Since joining with Destin Fishing Rodeo, Big Mac Classic doubles boat registrations

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Since joining forces with the Destin Fishing Rodeo, the Big Mac Classic has doubled in boat registrations, which could mean more dollars for the Ronald McDonald House of Northwest Florida Charities in Pensacola.

"Nineteen boats are about the best we've ever done," said Jerry Andrews of RMHC and tournament director of the Big Mac Classic.

This year, however, the number is up to 43 boats, at $300 per registration.

"That means a lot to us. Every penny helps," Andrews said.

Tiana Farnsworth of Mary Esther shows off her 29.2-pound king mackerel she caught aboard the Dawn Patrol with Capt. John Tenore on Oct. 17. Wishing her well is Miss Destin Ella Kathryn Campbell.

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Although the boat registrations bring in almost $13,000, the majority comes from sponsorships, according to Andrews.

"It would be difficult for us to get sponsorships if we didn't have the tournament. It helps to draw interest in what the Ronald McDonald House is all about," he said.

Last year's event raised more than $40,000 for Ronald McDonald  House

Last year, the Big Mac Classic brought in $40,000-plus for the Ronald McDonald House, which provides a place for families with sick children to stay near the hospital when they are receiving medical care.

"Our goal is to do better than last year. … I'm sure we're going to," Andrews said.

"We've had a tremendous amount of help from the local business people," he added.

Andrews said every boat registration helps 30 families to be housed at the Ronald McDonald House.

What's behind the increase in boat entries

So why are the number of boat registrations up for the tournament?

In the past, the Big Mac Classic, which is all about the king mackerel, was held the weekend prior to the rodeo and anglers had three days in which to catch the biggest king mackerel. Now as part of the rodeo, anglers have the entire month of October to land that big king.

"We've seen quite a lot of charter boats get into it," Andrews said, noting that was one of the reasons they joined forces with the rodeo.

Andrews said the charter boats are going to be fishing the rodeo most every day and would have a good chance of hooking up with a big king.

"They have shown great support," he said.

'They are starting to catch some good ones right now'

As of Tuesday, 34 king mackerel had made it onto the leaderboard.

The largest thus far is a 45-pounder caught by William Sexton on the SS Mullet. Running a close second is Douglas Lambert with a 41-pounder on the Wired Up. RayMarine/Strike Two is in third with a 40.4-pounder.

William Sexton Jr. shows off his second place king mackerel, 39.8 pounds, caught aboard the SS Mullet with his dad William Sexton during last year's Big Mac Classic.

The boat with the largest king mackerel will take home $10,000. The prize for the second largest king is $3,000 and third takes $2,000.

"They are starting to catch some good ones right now," Andrews said.

He said he talked with Team Goofy Golf a few days ago and they pulled off a big one. The fish spooled them.

"That's why they call it fishing, not catching," Andrews said.

Capt. John Tenore on the charter boat Dawn Patrol came in Monday evening at the rodeo with a 29-pound king, but said the big one got away.

"It was a big one. ... It jumped three times," Tenore said.

Tenore holds the rodeo record for the largest king mackerel. He and his crew landed a 64.2-pounder in 2018 to set the bar high.

There is still plenty of time to get in on the king mackerel action, but you have to be registered in the rodeo as well as the Big Mac Classic. And you have to be registered the day before you plan to go fishing.