Bruce Cheves: Face of the Destin Fishing Rodeo
"Bruce Cheves Day" celebrated tomorrow
Bruce Cheves loves to tell fish stories.
And after 32 years of serving as the Destin Fishing Rodeo Weighmaster (with an emphasis on “the,” as his nametag points out, lest anyone forget he’s the one and only), he has plenty of those stories to tell.
“Bruce is the face of our rodeo,” said Helen Donaldson, director of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. “He can tell a story and grab a listener and they’ll just stay. We have 300-500 spectators out here every night, and it’ll be nice to see a fish come in, but most of them are here to hear Bruce’s stories.”
It’s Cheves’ job to get the fish (or whatever it may be) off the boats, onto the scales and announce the time and weight to the fishermen and onlookers. Cheves said he got started weighing fish at the rodeo back when it was Col. Bill Sherman’s job.
“(Sherman) got tired of climbing the pole, so I assisted him,” he said.
But Cheves does much more than simply weigh fish.The 65-year-old Destin resident and former fisherman is a walking, talking fishing almanac, who can spout off information about the creatures of the sea faster than curious onlookers can ask them.
In fact, one of his favorite parts about being weighmaster is teaching others about what they see hanging on the hooks.
“The transference of knowledge to people who have no idea what they’re looking at or how it lives and eats (is one of the coolest things),” he said.
Destin Fishing Rodeo Associate Director Marion Palmgren said it’s the way Cheves tell his stories that captivates the audience.
“He has such an inquiring, intelligent mind, and he loves to know the smallest details about things that he’s interested in,” Palmgren said. “He turns them into the most wonderful stories.”
When asked about the more interesting things he’s seen in his three decades of weighing fish, Cheves named off a laundry list of items.
“Rattlesnakes, grandfather clocks, deer from deer hunters, things blown off the beach, kayaks, little kids in their bassinets,” he said. “Did I already say grandfather clocks?”
Aside from telling stories, Cheves said his favorite part about being weighmaster is “making people famous”.
“Win or lose, place or not, everybody’s famous,” he said.
Tomorrow, Sunday, is designated Bruce Cheves Day at the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Donaldson said the day is all about showing appreciation for the storied Destin legend.
“It’s just to celebrate. He rings the bell and honors those that have fallen this year,” she said. “It’s just a day to shine a light on Bruce, as if he needs a light shined on him. He shines his own light most of the time.”