A high school math teacher is the preliminary winner of the White Marlin Open, and it’s not his first time.
The polygraph test — which is needed to officially declare a winner — will be conducted Saturday, but that seemed to be of little concern to the adoring crowd chanting Tommy Hinkle’s name Friday night.
No other White Marlin brought to the scales in the five-day tournament was heavier than Hinkle’s 79.5-pound strike. When his last potential competitor weighed in light, the crowd went wild.
(Listen as WTOP’s Kristi King captures the essence of the White Marlin Open)
“If lightning was ever supposed to strike twice,” Hinkle said, then pausing to collect his thoughts. “[It’s] overwhelming.”
Hinkle is the tournament’s first two-time winner; his 81-pound White Marlin won the top prize in 2008. This year’s winning catch could be worth $1,460,000.
“As far as probability goes, folks, put this up in the math books,” said Hinkle. “It was a long shot.”
Hinkle is a math teacher at Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin, Maryland, which is just outside Ocean City. Asked what the win might mean to his students, Hinkle said he hopes it might inspire them to follow at least one of his passions.
“If it inspires them to do some math, that’s it, I’m all in. If it inspires them to win $1.4 million, ‘Don’t be a fisherman, go out and get a real job,'” Hinkle advised.
A record-setting 404 boats participated in the 46th annual White Marlin Open this year. Various categories of different species of fish will result in the distribution of an estimated $6,143,000 in total prize money.
Celebrity participants created a little extra excitement and anticipation for spectators this year, but chef Emeril Lagasse’s boat never had a catch worthy of the weigh-in dock.
Also a no-show at the weigh in scales was basketball legend Michael Jordan and his boat, Catch 23.
Spectators watching Jordan’s 80-foot Viking return to shore after fishing Thursday were impressed, but, as Hinkle notes, you don’t need a big boat to do well.
“You don’t need to be a big boat to win a couple million dollars,” Hinkle said, adding that preparation, teamwork and opportunity all have to come together.
“I can’t believe that it came together twice,” Hinkle said. “It just goes to show you, man, this tournament is up for anybody to win. You just have to put the time in.”
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