After roughly 90 minutes of reeling, John Ols from Laytonsville caught an 118-inch 640.5-pound blue marlin, winning his crew a record-breaking $6.2 million at the White Marlin Open in Ocean City.
Last year’s competition netted the previous world-record prize amount, $4.5 million awarded to another Montgomery County resident: Jeremy Duffie from Bethesda.
This year, Ols was aboard the Floor Reel, a boat he bought in March, along with eight other crew members. The boat’s name is inspired by StoneMark Flooring, the flooring company he owns in Frederick.
“The White Marlin Open is the Superbowl of bill fishes in the U.S.,” said Ols, who lives in a condo in Harbour Island in Ocean City with his wife, Eva, over the summer. There were 400 boats registered in this year’s competition.
The catch was a team-effort, Ols said, and his role as the angler (the sole person responsible for reeling in the fish, according to the White Marlin Open guidelines) is the “easy part.”
Dave “Big Wave” Warren, from North Carolina, was the Floor Reel’s captain (he says the nickname comes from his love of surfing when he was younger, and the fishing world is very fond of nicknames – “when something sticks it sticks.”)
Big Wave got involved with the Floor Reel through a close friend Rob Belcher, who is Ols’ neighbor. He said he normally doesn’t freelance captain, but Belcher organized much of the crew.
“Think of [Big Wave] as the airplane pilot… he controls everything,” Ols said. “Driving the boat is the hard part.”
The Floor Reel left the dock at 4 a.m. Aug. 11 to stake out a good location; White Marlin rules state that fishers can only have lines in the water from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
When they first hit the water on that final day of the tournament, Big Wave said he knew “in his heart” they weren’t in the right spot.
“I didn’t know where to go and I prayed and asked my Lord,” he said. “I said I’m gonna leave this spot, so I need to go somewhere else.”
The boat was about 66 miles offshore when they hooked the winning fish, Big Wave said.
Ols said he hooked the blue marlin at 1:17 p.m., and brought it in at 3:02 p.m.
Once the crew saw the fish, they “knew it was going to be placed,” but didn’t know it would be the only one to do so, Ols said.
Ols’ catch, a blue marlin, was the only billfish to qualify, meeting the minimum length of 114” for blue marlins. White marlins are usually the highest scoring billfish, but none were caught this year (only the fourth time that’s happened in tournament history). If the Floor Reel hadn’t brought in the 640.5-pound blue marlin, the prize money would have rolled over into the next lowest category: tuna fishes.
As for the $6.2 million dollars, the Floor Reel crew signed a pre-made agreement on how to split the earnings before the competition. Ols said he hasn’t thought about what to do with the money yet, calling the days since the competition an “emotional rollercoaster.”
The attention has been “very draining,” Ols said. “It’s not my personality.”
Ols has been fishing since 2004 and won the Tuna Division at the White Marlin Open in 2006. That 135.5-pound tuna was the biggest fish he ever caught, until he more than quadrupled that weight last weekend.
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