Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks goes fishing aboard Huntress, gets on Rodeo leaderboard

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Not only does she wear the sash and crown, drag the fish to the scales and pose for photos with anglers and their catches, but she can now lay claim to having a catch on the leaderboard. 

Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks got on the board of the 73rd annual Destin Fishing Rodeo with a 27-pound blackfin tuna caught aboard the Huntress on Tuesday with Capt. Mike Graef and first mate Carter Phillips. 

Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks took over first place in the Ladies Division of the Destin Fishing Rodeo with this 27-pound blackfin tuna caught aboard the Huntress on Tuesday.

Her catch is in first place in the Ladies Division, topping a 23.8-pounder caught on the Stelluna. 

"Oh my gosh it was so much fun,” Sparks said. “It was cool to come in and weigh a fish and stuff.” 

More:Kaylie Sparks is Miss Destin 2021, "a dream come true"

Not only did Sparks get on the board with the blackfin, she made the daily board, momentarily, with a 7.4-pound king mackerel which was knocked off an hour later by the ChampionShip. 

It was Sparks' first time to fish the Rodeo and was quite the experience. Joining her on the 8-hour, turned 9-hour fishing expedition was her dad, Houston Sparks, Miss Destin 2020 Lauren Adams, Billie Adams, Mark Luciana and Felipe Gutierrez. 

This yellowfin tuna topped out at 96.2 pounds and took over first place in the Offshore Division of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Standing from left are Houston Sparks, Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks, Billie Adams, angler Miss Destin 2020 Lauren Adams, Mark Luciana and Felipe Gutierrez. Kneeling from left are first mate Carter Phillips and Capt. Mike Graef of the Huntress.

“I’m tired,” Sparks said after they weighed in the fish. 

Her first fish of the day was a triggerfish, which had to go back due to out of season regulations. 

“I started reeling and I was, 'Oh my gosh … it’s so heavy,' but it came back a triggerfish … I was freaking out,” she said, having never caught one before. 

More from Lauren:Miss Destin Lauren Adams juggles school, work and fish, and loves every minute of it

"But then I felt like I got the hang of it,” she said. “I need to work up some arm strength, it’s so difficult."

Before the day was out, she had reeled in the mackerel and the tuna. 

But the big fish of the day was hauled in by Miss Destin 2020 Lauren Adams. She weighed in a 96.2-pound yellowfin tuna. Her catch is in first place on the leaderboard in the Offshore Division. 

Miss Destin 2020 Lauren Adams (left) poses for a few photos with the 96.2-pound yellowfin tuna she hauled in on Tuesday aboard the Huntress with Capt. Mike Graef. Also pictured is Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks. The two girls had a big day of fishing aboard the Huntress.

Last year, Adams missed getting on the board with a 60-plus pound amberjack. She got beat out by less than a pound. 

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But not this year — she’s on the board. Second place as of the close Tuesday was a 65.4-pounder on the Lady Em. 

“It was a fish for a lifetime. … I’m so excited,” Adams said. "My arms hurt really bad.”

Destin Fishing Rodeo volunteer Ann White helps to haul the yellowfin tuna to the scales while Miss Destin 2020 Lauren Adams gets ready to hoist it up. Adams caught the 96.2-pound yellowfin while fishing aboard the Huntress.

Capt. Graef said they were fishing about 25 miles out of Destin in search of blackfin tuna. 

"It was the last fish we hooked and we knew it was something special because it dumped half the reel on its first run,” he said. 

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“It was pretty cool, it was 6- to-8-footers … everything was working against us. But we just kept working and working and wearing him down. And two hours later, Carter stuck him with the gaff,” Graef said. 

Sparks said she started on the rod, but quickly handed it off to Adams. 

"I didn’t want to do it. ... I handed it off. I was like, 'This is too difficult,' ” Sparks said. 

Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks was excited to weigh her fish in at the Destin Fishing Rodeo on Tuesday. She got on the leaderboard with a 27-pound blackfin tuna, plus on the daily board with a king mackerel.

But Adams hung in there and got her fish. 

“He ran multiple, multiple times. It was a cool display,” Graef said. 

He said they ended up 2 ½ miles from where they originally hooked the fish. 

“It was so much fun,” Sparks said, noting everyone on the boat was jumping up and down when they finally landed the yellowfin. 

Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks shows off her 7.4-pound king mackerel that momentarily got on the daily board of the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Would she go deep sea fishing again? 

“Yes … next month,” Sparks said, noting she needed a rest first.