Most fisherman would never cheat and in the majority of competitions, the stakes are not high enough to tempt the competitors into skulduggery anyway. However, the White Marlin Open is a notable exception.
With a prize fund running into millions of dollars, this annual competition is clearly in a league of its own and has now been rocked by huge controversy.
The White Marlin Capital of the World
The White Marlin Open takes place in Ocean City, Maryland, a destination which calls itself the white marlin capital of the world. It costs 00 to enter a boat into the event and impressive sponsorship ensures that the prize fund is enormous.
Prizes are awarded in various categories but the top prize goes to the fisherman who lands the largest white marlin, as long as the fish is over a specified weight.
The 2016 competition took place recently in August and boasted a total prize fund of ,450,000. 329 boats were entered into the event. One of these was the Kallianassa and the crew caught the only white marlin which met the qualifying standards for the top prize of . 8 million.
But the event organisers then began to smell a rat and the massive prize was withheld.
Jumping the Gun
The crew of the Kallianassa, which included prize-winner Phillip Heasley of Naples, Florida, were suspected of cheating by having their lines in the water before they should have been.
It has been reported that organisers discovered that the crew had initially recorded the prize winning fish as being landed fifteen minutes before the competition had officially started. The records appeared to have been altered afterwards to show a later time.
Detecting the Lie
Due to the enormity of the prizes, all competitors who win more than $50,000 in the White Marlin Open are required to take a lie detector test. Heasley failed his twice and then the rest of the crew also failed their tests.
In these tests they were questioned about the time that the lines went into the water and whether Heasley received help in reeling the winning fish in. All of the fisherman were adjudged to have been deceptive in their answers.
The competition's judges withheld the prize money but Heasley has strongly denied any wrong doing. The matter has now been referred to the courts where a judge will decide who should receive the money. The $2. 8 million may now be shared between the 13 fishermen who won the other categories in the competition. (We think that they are probably awaiting the outcome of the case with great anticipation!)
It will be interesting to see how this story concludes. It is hard to imagine how the courts could get to the truth of the matter and they will probably have to make a ruling on the basis of the balance of probabilities. meanwhile many fisherman who have competed in the White Marlin Open have cast doubt over the efficacy of the lie detector tests.. . The plot thickens!