Captains leave their mark on the rodeo

Tina Harbuck | 315-4466 | @DestinLogTina | tharbuck@thedestinlog.com
Capt. Brady Bowman of the Bow'd Up charter boat finished with nine entries on the overall leaderboard of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. TINA HARBUCK/THE LOG

When it comes to fishing in the Destin Fishing Rodeo, Destin has some of the finest captains around with years of experience.

Out of the 287 boats registered in this year’s rodeo, five captains made their mark on the leaderboard to win the Captain Award in their divisions.

The honor is awarded on a point system. At the end of 31-day rodeo, captains get 20 points for first place entries, 10 points for second and one for dailies.

Winners this year in the various divisions are Capt. Brady Bowman of the Bow’d Up, with 173 points in the charter boat division; Capt. Scott Whitehurst, On The Bite, 109 points, under-25-feet charter boat division; Capt. Cliff Cox, Sweet Jody, 246 points, party boat division; Capt. Mike Champion and Capt. Mike Noling, Finatic, 113 points, under-25-feet private boat division; and Capt. Mike Shephard, 92 points, Aquaholics, private boat division.

“It was a pretty busy month,” said Capt. Bowman, who had nine fish that lasted on the leaderboard.

He and his anglers finished up on the board with four first place fish, and five second place fish. Baye Bowman of Destin weighed in a 49.2-pound king mackerel on Day 30 of the rodeo for a first place spot. Also on that day, they took first in the Junior Angler Division with a 47.4-pound king caught by Ethan Gregory of Fort Walton Beach.

During the middle of the month, Logan Stockton of Tennessee hauled in a 56.6-pound wahoo for a first place slot, and Jim Wolfe, also of Tennessee, reeled in an 11-pound black snapper for a first on the board.

“I was very fortunate because there were a lot of rough days, but my people hung in there and never said they wanted to come in,” Bowman said. 

“I thought it went well,” he said, noting they fished all but about five days.

Capt. Whitehurst of the On The Bite spent just about every day on the water as well, 29 out of 31, and had the points to prove it with three first place fish and three second place fish on the board.

As a matter of fact, his anglers swept the grouper and red grouper categories. Kathy Fullerton of Texas pulled in an 11.4-pound grouper for first, and Jason Whitehurst of Alabama took second with an 11-pounder. As for the red grouper, Dave Bromley of Minnesota reeled in a 15-pounder on Day 1 and it lasted the entire month for a first place finish. Donnie Reed of Alabama placed second with a 14.6 red grouper.

The largest fish Whitehurst and crew brought to the scales was a 37.4-pound barracuda on Oct. 25, reeled in by David Swindell of Tennessee.

“I’m proud of that 37.4-pounder, seeing how it is in the overall category and it’s a big barracuda,” Whitehurst said.

Capt. Shepherd of the Aquaholics finished up with seven fish on the big board, but only one finished in first place. And believe it or not the first place fish was caught on the last day of the rodeo. Tony Dover of Mary Esther weighed in a 4-pound mingo for first, knocking the 3.8-pound mingo caught by Andrew Dover of Destin down to second.

Two of their biggest fish for the month was a 33.2-pound grouper and a 27-pound wahoo, both caught by Shephard for second place slots.

The two captains aboard the Finatic, which took turns throughout the month running the boat, had six fish finish on the board, five at first place. Capt. Champion said they fished at least twice a week during October and captured one of those first place finishes on the last day. Larry Nicodemus of Destin brought in a 6.8-pound tripletail for first place.

They also took first in grouper with a 33.2-pounder caught by Tom Whittemore of Niceville and first in scamp with a 10.2-pound pulled in by Jim Schumacher, also of Niceville. They swept the Almaco Jack category with a 15.6-pound pulled in by Phil Hessenius of Destin and a 15.2-pounder caught by Schumacher.

The Finatic's biggest catch of the month was a 297-pound blue marlin pulled in by Hueliton Zimmerman of Navarre.

For Capt. Cox, this year was far from being his first rodeo. With more than three decades of rodeo fishing under his belt, and a past recipient of the captain’s award, Cox had 13 fish finish on the board, nine at first place.

But 13 fish on the board doesn’t just happen. The Sweet Jody fished 28 of 31 days, putting in nine to 18-hours each trip.

“It was a marathon,” Cox said, noting the long hours and effort. “It takes a lot of effort from everybody, but we have a great rodeo fishing team.”

Cox said it takes a village to make it all happen from the guys that run the deck to the folks that start booking the boat in August to the regulars who come back year after year to fish the rodeo aboard the Sweet Jody.

Although all of their catches were special, Cox said the 47-pound wahoo caught on Day 1 by Timothy Kasel of Georgia was memorable, as well as the two mingo on the last day that took over first and second place. Gerald Skillen of Mississippi reeled in the 5.8-pound mingo for first and Daniel Dwyer of Indiana a 4.8-pounder for second.

“That 5.8-pounder was the biggest one I’ve ever caught,” Cox said.

Not only did they sweep the mingo division but the black snapper as well. Glenn Wong pulled in an 11.2-pound black snapper for first and Tim Trepanier a 7.6-pounder for second.

Michael Chauvin of Fort Walton Beach pulled in an 89.6-pound shark for a first and their largest fish of the month.

As for the smallest, Tom Fukida of Pace, whose been fishing with Cox for more than 20 years, weighed in a 2.6-pound flounder caught in 600 feet of water for a second place spot and a 2.2 pound dolphin for first.

Jerome Matusak of Illinois weighed in a 29.6-pound wahoo for a first in the senior division.

Plus in the Reef Division, Navarre’s Bob Mawson, a Sweet Jody regular, pulled in a 21.6-pound barrel fish for a first and Tyler Winchester of South Carolina caught an 11.8-pound brotula for a first.

“It was a great effort by a lot of people,” Cox said.

And the great thing about the rodeo, he said, “everybody that wants to compete has a chance to win.”