NEWS

Angler has been fishing in the rodeo for over 25 years

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie | ablanks@thedestinlog.com
Marlin Perry sits on the America Spirit after an 8-hour fishing trip he took Thursday afternoon. The angler from upstate Tennessee has been fishing on the American Spirit of the New Florida Girl for over two decades. ANNIE BLANKS/THE DESTIN LOG

Marlin Perry comes by his name honestly.

The 61-year-old angler from Ashland City, Tn. has been fishing with the Destin Fishing Rodeo for “at least the last 20-25 years”, though he’s been coming to Destin just to fish since the mid-1970s.

“I can’t remember exactly when my first rodeo year was, but I know I’ve never missed a chance to fish,” he said.

The third-generation well driller is a creature of habit, fishing with Capt. Jim Westbrook on either the New Florida Girl or the American Spirit every single year. He has formed a strong bond with Westbrook, and even goes hunting with him during the winter.

“We have been dear friends for 25 years,” Westbrook said of his fishing buddy. “He goes home long enough to make enough money to support his habits and then comes back here fishin’.”

Perry and his wife of nearly 30 years, who he met when she was a galley girl on the old Destin party boat Lady Evanthia, have a “fish camp” home in Pensacola.

“I really bought that house just so I could come down here and fish with him (Westbrook), but don’t tell my wife I said that,” Perry said with a chuckle, adding that his wife loves to fish as well.

Perry said he loves the Destin Fishing Rodeo so much because of the competition. He has reeled in a few big ones over the years, including a 45 lb. king mackerel last year, but is always in pursuit of the next record-breaker.

“I’ve caught a lot of big fish and lost a lot of big fish,” he said. “There’s always the one that got away that could have been a life-changer.”

Westbrook said there is one word that could describe Perry.

“He’s a very studious fisherman,” Westbrook said.

Though he’s been fishing for 35 plus years in Destin, Perry said he has no plans of stopping anytime soon. He has a bad knee, but he’s still willing to stand up for hours on end each fishing trip in pursuit of the next big board leader.

“Take your time and give yourself a chance to catch a big one,” he said. “You can strike out, or you can be a hero.”