Bill Woody had made up his mind prior to the 2012 White Marlin Open that this would be the last time he competed in what is billed as the world's largest sportfishing tournament.
It wasn't so much how expensive sportfishing had become in the dozen years since this self-made Baltimore businessman had bought his 50-foot Hatteras, as much as it was the hours that he devoted to it.
It was similar to the years when he was building the engineering and land surveying firm that he worked for and later bought from its original owners.
The 66-year-old Woody, who describes himself as a "poor boy from West Baltimore", thought back then that he needed to spend more of time with his wife, Carla, and their two daughters.
"It takes a lot of dedication, where you come home from work at 9 or 10 at night and all you get to do is kiss the kids good night," Woody said .
Woody had entered the White Marlin Open for a 10th time this year, not expecting more than three days of fishing with neighbors Kevin Anderson and Dave Rivello and his son-in-law, Jerry Groves, along with the North Carolina-based captain and two-man crew.
In his previous nine tries in the tournament, Woody had never come close to catching a white that weighed enough or was long enough to fit the tournament's requirements.
"Whenever I caught one, I had to release it," he said.
This year was different — a $1.4 million difference as it turned out.
As he saw the white marlin get closer to the boat, he could tell "it carried its weight well." There was also a momentary fear "that we were going to break the line" as it thrashed about in the water.
When Woody and those on his boat reeled in their prized catch a couple of weeks ago, he thought it had a chance. Not to win the tournament that would pay out over $2.3 million in prize money, but at least to place in the top three. He could tell by the fact that the fish "nearly spooled out" nearly all of the 600 yards of line that had extended into the waters off Ocean City.
But after it turned out that the white marlin measured 72 inches in length (more than 4 inches above the prescribed length needed to be counted), and weighed 72 pounds. While it certainly qualified, Woody didn't think he stood a chance at winning the tournament's biggest prize.
It was only the third day of the five-day event and Woody knew that other winning hauls had usually been between 80 and 90 pounds in recent years.
Most of the white marlins that were caught and killed this year weighed only about 65 pounds, or even less, Woody said.
"Evidently, it [the fish he caught] was eating well," Woody joked.
When he got the call a few days later informing him that his white marlin had been the largest caught, Woody was stunned.
"It's hard to describe," Woody said a few days after getting the news of his big haul, the third-largest prize given out according to tournament officials. "It's very difficult to explain. There's so much satisfaction. It's like winning the Super Bowl of sportfishing."
On last try, local angler wins White Marlin Open
Woody, 66, gives portion of his $1.4 million to payday to captain, crew
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