Rachel Staples paddles up for a spot on the leaderboard
When it comes to the Destin Fishing Rodeo, there is a division for almost everything. Anglers can fish from charter boats, private boats, piers, jetties, kayaks and even paddleboards.
Earlier this week, Destin's Rachel Staples came paddling up to the Rodeo weigh station with a couple of fish strapped to the top of her 10-foot SUP USA paddleboard for weighmaster Bruce Cheves to weigh.
Staples weighed in a 6.4-pound jack crevalle for a first place spot in the BOTE Paddleboard Division. She also weighed in a 3-pound sailcat, but anglers are allowed only one spot on the board in the paddleboard division.
Staples said it took her about an hour-and-a-half to get the two fish on the board.
She had tried on Friday, right after Hurricane Delta came ashore in Louisiana, but it was very windy.
"I hooked into a couple of fish, but never could close the deal. So this was day No. 2 to give it a go," she said.
Staples, who is the Rodeo's first female paddleboard entrant ever, was fishing in Destin harbor and said it was "pretty rough and windy out."
She caught the jack crevalle first and then the sailcat.
"I was hoping (the sailcat) would drag me all the way down (to the weigh station), but he didn't," she said.
Staples said she sits and kneels on the board so she can maneuver around while fishing with a spinning rod.
"When it takes the bait, it pulls you. So you just kind of sit down ... kind of ride around and hope the boats don't hit you," she said, noting a few were coming her way at one point.
"It's like a harbor sleigh ride," said her husband, Capt. Allen Staples.
With the jack crevalle, it took only a couple of minutes to close the deal.
"He drug me around a little bit at first, but once I got up beside him, I grabbed him by the tail and lifted him up on the board," she said.
Staples has had the paddleboard a couple of years and takes it out whenever she can.
"I haven't done a whole of fishing off of it. I just decided I was going to give it a go," Staples said.
Although this is her first time to try to reel in a fish off the board, she has paddled her son Jeb, 8, around so he can fish.
Last year, the biggest fish in the Paddleboard Division was 36.2 pounds. Second was 7.6 pounds.
Staples said she plans to give it another shot.
"I might try and go out later, if the weather lets me. I was hoping for a bluefish or something," she said.