RODEO RECORD: Strange Brew crew sets record in 2012 Rodeo with big 'jack

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Editor's Note: The Destin Fishing Rodeo, Destin's longest running tradition, will be celebrating 73 years this October. In the next few weeks, The Log will be taking a look back at some of the fish that hold down Rodeo records, and are the fish to beat in this year's tournament. 

Rodeo record — Amberjack, 111.6 pounds 

The captain knew there were some big fish on the spot, but he didn’t know exactly how big. 

It was on a Wednesday about the middle of the October Destin Fishing Rodeo in 2012 when the crew aboard the Strange Brew hooked a whopper of an amberjack that still stands on the Rodeo record books today. 

Mark Underdahl holds up his 111.6-pound amberjack he caught while fishing aboard the Strange Brew with Capt. Ken Nettles in the Destin Fishing Rodeo in 2012. His catch set a Rodeo record.

“It was a good fishing spot; I remember it well. We were in the smaller boat,” said Capt. Ken Nettles, noting they were on a 24-foot Hydra-Sport. 

Nettles had some fishing spots he had really wanted to hit during October. 

“So, we kind of got a crew together and decided to head offshore and fish a little deeper water even though we were in a smaller vessel,” Nettles said. 

“I knew there were some big jacks sitting on that one spot,” he added, noting he got nailed in September by about a 70-pounder. “When we got into it, I knew it was going to be interesting.”

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Fishing about 40 miles out, it didn’t take long for things to get interesting. 

It took angler Mark Underdahl  about a half hour to get this massive amberjack to the boat. Nine years later, the first remains the record holder, and the one to beat, at the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Mark Underdahl was the angler on the rod that did battle with the amberjack. Nettles has since lost contact with Underdahl and The Log couldn’t reach him for comment. 

“It was pulling hard, but we were fishing about a 70-pound drag,” Nettles said. 

“He was strapped in, locked in … we had him tied off at the belt,” he said of Underdahl. “Not to mention guys hanging on to him. The jack was doing what a jack does, fighting all the way to the boat.”

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It took Underdahl about a half hour to get the amberjack up to the boat.  

Nettles said they were using heavy tackle — 130-pound test leader with 100-pound mono backed up with 150-pound braid. 

“We were using the same kind of reel we would use for deep dropping,” he said. 

Nettles had to circle to keep the fish on the side of the boat as he was coming up. 

Once they got the amberjack in the boat, Nettles said they did all the measurements on him, length and girth, and according to the formula he was close to 150 pounds. 

The amberjack measured 76 inches long and 39 inches around the girth. And it was definitely too big for their fish box. 

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“Our biggest concern was the fish was halfway out of the box,” he said, noting there was not a lot they could do but head back. 

They had already put three fish in the boat that day and hit a few grouper spots on the way back. 

When they got to the Rodeo scales, weighmaster Bruce Cheves hoisted the monster on the scales for a whole weight of 119 pounds. Once the fish was gutted it logged in at 111.6-pounds. 

Underdahl obliged the photographers on the Rodeo barge and held up the big amberjack like he was curling a dumbbell. 

The 111.6-pounder broke the 106.9-pound record that was put on the books in 1997 by Robert Copeland of Niceville who was fishing with Capt. John Holley on the Reel Doc. 

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Underdahl’s big amberjack wasn’t the only big amberjack Capt. Nettles brought to the Rodeo scales in 2012. 

Bryan Lassiter caught a 90-pounder aboard the Strange Brew on Day 6 of the Rodeo on the same spot.  

Nettles and crew held first and second place on the leaderboard in the AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar AJ Bonus Award, and first and second in the 25-foot and Under Private Boat Division. 

Plus, they set a Rodeo record in the process. 

In 2013, Nettles placed second again with a 90-pounder in the AJ Bonus Award. 

“I like to target amberjack … it’s a thing ever since I was kid,” he said. 

Nettles hasn’t fished the Rodeo in recent years due to health problems and “just life” getting in the way. 

“Next year I’m planning on fishing. It will be the 10th anniversary (of the record fish) … so we plan on fishing for sure. 

“I want to get back in and do what I love to do,” he said.