Nick Rauber’s Uncle Gary likes to tell the stories about the days when his nephew patrolled the pier at their family camp.
“He would catch a fish, cut it open to find out what the fish was eating, then try to catch the bait to catch the big fish,” Gary Rauber said Friday. “He was 6 or 7 maybe, and he was really into it all, all the fishing, all the hunting, anything outdoors. He was something to see.
“And when he was 17, he started something that’s turned out to be something pretty big.”
True, Swollfest is big, and the rodeo Nick Rauber started as a family fishing competition in 1997 is, for coastal fishermen, what a season opener is for college football and opening day is for the major leagues.
The Swollfest Fishing Rodeo opens the way for a summer-long string of weekend-long contests involving thousands of anglers along the Louisiana coast. In its teenage years, Swollfest’s growth has evolved into an event for all ages.
There are overall, ladies-only and children-only categories and the “swoll-est” fish, an award that goes to the heaviest fish that comes to the scales at Sand Dollar Marina on the east end of Grand Isle.
While the rodeo opens Thursday, weighmasters will put fish on the scales from 4-6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Folks with the top fish in each category will receive their prizes at Saturday’s 8 p.m. awards ceremony. High-dollar Yeti ice chests are the top prizes in each category.
Rauber said he expects this year’s rodeo to draw its biggest crowd.
“With red snapper season only nine days (June 1-9), we’re the only big tournament in the middle of snapper season,” Rauber said. “That’s a big deal for all the offshore guys and will draw a lot of fishermen to Grand Isle.”
Besides individual species, there are categories for a five-speckled trout stringer, and for the Best Inshore and Best Offshore boats. Rules call for a ban on all fish taken by something other than rods and reels. There also a Kayak Division.
What’s more, Rauber and the folks who make up the rodeo’s committee have committed to again donate proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the American Diabetes Association.
“We’ve added another, Cancer Services this year,” Rauber said. “The rodeo just keeps taking on a life of its own. We also use some of the proceeds for the Swollfest Outdoor Wish Foundation to take disabled youngsters hunting and fishing.”
“Life” in this case, is donations nearing $200,000 in the previous years to those charities.
“We’re even bigger this year with MoJo Fishing coming on as a sponsor. We’ll have tons of MoJo gear imprinted with the Swollfest logo this year,” Rauber said. “And we’ll have to live banks Friday night and Saturday night going all the way to 11 o’clock/ Food will be served when the bands start playing.”
Rauber said this year begins a three-year, documentary-film project about Swollfest and Grand Isle.
He said the rodeo’s current leaderboard will be posted on Twitter at #swollfest2014.
For details, email: Swollfest@cox.net.
The bass tournament that was to be held Sunday at Doiron’s to help defray expenses for state B.A.S.S. High School champions Dillon King and Kody Kelley was postponed because of high water from last week’s rains. It will be rescheduled.