Todd and Michelle Womack don’t want to miss a single moment of the Destin Fishing Rodeo.
In fact, for the past eight years the couple have been fixtures in the Rodeo stands. Every single day during the month of October the Womack’s have made their way to the same section of the bleachers overlooking the Rodeo barge to wait for whatever the day brings in.
“This is our ninth year coming to the Rodeo,” said Michelle. “We come every day no matter the weather, what’s going on, how many boats are out. We’re out here every day because you have the thrill and excitement, you just don’t know what’s going to come in each day, so you come so you don’t miss anything.”
Destin was a childhood vacation spot for Todd, who was born and raised in Louisiana. When he and Michelle began raising their own two daughters in Orlando, Todd said he missed the beaches of the Emerald Coast.
“I used to come here when I was younger, back when they still had cottages on the beach in the mid-'70s,” Todd said. “(Michelle) had never seen the Destin beaches and I’d always said, ‘I’m gonna stop and show you the pretty beaches,' and once she saw them, she was hooked.”
For 20 years the couple and their girls visited Destin annually during the summer for week-long stretches, but that wasn’t enough to feed their hunger for the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.
“We actually would incorporate a visit to Destin for a few days when we’d go to visit his parents in Louisiana,” said Michelle. “Then we started meeting his parents here for a week during the summer. Todd enjoyed fishing and we would walk the docks and take in the sights. In our visiting of the docks, someone mentioned the Fishing Rodeo in October and we thought maybe we would come up for a long weekend and see what it was like.”
That long weekend finally happened in 2009, and the next year it stretched to a full month. By 2011, the couple decided to move to Destin permanently; they had found their calling.
“We’ve lived here in Destin now for six and half years,” said Michelle. “We came in 2009 and we were hooked, it was a passion for us; it caught us and didn’t let go!”
Being on the docks every day has it’s perks as Todd and Michelle said, everyone has a job to do.
“I used to judge, and now I’m technically the dockmaster,” Todd said of the rodeo. “I check the boats in when they come and make sure they are on time – they have to be here by 7 p.m. – and I help tie up the boats, whatever they need me to do.”
Todd said last year was his first time he entered his own fish in the Rodeo, caught from his private boat the Geaux’n Deep.
“That’s the only way I’ll miss a day, if I’m fishing,” he said. “But then, I don’t really miss it because I come in and weigh my fish.”
As for Michelle, she calls herself an official Rodeo spectator.
“Unfortunately, I get sea sick so I let Todd do the fishing part and I spectate,” she said. “We’ve really made some great friends over the years being here every day. Last year, there were about 16 of us here and we called ourselves the Rodeo Rowdy’s. We were all sitting in the same little cheer section every day.”