A $2.8 million award was at stake in Maryland's 2016 White Marlin Open tournament—but the only participant to catch a qualifying white marlin won't be getting that prize after he and his crew failed polygraph tests. Officials believe Philip Heasley and his shipmates caught the 76.5-pound fish before 8:30am on Aug. 9, the official time participants were allowed to cast fishing lines. Polygraph tests are required in tournament rules, and when Heasley failed two of them, the award was withheld. More than 10 months later, after a two-week trial, a judge sided with tournament organizers Wednesday and ruled against Heasley, disqualifying him from the competition, Delmarva Now reports.
White Marlin Open officials said in a Facebook post Wednesday they are "pleased that [the tournament's] reputation for integrity, built over its forty-three-year history, has been upheld," noting that organizers simply wanted "to protect the integrity of the tournament and to ensure that the rules are applied fairly for all participants." The prize money will instead be shared by 13 other fishermen who won other categories in last year's competition, the Baltimore Sun reports. Heasley's lawyer says they are "disappointed" by the ruling and continue to maintain that all rules and regulations were followed. The attorney says they "are reviewing the decision and are considering our options." Heasley has 30 days to appeal. Polygraph tests are commonly used to verify large prizes in open-water fishing competitions.