It’s become noticeable this year, and for the past three fishing rodeo summers, that the torch has been passed to the next generation of adventuresome Louisiana fishermen.
Gone are the days when charterboat trips captained by long-remembered men like Doc Kennedy and Charlie Hardison, among others, arrived at rodeos spread from Golden Meadow to Grand Isle with catches that dominated leaderboards.
Young charter skippers and an increasing number of private anglers, ready to tackle the vagaries of weather, tide and current, are posting sizable catches like the 206-pound grouper and 45-pound king mackerel combination JJ Tabor brought to the scales to win the Fourth of July Golden Meadow-Fourchon Tarpon Rodeo.
Tabor is one of the young Turks who’s been around rodeo fishing since he was darned near old enough to read and count. Fishing with his father, John, Tabor, who grew up in Thibodaux, has shown up at a handful of rodeos each summer for more than 25 years, and, now a physician in Baton Rouge, he carves out just enough time to continue to pursue his passion.
Add in the hard-to-contain enthusiasm of Fourchon guide Jamie Gaspard and a crew of energetic charter skippers from Grand Isle and Venice, and the old-timers have their work cut out for them this week with the granddaddy of ’em all, the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo setting its 87th annual run Thursday through Saturday.
Tabor knows he’ll have stiff competition for the state’s headline-grabbing saltwater tournament: “Win this one (the GITR) and it’s big, real big,” Tabor said.
“There are a lot of good fishermen there every year.”
There’s not much new this year under the rodeo pavilion on the east end of the island, nor at the nearby Sand Dollar Marina weighstation.
This year’s rodeo president is New Orleanian and The Advocate owner-publisher John Georges. His presence in Baton Rouge continues in a line of rodeo presidents with Baton Rouge ties, men like Joe Lipsey, his son Richard Lipsey, Rawlston “Bubba” Phillips, Ray Burgess, Arren Broussard and Carter Wilkinson to break up what usually is a New Orleans-dominated line.
And to quote Richard Lipsey, “This rodeo has become an event for Louisiana, not just a New Orleans event.”
The rodeo begins at daybreak Thursday and ends when the weighstation closes at 6 p.m. Saturday.