Ocean City math teacher wins world’s largest billfish tournament — twice

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)

April 16, 2024 | WTOP's Kristi King captures the highlights of the White Marlin Open. (Teta Alim)

“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.”

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)

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.

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