The 25th Annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament last weekend was one for the books with record 257-pound big-eye weighed just minutes before the scale closed late Sunday evening to capture the top prize before a stunned crowd.
After a modest beginning on Day One last Friday when 71 of the registered 79 boats in the annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament went out, the drama built steadily through the weekend as the leaderboard was written, erased and rewritten again through Saturday and Sunday. Just before the scale closed and the curtain came down on the 2012 tournament just before 7 p.m. last Sunday, angler James Romero and the crew on the “Absolute Pleasure” with Captain Willie Zimmerman pulled up to the scale with a massive big-eye tuna that would take the tournament’s top prize in the 11th hour.
The big crowd that had gathered around the host Ocean City Fishing Center on the tournament’s last day watched in stunned silence as the “Absolute Pleasure” crew opened its fish bag and revealed the giant big-eye. When the tuna was raised on the scale, the digital sign crept up to the 257 mark, setting off loud cheers from the crowd and hugs and high-fives from the “Absolute Pleasure” crew.
The big tuna was taken in an area of the Washington Canyon about 60 miles offshore around 2 p.m. last Sunday and took about two hours to get aboard the boat. The crew quickly packed it in a fish bag loaded with ice and chugged home to the Fishing Center. After a roughly two-hour ride, the “Absolute Pleasure” rolled up to the scale and stole the thunder from those sitting atop the leaderboard.
Friday was fairly quiet at the scale and ended with a 65-pound yellowfin caught by the crew on the “Canyon Blues” sitting atop the heaviest single fish category. The “Lucky Duck II” ended Day One atop the heaviest stringer division with five tuna weighing a combined 224 pounds.
On Saturday, things heated up around the scale with several large big-eye tunas weighed. In the days leading up to the tournament, the big-eye bite was remarkable with several 200-pound plus fish weighed in and around the resort area. On Day Two of the tournament last Saturday, the crew on the “White Lightning” weighed a 191-pound big-eye and posted a stringer weight of 364 pounds.
However, it was angler Jerry Barton and the crew on the “Restless Lady” ending Day Two atop the leaderboard in the heaviest single fish category with a 194-pound big-eye. With a full day of fishing to go, the bar had been set pretty high, but the tournament was far from over. The crew on the “Tighten Up,” last year’s White Marlin Open winner, came in with a big-eye that appeared to threaten the “Restless Lady,” but the tuna topped out at 186 pounds. The “Restless Lady” was then knocked from the top spot when the crew on the “Reel Desire” put up a massive 202-pounder. Fame and fortune for the “Reel Desire” was short-lived, however, when the “Absolute Pleasure” came in with its 257-pound big eye with just minutes to spare to capture the tournament’s top prize.
Romero and the crew on the “Absolute Pleasure” came in first and was awarded $224,116 in prize money. Angler Troy Graham and the crew on the “Reel Desire” took second place with its 202-pound big-eye and was awarded $30,978. Barton and the “Restless Lady” team took third with the 194-pounder and earned $25,715.
In the heaviest stringer category, the “Lucky Duck II” crew took first place with a two-day total of 489 pounds and earned $68,236. The “Cat Without a Handle” took second with a two-day total of 412 pounds and earned $27,131, while the “D.A. Sea” team turned in a two-day total of 373 pounds and earned $25,715 in third-place prize money.
The “Cat Without a Handle” crew and angler Mike Glyphis took first-place in the dolphin division with a 35-pounder worth $2,500. “Team Crush’ Em” took second in the dolphin division with a 30-pounder worth $1,000, while the “Chain Reaction” took third in the division with a 19-pounder worth $500.
Tina Boykin on the “Lucky Duck II” was the top Lady Angler with a 56-pound tuna and earned $1,500. Sue Littleton on the “Reelin’ & Rockin” took second place in the Lady Angler division, while Tina Boykin also took third in the category.
The top Junior Angler award went to Alex Grapes on the “Partnership,” while Ben Boykin on the “Lucky Duck II” was second and Jacob Adkins on the “No Limits” was third. In the new category for boats under 40 feet, the crew on the “Abledam” took first-place with a 56-pound tuna and earned $3,510. The “Lucky Duck II,” which won the overall heaviest stringer category, took first place in the heaviest stringer category for the under 40-foot division and earned an additional $3,510.