and his boat,” Berthiaume said.

The contest is the biggest and richest billfish tournament in the world. A winning white marlin, for example, can be worth $1.5 million. The estimated total prize money for all the fish categories this year is more than $6 million.

At the end of each fishing day, boats return from off shore to have their catches recorded and weighed, and spectators gather to watch the procession at the weigh-in dock.

March 4, 2024 | (Teta Alim)

(Listen as WTOP’s Kristi King captures the essence of the White Marlin Open)

Earlier in the day, from the parking lot closest to the weigh-in dock, pastor Dan McKenty also noted the celebrity angler.

“M.J.’s out there somewhere,” McKenty said. “Maybe he’ll come here … and that will cause all kinds of excitement.”

McKenty is pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ocean City, which accepts donations from people who want to park in the church’s lot.

“It’s a great asset. We’re blessed to have a parking lot this big, right across from the fishing tournament,” McKenty said. “For fundraising, this is our biggest week of the year.”

The donations support myriad causes, such as the Ocean City Crisis Coalition, the cold-weather shelter and the Samaritan’s Purse Shelter.

“It’s very important in terms of what we consider doing God’s work,” McKenty said.

Four-hundred four boats are entered this year, which is the 46th year of the tournament.

They don’t all go fishing every day. Boat captains choose three days out of five to participate to score points to add to final tallies. The last day of fishing is Friday.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Tommy Hinkle, who won the top prize with a 79.5-pound White Marlin, is the tournament’s first two-time winner. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Brenda Rudnicky holds up an otolith, which is a small fingernail-like growth found in tuna that can be used to calculate the age of a fish. (WTOP/Kristi King)
It’s Day 5 of the White Marlin Open on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Ocean City, Maryland. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A boat is seen on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019 in Ocean City, Maryland. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Crew from “Chasin Tail” pose with their 74-pound White Marlin caught on Day 1 of the White Marlin Open. (Courtesy Town of Ocean City)
The Hellsea caught at 22.5-pound dolphin on Day 1 of the White Marlin Open. (Courtesy Town of Ocean City)
Not all the White Marlin Open qualifiers are going to a Maryland food bank, but most are. (Courtesy Town of Ocean City)
Here’s a poster for this year’s White Marlin Open. (WTOP/Kristi King)
It’s the last day of the White Marlin Open on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. (WTOP/Kristi King)
First Presbyterian Church of Ocean City accepts donations from people who want to park in the church during the fishing tournament. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A drone captures footage of Ocean City and broadcasts back to a large screen at the weigh-in dock.
A big screen at the weigh-in dock depicts images captured by a drone. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Crowds standing around for hours at the weigh in scales were occasionally entertained by the chance to catch thrown souvenirs. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Brenda Rudnicky, from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute studies some of the marlin caught during the contest to determine their ages and diet. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Brenda Rudnicky holds up an otolith, which is a fingernail-like growth found in the ears of fish that can be used to calculate the age of a fish. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A Marlin is weighed for the competition. (WTOP/Kristi King)
As fish are being lifted for weighing, before they become completely still on the line, the scale readings can vary by many pounds as fish swing or are touched by handlers. That makes for anxious moments for anglers and spectators. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Most of the qualifying fish are donated to the Md Food Bank. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Green Turtle of Annapolis, Md. had one of the tournament’s heaviest tunas. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Anne Aramendia caught a 91 pound wahoo on the final day of the White Marlin Open; the third largest in tournament history. (WTOP/Kristi King)
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