Written by Jeff Dute
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Alabama — The fish weren’t the only things that came to the scales wet and cold on the final day of the 78th Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo on Sunday.
The fishermen were in a similar state even down to the post-mortem-like haze in their eyes born of being beaten by two days of the worst weather outside of a tropical storm to afflict the rodeo in recent memory.
Still they came.
Some wore expensive rain gear. Others had on nothing but shorts and t-shirts. Some were barebacked. Young and old alike shivered and shuddered as the wind howled and the rain blew while unloading their catches.
In a cruel twist of Mother Nature’s whim Sunday afternoon, the wind and rain quit and the sun smiled through breaking clouds as the last few anglers in line weighed in a few minutes after the scales’ 5 p.m. closing time.
They came in such numbers — 2,220 of them — in these miserable conditions that the rodeo now has been officially recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest fishing tournament in the world. A total of 1,992 fisherman paraded through the weigh station and the remainder were counted through turning in their ticket stub for the Dauphin Island Chamber of Commerce’s $500 random drawing.
Ken Stafford poses with the white trout he caught Sunday July 17, 2011 during the final day of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo on Dauphin Island.(Press-Register, Chip English)
The fact they were willing to fish, come to the scales and help their rodeo gain such an honor was not lost on this year’s president.
“It just shows the pride these anglers take in this tournament and the dedication they have to it,” Todd Bishop said. “It really reminds us of why we volunteer to put on this event. I mean, it’s always been for the anglers.”
The fishermen who did brave the weather to help beat the old world record of 2,206 participants brought in such variety and such size that the rodeo committee members who tend the manual leaderboard never lacked for something to do. Fourteen new leaders emerged and multiple names changed in second and third.
At the end of the day, Chris Bazor may be the happiest fisherman to brave the weather when the 27.30-pound blackfin tuna and 36.62-pound dolphin he weighed both claimed first place, earning the Orange Beach resident the Master Angler title.
Bazor said he and his crewmates had to make a 150-mile run to find the blue water both species prefer.
Press-Register Correspondent Rows of razor sharp teeth can be seen in this long fin mako shark caught by Alan Lancaster Sunday July 17, 2011 during the final day of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo on Dauphin Island.(Press-Register, Chip English) Sports
Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo Day 3 gallery (27 photos)
“It was dirty everywhere until there,” he said.
Marvin Vanosdol on “Skint Back” made the most of his first fishing rodeo by bringing in the only king mackerel bigger than 50 pounds. The 52.30-pound smoker claimed first in the category and the King Mackerel Jackpot’s recreational division.
Marvin Vanosdol’s son, Michael, said the crew, which also included TJ Bussie and Zach Nelson, took a beating getting to and from their spot around a platform 45 miles south of Dauphin Island.
The fish ate a silver eel trolled 30 feet deep behind a downrigger just as the crew was preparing to run from an approaching storm.
“We decided to give it one last try and the fish hit,” Michael Vanosdol said.
Marvin Vanosdol added, “It’s the biggest king I ever caught.”
In the random drawings, Charles Foley won the Boat Stuf/Contender boat package that includes a 21-foot Contender with an Eagle Towers T-top, 200hp Yamaha and Loadmaster trailer.