Out of 285 captains that fished the 71st Destin Fishing Rodeo, five rose to the top — Cliff Cox, Robert Hill, Josh Calhoon, Andrew Dover and Forrest Dalton.
Each year, at the end of the month-long fishing Rodeo, the points are accumulated and five captains are the recipient of the Captains Award in their various divisions. Each captain receives 20 points for a first place finish on the leaderboard, 10 for second place, seven points for a bonus or weekly award and one point for a daily award.
Capt. Cox of the Sweet Jody won Party Boat Division with 143 points.
"This is the 10th time out of the last 12 years," Cox said he had won the prestigious award.
The Sweet Jody had a total of eight fish that lasted on the leaderboard, including a 16.4-pound Almaco Jack that was caught on Day 1.
Out of the 31-day tournament, Cox said they fished 25 days. Cox attributed his success to a "good cast of characters."
"I"ve got a good bunch of people that fish with me ... and we fish hard," Cox said.
Winning in the Charter Boat Division with 322 points was Capt. Robert Hill of the Twilight.
This is Hill’s third time to win the award.
The Twilight finished the Rodeo with 10 first place fish, 10 second place fish and one third place on the board. They also had one fish that lasted the entire month on the board, a 38.4-pound grouper caught on Day 1 by Hutch Hutchison.
Out of the 31 days, Hill said they fished 21 days. Some of their bigger fish included a pair of 89.6-pound amberjack, a 46.2-pound wahoo, a 149.2-pound yellowfin tuna, and a 172.8- and 203.8-pound big eye tuna.
As for how they were able to win so many divisions, Hill said, "My customers and mates."
Another repeat winner was Calhoon of the Destin Inshore Guides for the Captain Award in Charter Boat 25-foot-under.
This was Calhoon’s third year in a row to win the award.
"It’s a lot of fun ... and it’s my passion," Calhoon said about fishing.
Calhoon fished 27 out of 31 days and packed in 38 trips. During that time, he accumulated 167 points.
Calhoon finished with 10 spots on the leaderboard, four at first and six in second. Plus he brought in the first fish of the Rodeo on opening day, a 6.4-pound redfish. Calhoon and his anglers went on to finish strong in the Inshore Division with an 8.4- and an 8-pound redfish for first and second.
Calhoon had countless daily awards, weighing in sometimes twice a day.
"It’s easier when it’s passion," he said.
In the Private 25-foot-and-under Division, Dover of Muscle Memories was the recipient of the Captain’s Award.
This was Dover’s first time to win the award.
"It’s pretty awesome ... it’s a good feeling. We worked hard for it," Dover said, who fishes to bring awareness to muscular dystrophy.
Dover accumulated 91 points in his 10 days of fishing.
Included in his list of big fish were a 31.2-pound blackfin tuna, 42.4-pound amberjack and an 87-pound yellowfin tuna.
As for the Private Boat Division, the Captains Award went to Dalton of the Sea Bandit.
Dalton, who won the award once before several years ago, had 104 points, including his dailies.
Not only did he and his anglers land one of three 89.6-pound amberjack for the AJ’s Bonus Award, but they also won first and second in their division with a 73.6- and a 64.6-pound amberjack. They also pulled in an 80-pound wahoo and a 72.2 pounder to dominate on the board.
"I was pretty happy with those two wahoo," Dalton said.
As for winning the award, he said, "Everybody likes a little bragging rights."