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Battle over White Marlin Open’s $2.8M prize rages on

Phillip G. Heasley, second from left, poses with his now-disputed first-place white marlin in August in Ocean City during the White Marlin Open. (Photo: WhiteMarlinOpen.com)

Phillip G. Heasley, second from left, poses with his now-disputed first-place white marlin in August in Ocean City during the White Marlin Open. (Photo: WhiteMarlinOpen.com)

The disqualified winner of last year’s White Marlin Open isn’t ready to cut bait after a U.S. District Court judge ruled in June that tournament organizers complied with their contractual obligations and were within their rights to withhold the $2.8 million in prize money.

Phillip Heasley, the Florida resident who caught the tournament’s only qualifying marlin but who later failed a polygraph test, is appealing Judge Richard D. Bennett’s ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Heasley, in a statement, called the ruling “fundamentally wrong” and claims Bennett based his decision on “a deeply flawed assumption” and a lack of understanding about how fishing tournaments work.

Bennett cited inconsistencies in Heasley’s statements at the tournament, in depositions and at trial which, when further compared with testimony from the crew, other anglers and the boat’s electronics systems, supported his finding that his boat, the Kallianassa, deployed its lines early.

Heasley contends the judge misunderstood the testimony about how lines are prepared and deployed and relied on polygraphs, which are inadmissible evidence in federal court.

The money, which was deposited with the court, is supposed to be divided among the lower prize winners but it looks like they’ll have to wait a little longer.

The case is White Marlin Open, Inc. v. Heasley, et al., 17-01901.

This year’s White Marlin Open begins Monday.

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