In an explosion of whitewater the barrel-sized tuna engulfed the lure on the short 'rigger and line melted from the lever drag reel. Crewmembers scrambled to clear remaining lines and stowed gear while the angler grabbed the rod and maneuvered into the fighting chair. Sensing he had a decent fish on, the captain kept an eye on the cockpit while positioning the boat to give the angler every possible advantage against the brute strength of the tuna for this was no ordinary offshore fishing trip. This was the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 and the tuna on the end of the line could fetch the crew well over six figures in cash at the end of the week!
With a cash purse that has topped the $1 million mark every year since the tournament's inception back in 1992, it's no surprise all the big guns in offshore fishing make tracks for Cape May, New Jersey every August. This year should be no different. The entry field for the 15th Annual Mid-Atlantic $500,000 set for August 20-25, already reads like a who's who in offshore tournament fishing. Canyon Club Resort Marina will serve as primary host facility for the tournament in Cape May. Participants will once again be allowed to sail from Ocean City, Maryland where Sunset Marina will warmly welcome participants. Sunset Marina will again be a full weigh-in facility for all tournament species. Certified scales and live video feed from both marinas will keep all tournament participants informed with up-to-the minute reports and weights of qualifying fish.
The basic entry fee of $6,000 allows participants to battle for a share of the tournament cash purse of $500,000, which is guaranteed, with a field of at least 125 boats. Calcutta proceeds will help swell the total tournament purse significantly. Entry to these "side bets" is strictly voluntary and participants may enter any, all or none. Going "across the board" and entering all levels gives the best chance for the highest payout for the participant. Last year 169 boats battled for a tournament record cash purse of nearly $1.7 million, which continues to make this tournament, boat for boat, the richest marlin and tuna tournament in the world!
Tournament proceeds for the three heaviest white marlin and blue marlin are $100,000, $50,000 and $25,000 while the three heaviest tuna fetch $75,000, $35,000 and $20,000. The heaviest dolphin (mahi-mahi) and wahoo each earn $10,000. That indeed is a lot of cash but once Calcutta proceeds are tallied up, the numbers swell significantly. Last year, Bob Pacilli's Penguin netted a cool $731,000 for his 75-pound white marlin. William Burris on his Melina fared quite well, too as he pocketed $213,000 for his 699-pound blue marlin. Catching the largest tuna in the tournament proved to be worthwhile for Peter Cacoperdo's Centurion as he walked off with $188,000 for his 193-pound thunnus.
Five levels of Calcuttas are available for 2006. The $1,000, $1,500 and $2,500 levels are shared among the three heaviest white marlin, blue marlin and tuna winners. The $5,000 winner-take-all White Marlin Pro Jackpot is a single payout for the heaviest white marlin caught by a participant in this pool. New to the Calcutta lineup this year is the On the Board Reward with a fee of $2,000. This level pays out each time a participant has a fish on the board at the official close of the day's weigh-in and will include the three heaviest of both billfish categories and the tuna category. The total purse will be divided by five (five available fishing days) and each day's purse will be split evenly among those on the board that day. If there are no winners for a particular day, the un-won prize money will be split evenly among the purses of the remaining days.
Tournament participants may select three days to fish out of five available, Monday through Friday of tournament week, in this trolling only event. The minimum weight for white marlin to qualify for cash is 60 pounds while the blue marlin minimum weight is 400 pounds. All billfish under these minimum weights are released and points are awarded for their release. Valuable awards are presented for the three top point winners in the billfish categories. There is no minimum weight for tuna to win cash. All tuna over 50 pounds earn points for awards and the top three point winners in this category will also receive valuable awards.
The tournament sponsors list includes names familiar to offshore anglers and all are scheduled to have displays at the event this year. Ocean Yachts returns as the Exclusive Exhibiting Yacht manufacturer while MTU-Detroit Diesel, represented by Johnson & Towers, is onboard as a Premier Exhibiting Sponsor. Raymarine and Garmin Marine Electronics join Sea Vision by Underwater Lights, Fraser-Volpe and Penn Fishing Tackle as Exhibiting Sponsors. Returning Exhibiting Sponsors include Ransome Caterpillar, Mack Boring, MAN Engines and Components, Pompanette, Pipe Towers, Offshore
Financial, Christi Marine Insurance, Offshore Financial, Guy Harvey, Midlantic Gold Rush, Bernie Robbins-Rolex, Saltwater Sportsman, The Fisherman and Big Game Fishing Journal.
The Mid-Atlantic $500,000 benefits the International Game Fish Association, National Coalition for Marine Conservation and Recreational Fishing Alliance and to date the tournament has donated over $1 million to these and other organizations to benefit recreational anglers.
To be part of sportfishing's "Main Event" you must act NOW. Additional information can be obtained by calling 609-884-2400 or visit the tournament's web site at www.MA500.com.