What’s new at the Rodeo: Big Mac’s, bigger division and more for 74th annual event
With October just days away, it’s almost time to kick off the 74th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, Destin’s oldest tradition.
But before you drop a line in hopes of catching the big fish in the month-long tournament, there are a few new things to keep in mind.
Get your Big Mac
New on the books is the addition of the Big Mac Classic, an event that targets king mackerel.
In the past, the Big Mac Classic has been held the weekend prior to the Rodeo and anglers had three days in which to catch the biggest king mackerel.
Now anglers will have 31 days.
“The Big Mac Classic is a complete charity tournament within the Rodeo,” said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Rodeo.
Photos:Big Mac Classic 2021
All entry fees for the Big Mac Classic, which is $300 per boat, go directly to the Ronald McDonald House of Northwest Florida Charities in Pensacola. The prize money for this tournament is being funded by sponsors to the Ronald McDonald Charities.
“We’re not taking any money for it,” Donaldson said.
The Big Mac Classic fishing tournament is all about supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides a place for families with sick children to stay near the hospital when they are receiving medical care.
“We’re excited to be a part of the Rodeo and the sponsors are excited,” said Jerry Andrews of Ronald McDonald House Charities and tournament director of the Big Mac Classic.
“We just think it's going to be phenomenal to have 31 days to be able to fish. You won't have to go out there and sit in the lightning and try to catch a fish in three days. It’s going to be good,” Andrews said.
“And if half the people sign up that are saying they are going to, it will be way more successful than it has ever been,” he said.
In the past, the Big Mac Classic has had about 20 boats enter.
“I think someone is going to win a lot of money. I’m hoping all the charter boats will get in it,” Andrews said.
For the $300 buy-in, the boat with the largest king mackerel will take home $10,000. The prize for the second largest is $3,000 and $2,000 for the third-place king.
“Whether or not you are a big king mackerel fisher, if you just hang around these docks or people in general … you’ll hear how much Ronald McDonald Charities does for the community. Even though the house is in Pensacola, it does huge things for us,” Donaldson said.
Anglers in the classic will have the chance to weigh in daily at the Rodeo scales located behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.
“It’s just another entry in the Rodeo,” Donaldson said.
To fish the classic, boats have to be registered in the Rodeo. “You can’t just fish the Big Mac Classic,” she said. The classic is just one of the extras within the Rodeo.
The Rodeo will still have the King Mackerel Jackpot, which is open to all registered boats, charter or private, that have paid the jackpot entry fee of $100.
However, there will not be a wahoo jackpot. The prize for the wahoo jackpot was a generator. Due to “supply chain issues” with getting a generator, the jackpot has been canceled for this year.
But wahoo is still on the leaderboard, just not as a jackpot type fish.
Red grouper is off the board because the fishery is closed.
More fish for extended
New on the board is a bigger Extended Voyage Division with more species to catch. Last year, they had four species, with a first and second place. This year there are 10 species, each with a first and second place slot.
And if you are going on an extended trip, don’t forget to call the Rodeo office and declare.
“You can call me today and say, I’ve got extended trips going this day and this day. Just make sure I know,” Donaldson said.
With the larger division, the Rodeo has added another award to the Captain of the Year Awards. In addition to the Charter Boat, Private Boat, Party Boat, Charter Boat Under 25 and Private Boat Under 25 captains, there will be an Extended Voyage captain award as well.
Captain of the year is determined at the end of the tournament by using a point system for first place and second place catches as well as dailies. Prize is a belt buckle and bragging rights.
For the kids
Also new for the kids this year is “Kids Week,” Oct. 1-8. Two rods and reels will be given away to the boy and girl in the junior division for the largest mingo of the week. They have to fish aboard a registered boat to win. The custom rods are made by Glen Browder.
“It’s a new year, and everybody is excited,” Donaldson said.
Part of the excitement is that the Destin Seafood Festival is back after taking two years off because of the pandemic. The dates for the festival, which takes place along the harbor front, are Oct. 7-9.
As for the Rodeo, “We have not missed a lick,” Donaldson said.
The kickoff party for the Rodeo is Sept. 30 at AJ’s.
Captains can start registering at 4 p.m. if they have not done so already with a meeting to follow at 5 p.m.
“The party moves outside after the captains meeting and everybody is invited to come,” she said. The Kids Wagon Parade along the harbor front begins at 6 p.m.
There will be a live band, the Luke Langford Band, on the Jumbotron Stage at AJ’s with fireworks over the harbor at 9 p.m.
“It’s just a fun way to kick off the Rodeo … and then we start fishing the next morning,” Donaldson said.