GRAND ISLE — John Georges wasn’t around in 1928 when a group of adventuresome south Louisianans came up with the idea of gathering on the state’s only inhabited barrier island for a weekend of fishing and fun — and competition only the most devoted saltwater fishermen know and understand.
Yet the history of what’s now the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo isn’t lost on the New Orleans businessman and entrepreneur.
“I’ve been coming to the rodeo for 25, maybe 30 years now, and Boysie Bollinger introduced me to it,” Georges said Wednesday after serving his first official presidential duty, a U.S. Coast Guard tour of the waters around Grand Isle, for the 87th IGITR, a number that makes it the oldest competitive fishing event in the country.
“My wife’s family has had a camp on the island for more than 50 years, and she came to the island every weekend,” Georges said. “It’s a beautiful place, and I have lots of friends here. We do business here and at Port Fourchon.”
Because Grand Isle is in Jefferson Parish, and Georges’ personal and business roots are so deep in this parish’s soil, he said it was an easy nod when he was asked to move into the first rung of the rodeo’s ladder.
He was the Admiral of the Fleet in 2014 and stepped into the president’s spot this year.
“It’s an honor because I know how much this rodeo means to this community, to Jefferson Parish, to our area,” Georges said. “The fishing is great here. We’re going (Thursday), and I can’t wait.
“The weather looks like it’s getting better, and the island is coming alive for the big weekend,” Georges said. “To me, this is what Louisiana is.”
The Sand Dollar Marina weighstation on the east end of the island opens at 8 a.m. Thursday in anticipation of the prized first tarpon. Ditto for Friday and Saturday that will complete the three-day rodeo’s run.
The weighstation will close at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 6 p.m. Saturday.
In between will be crab races for youngsters, DJ’s music, live bands all three days, Georges’ presidential welcome Thursday evening that comes complete with Louisiana’s biggest shrimp boil and will conclude Saturday with the awards ceremony.
And with conditions improving daily from an earlier-in-the-week forecast of thunderstorms, wind and rough seas, the three-day forecast is for 10-knot westerly winds and 1-2 foot seas, a light chop on inside waters and building tides, there’ll be lots of fish to spur the activity around the weighstation and rodeo pavilion.
Justin Watts and Alex Heintze, the qualifiers from the Livingston Parish Bassmasters put five bass weighing 20 pounds, 10 ounces in the boat early Wednesday to hold the first-day lead in the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship on Kentucky Lake near Paris, Tennessee.
The Denham Springs youths hold a 10-ounce lead over the Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, team of Matt Shirley and Cade Barnes going into Thursday’s second round.
Live weigh-ins will be carried on website: www.bassmaster.com.