Already certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest tournament of its kind, it would have to take something really special to get the attention of organizers at the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.
The recent announcement by state officials of an extension of the red snapper season in Alabama waters – just in time for the 81st annual competition – was such an event.
“Absolutely,” tournament president Gene Fox told Lagniappe. “A lot of people involved with recreational fishing are excited by the news.”
The ADSFR, a project of the Mobile Jaycees, typically attracts more than 3,000 anglers, who compete in 30 categories for approximately $500,000 in cash and prizes. The tournament begins Friday, July 18, and concludes Sunday, July 20. The entry fee for the open competition is $40 per angler.
“Even before the red snapper news, our registration was already set up for a great year,” said Fox. ‘Now we are looking at a spectacular year. There is a lot of interest, and a lot of great prizes to give away.”
In response to the red snapper extension, rodeo officials have added a special award category for the species. Three winners will be picked through random drawings of all anglers who enter a legal red snapper during the tournament.
Rodeo ticket holders will be allowed two entries per day. Participants must agree to allow each fish to be briefly examined for research by the University of South Alabama’s Department of Marine Science.
“Getting the red snapper category back is most important,” Fox said, “because we had a 20-year data stream with USA, before it was cut off the last three years. We hope this will fill in the gap, and we can see what is going on in the Gulf (with red snapper).”
Leading the research for USA and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab are Drs. Bob Shipp and Sean Powers. Fish will be promptly returned to anglers following a scientific examination. Over the last 10 years, the rodeo has donated more than $200,000 toward marine research and scholarships.
“We want the anglers to take home their groceries,” Fox said, “but we want the scientists to look at them first.”
The fishing actually got started last weekend with the 56th annual Roy Martin Young Anglers Tournament, an event open to those 15 years and younger. Proceeds went to the annual Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour, a program sponsored by the Mobile Jaycees that assists in buying gifts for disadvantaged youth.
Festivities for the ADSFR start at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 17, with the Bayou Rum Liar’s Contest at the rodeo site on Dauphin Island. All rodeo ticket holders are eligible to participate. The event is free and open to the public. Live music by the band Rollin’ in the Hay will follow.
“There is plenty to do and see during the weekend,” said Fox, whose group expects more than 70,000 spectators. “We have partnered with the town of Dauphin Island, and they are putting on a music festival. There will be 30 acts at 13 locations all over the island for four days, and it is all free. There is something for everybody.”
Fishing will officially begin Friday at 5 a.m., and will conclude Sunday at 5 p.m. The weigh stations will operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Fox said what makes the ADSFR special is that any participant can be a winner.
“Guys with the biggest boat and biggest fish don’t win everything,” he said. “Any angler who weights a legal fish in any of the 30 categories is in the running for a 21-foot Contender boat with a Yamaha motor and trailer.
“Another popular event is the speckled trout jackpot. Anyone who enters a legal speckled trout can win a Carolina Skiff 18-foot JVX with a Yamaha motor and trailer.”
The speckled trout jackpot will remain an angler ticket ($25), rather than a boat ticket, to better accommodate kayak anglers. Other special jackpot categories cover king mackerel, tuna, dolphin, wahoo and swordfish.
Mandatory captain’s meetings and sign-out for all boats entered in the Raymarine Big Game Jackpot ($250 per boat), Pronto King Mackerel Jackpot ($200 per boat) and the optional cash prize divisions are set for Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. The meetings will be at the ADSFR site on Dauphin Island and at J&M Tackle in Orange Beach. Anglers unable to attend either meeting must sign-out at the Dauphin Island site by Friday at 5 a.m.
The awards ceremony will take place Monday, July 21, at the Greater Gulf States Fairgrounds in West Mobile starting at 6 p.m.
The idea for the ADSFR was first conceived in 1928 by a group of local businessmen – including the first rodeo president L.G. Adams Sr. – during a fishing trip on Mobile Bay.
The Jaycees took over leadership in 1948. In addition to the University of South Alabama, Fox said also benefiting from donations are the American Cancer Society, Dauphin Island Elementary School, the Billfish Foundation and the Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour.