Two Severna Park natives won big during the White Marlin Open this August in Ocean City.
Brothers Mike Hatcher and Steve Wagner grew up fishing and crabbing on the Magothy and Severn rivers in Severna Park. The Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean have been a huge part of their lives ever since.
Wagner has lived in Severna Park for over 30 years. He got his boater’s license at 10, has had his captain’s license for about 11 years and owned his first boat at 14.
Now, Hatcher co-owns PYY Marine in Pasadena, and Wagner is the manager and captains the PYY Fishing team.
The team is made up of Janine Samuel, Evan Winterbottom, Steve Salanik, Allen Stanton, Steve Channell, Roy Dove, Tom Faulkner, Brandon Cassady, Mick Young and Logan Wagner.
“In all of these tournaments, there is always a captain and an angler that get the recognition, but tournament fishing is a team sport,” Wagner said. “Everyone on the boat has a duty and if they fail on their part, we fail. Everyone has a part in this.”
Although the group has competed in many tournaments, the White Marlin Open is considered the world's largest fishing tournament because teams compete against the best fishermen in the world for record payouts.
“The White Marlin Open is the Super Bowl of fishing tournaments,” Wagner said.
For the first time in 47 years, the White Marlin Open was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Isaias. Rather than competing three set days, the fishing teams were allowed to select three fishing days from August 3 through August 9.
“With this tournament, there were challenges right from the beginning,” Wagner said. “Obviously, COVID was number one. The challenge of coordinating a tournament of this size during COVID was a big change. And then, on top of that, we added the hurricane in the mix. The hurricane came through on Tuesday, so that messed up fishing in the beginning of the week.”
The hurricane brought rough seas, rain and fog through Saturday. Wagner and the PYY team fished Thursday and Saturday in rough conditions but remained positive that Sunday, the last day of the tournament, would bring them luck.
“The first two words that come to mind about this team is passion and dedication,” Wagner said. “They will be there rain or shine. A huge part of fishing is having the right attitude, which leads to confidence.”
On Sunday, the last day of the tournament, the fog had cleared and the water was calm.
“It ended up being the perfect day for offshore fishing,” Wagner said.
When they left the dock that morning, the team members knew that their best chance of winning was in the Small Boat Dolphin or Small Boat White Marlin categories. The weight to beat in the dolphin category was 28 pounds.
The team had just lost a white marlin when Wagner spotted the dolphin fish, which is commonly known as a mahi-mahi, from the tower on the boat. Immediately, the team knew the fish weighed more than 28 pounds.
The pressure was on for Stanton, the angler who reeled in the fish. A $100,000 prize was on the line.
“Believe it or not, the fish did everything you want it to do,” Wagner said. “The stars aligned. It wasn’t a very dramatic fight. It just cooperated. But there were huge amounts of excitement. I can promise you that.”
There was an hour and a half boat ride back to the scale for the team, which estimated that the fish weighed over 30 pounds.
“Any fisherman, especially anyone who does any kind of offshore, going to the scale at the White Marlin Open is what a fisherman dreams about,” Wagner said. “If you see a fisherman daydreaming, they are probably daydreaming about the scale.”
The dolphin fish weighed 36 pounds and the prize money was estimated to be $103,000.
The PYY team was the first to weigh in that morning. They watched as their catch overtook first place, and they anxiously awaited the rest of the boats. Though many teams came within a few pounds, PYY remained on top of the leaderboard for the rest of the day.
This win is not only a great accomplishment for the team but also for PYY Marine. The crew fished from a 2019 Cape Horn, a boat that can be bought at PYY. This proves that PYY Marine’s products can perform in major tournaments.
Hatcher said the PYY team’s dedication stems from his brother’s own passion.
“If Steve didn't have the passion for waterfront or fishing lifestyle, he wouldn't have been able to put together a team of passionate people,” Hatcher said.
Both brothers emphasized that this team is also supported by the community, including their marketing partners.
“The Fishing team would like to thank PYY Marine, the Allen Stanton Group and Tom Latta from Direct Mortgage Loans for all of their support,” Wagner said. “Without them, this team would not be where it is today.”
Next year, when the team returns to the White Marlin Open, they will have the determination and passion that it takes to be successful.
“This is the goal. We want to get to the scale every year,” Wagner said. “There are still bigger fish to get on the scale.”