It’s a good bet that Jeremy Duffie won’t ever have to lament the big one that got away – not after hooking a 77.5-pound white marlin that netted a world-record prize of more than $4.5 million.

Jeremy landed the marlin Friday morning while fishing with his family aboard the Billfisher, a boat that Jeremy’s brother Jon designed and built, as they competed in the 49th annual White Marlin Open in waters off Ocean City.

The largest billfish tournament in the world, which took place from last Monday to Friday, attracts hundreds of teams to Ocean City, dubbed the “White Marlin Capital of the World.”

Jeremy said his family has participated in the tournament since 1984, with Jeremy and Jon starting to compete competitively around 1996. 

The early days of the week were slow for Jeremy, 44, and the others aboard the boat, and organizers said the tournament’s billfishing was “lousy” overall. No anglers brought a white marlin to the scales on the tournament’s first three days, according to organizers.

Captained by Jon, the family headed out to the water Friday morning just like they had done throughout the week. They caught a white marlin around 9 a.m. but released the fish because it wasn’t big enough — by tournament rules, white marlins must weigh over 70 pounds to qualify for weigh-in.

At around 11:30 a.m., the Duffies spotted the large white marlin. After getting a bite on the line and fighting the fish for about 35 minutes, Jeremy reeled the marlin in. The fish was long and large, Jeremy said, so the family was “cautiously optimistic” that they had a prize winner.

When the Duffies brought the fish to get weighed later that day, it tipped the scale at 77.5 pounds. Family members screamed and cheered and exchanged hugs on the dock. And with that, Jeremy became the winner of the White Marlin Open’s white marlin division with a prize of more than $4.5 million, breaking the world record for the biggest payout in a fishing tournament, according to organizers. 

“My first reaction was ‘finally.’ It’s less about achieving the money and more about winning the tournament,” said Jeremy, though he acknowledged the amount of prize money was “pretty shocking.”

Growing up in Darnestown, Jeremy had been heading to Ocean City to fish for his whole life. He and his brother have watched the tournament since they were young, dreaming of winning one day. 

Last year, the Duffies won third place with a 78.5-pound white marlin — they were approaching their goal. This year, they achieved it.

Jon moved to Ocean City at 21, and Jeremy and his parents have homes there as well. It’s a location that’s important to the Duffies. 

Jeremy is the third generation to run his family’s real estate development company based in Silver Spring. He graduated from Landon School in Bethesda, which his son Luke currently attends. 

Jon is the president and owner of Duffie Boatworks in Ocean City. He completed the 64-foot Billfisher in June 2021, the first of his custom sport-fishing line.

Just under a year ago, Jon captained the Billfisher as angler Billy Gerlach caught a 1,135-pound blue marlin in the MidAtlantic Tournament, breaking tournament and state records. That fish netted a prize of more than $1 million.

“We do everything together as a family,” Jeremy said. “Family is a big deal to us.”

Jeremy’s 77.5-pound fish took the lead away from Keeley Megarity of Texas, who had caught a 71.5-pound white marlin on Thursday aboard a boat titled the C-Student. Megarity won around $197,000.

Jeremy said his family will use a portion of the prize money to pay bills associated with fishing.  Some of it will go towards the crew. 

“I was very happy for our crew. They work extremely, extremely hard to be able to put us in a position to be successful,” he said. “That’s life-changing dollars for guys that have worked for us for quite a few years.”

Christine Zhu of Gaithersburg, a rising junior at the University of Maryland studying journalism and Spanish, is the Bethesda Beat summer intern.