Nick Rauber is excited these days.
That’s because it’s Swollfest time, and because this increasingly popular Grand Isle-based fishing rodeo — Sand Dollar Marina is the headquarters — is coming back this week to help lots of children.
Like almost every 2010 Louisiana saltwater fishing event, Swollfest was canceled because of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
“Everything we make goes to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the American Diabetes Association, so the hope is that we’ll come back and will double in size this year,” Rauber said.
“That’s the charitable side of it,” he continued. “On the fishing side, it’s the chance to return to the normalcy we all grew up with, knowing that fishing is what we do on the weekends and laugh and have a good time with what we like to do. It’s so nice to see that again.”
The rodeo begins Thursday. All rodeo information and registration is available on its website: http://www.swollfest.com/.
Rauber’s excitement comes from months of work trying to re-establish Swollfest as June’s premier saltwater fishing event.
“We added a Kayak Division; and Blue Runner Foods is catering Friday and Saturday with foods from their new line; and Ben Bullins’ art company, the Benjamin Collection, is customizing all the major awards; and we have artwork from Lauren Barksdale Hill; and we’re accepting donations for raffles; and everybody is welcomed,” Rauber continued at a frenetic pace.
Another feature he added is an agreement struck with CCA Louisiana and its summer-long S.T.A.R. event. Catch a specially tagged S.T.A.R. redfish during Swollfest and not only will the rodeo-registered angler win the CCA’s prize — the first tagged redfish catcher wins a Chevy Silverado pick-up — he will win an extra $5,000.
“Anyone who has donations or something to add to the rodeo can drop it off at our office — I’m with Dr. (Dan) Bankhead — next to Sammy’s Grill at 8519 Highland Rd.,” Rauber said
“Everybody is welcomed, that’s all I can say,” Rauber continued. “Lots of people haven’t been fishing in months, and some fishermen use certain times of the year as benchmarks to kick off the summer. Fortunately, for a lot of them, Swollfest is that benchmark.”
Know how Swollfest got its name?
Spawned at a backyard barbecue in 1997, three fathers and sons and two friends gathered on Grand Isle for a weekend’s fishing to see who could catch the “swollest” fish and win a $5 trophy.
In subsequent years, more and more friends joined them; and by 2000, there were 52 fishermen. By 2002, the American Diabetes Association benefited from the proceeds. By the end of the 2009 event, Swollfest had raised more than $300,000 for ADA and MDA.
There is a children’s 12-and-younger division. And amid all the categories, there aren’t places for marlin, sailfish nor spearfish, nor sharks, nor redfish longer than 27 inches, nor are there places for black drum of any size, jack crevalle nor barracuda.
There are inshore, coastal and blue water divisions for rod-and-reel caught fish. And Swollfest is the summer’s first big spearfishing division event.
Then there are the unique contests, like the open master board for those last four divisions and a closed board (for women, children and kayak fishermen) and team/boat competitions, and a five-trout stringer in the inshore division.
Then there’s something called the open fun board, something Rauber and his buddies call “Belly buzzard, that singles out the “oddest/ugliest fish, the “swollest” sail cat (gafftopsail catfish), the “swollest” channel mullet and the “swollest” spadefish.
Need more? Rauber offered his phone number, too: (504) 858-8905.