Flora-Bama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo 2020 “Funner” Than Ever
From the Gulf coast of Texas all the way around the “Big Bend” down to the south west shores of Florida there is no lack of deep sea fishing rodeos held on the Gulf of Mexico. With all of the competition vying for angler participation and tournament visitors why is the three-day Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo so popular? Good Question. It isn’t the oldest. The 2020 Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo will hold its 87th tournament while the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo 2020 is only in its seventh year. It’s not the largest. The Destin Fishing Rodeo draws over 35,000 participants and visitors, significantly more than the FBFR. While the winners of the Flora-Bama tournament collect over 100,000 in cash and awards, it’s certainly not the highest “pay-out” tournament in the circuit.
So What is the Deal?
Before we get into what the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo offers that results in its wide-spread, fun-loving popularity, let’s talk about the Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar itself.
Originally built in 1964 just off the newly constructed highway connecting Orange Beach AL with Perdido Key, Fl. the Flora-Bama, straddles the state line between Alabama and Florida. At that time Baldwin county on the Alabama side was a “dry” county and Escambia county on the Florida side was “wet”. Consequently, there were slim pickings regarding available “watering holes” and the F-B ponied up and delivered. At the “Bama” you could legally quench your thirst while at the same time enjoy a beautiful view of the Gulf.
In 2004 hurricane Ivan did a number on the F-B and the direct hit destroyed the main entrance and most of the bar. After years of rebuilding (much of it with the original material) the Flora-Bama now features five different stages each sometimes simultaneously playing different music. They have featured headliners such as Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Chesney and others.
Today, the “Bama” has been labeled as “The best watering hole in the country”, describes itself as a “5-Star Honky-Tonk” and is a place where locals mingle with tourists, millionaires sit next to bikers and military service people and everyone has fun and enjoys the mutual company.
Open 365 days a year, in addition to offering music and performances the Flora-Bama hosts both annual and one-time events.
“Throughout the year we offer different events ranging from free bingo, community potlucks, different kinds of athletic races, contests, the legendary Mullet Toss, the Santa Drop and Easter Egg Hunt for the kids, beach concerts and, of course, the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo, “said Flora-Bama Marketing Director Jenifer Parnell. “We even hold two church services every Sunday with a live band and yes, the bar is open. We have between 500-700 people per service.
“We offer a little bit for all ages and walks of life,” Parnell added.
It’s Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo Time
The Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo 2020 is a three-day Captains Choice tournament with approximately 900 anglers competing for prizes in categories from catfish to bill fish and everything in between. This year’s tournament is scheduled for Friday June 12 through Sunday, June 14. Thousands of visitors visit daily to view the weighing in of catches and participate in the three-day festivities.
For information on divisions, categories and fees go to www.florabamafishingrodeo.com.
Parnell attributes the success of the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo, referred to as “the funnest fishing tournament on the Gulf Coast” to a number of different pillars in the tournaments marketing model.
“We’re all about charging a low entrance fee to make sure that anyone who wants to can enter the tournament and have the chance to win tons of great prizes,” Parnell explained. “We want to make sure that participants can fish from wherever they want, be that a dock or pier, a beach, wading the surf, a kayak or any other type of boat in shallow or deep water, how and wherever they choose. We wanted to make sure to include everyone, from kids up to 100-year-olds and we crafted our categories to include and accommodate them.”
To that end, the FBFR features over 40 categories in the adult and kids’ division of fish to catch, with 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prize packages for each category and both divisions.
Parnell pointed out that kids can compete in the adult division if they choose. They just need to pay the adult entry fee.
“We also offer competitive divisions, such as the King Mackerel Championship, the Speckled Trout Championship and the Red Snapper Jackpot where anglers can “fish up” by paying more to compete at higher levels or by boat to win prizes or bigger bucks,” Parnell said.
“For all the people entering the tournament, the entry fee is low, categories are vast, and the prizes are excellent,” Parnell summarized. “The goal of FBFR is to allow people of all different backgrounds and ages the opportunity to enter the tournament without breaking the bank, have a real shot at competing and winning prizes and provide a fun experience at a very cool place while doing it.”
Angelo DePaola earns his living as a real estate broker/agent for the Coastal Connection in Orange Beach, Alabama. He is also a proud father of two kids, an avid “offshore guy” and is passionate about and devoted to the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo, especially the kids and family aspects.
DePaola has been involved with the rodeo since its inception and is on his 7th term as the tournament president. He agrees with Parnell that the success of the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo 2020 is largely a combination of the low entry fees, large and diverse species categories, the stellar prizes and awards and the coolness and fun of the F-B venue itself.
“When you combine our entry fees, available age groups, categories, prizes and sponsors, location and venue with everything that the Flora-Bama has to offer, it makes for a truly unique situation and experience,” DePaola said.
Kids and Causes
According to DePaola, when they decided to step up the tournament to another level by establishing a kid’s division with categories, they had no clue how it would go over and if kids and families would even get involved or to what extent.
Much to their delight the kids and family side of the coin was embraced and currently, the tournament growth is coming from that sector not the adult side.
“We didn’t anticipate how big the kid’s side was and what the categories for kids should be,” DePaola said. “They get to participate in the tournament, compete for prizes and weight-in with everyone else just like they were a grown-up and it’s fun for them.”
“We have a passion for encouraging young people to fish the deep sea rodeo and watching them compete and develop skills. We try to create an atmosphere that supports them getting involved in fishing, provide an affordable means for young people to get outside, build relationships, talk fishing and have fun instead of just sitting at home playing computer games,” DePaola said. “It also allows the whole family, dads, moms and all the children to get involved and have fun..”
The Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo 2020 isn’t just all fun and games. It is also a fundraiser for Operation ReConnect, a charitable organization that provides a free week long vacation to a family after their military service family member has been deployed a long way away from home. As soon as they return from deployment Operation ReConnect brings them to Gulf Shores, Orange Beach or Perdido Key to spend a week reconnecting as a family.
“We donate a portion of ticket sales back to this charity and they are our volunteers for the event as well, “said Parnell. “You’ll see them wearing their branded Operation ReConnect shirts all weekend, getting ice, helping people unload fish and help where they are needed.”
At the End of the Day…
“We propose that the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo is the “Funnest” tournament because we have an awesome environment for fishing and weigh-in. You have the beautiful beach in front of you, live music, cold drinks and delicious food,” Parnell said. “Participants have a real shot at competing, winning prizes and having a fun time doing it. We have fun things going on for spectators as well, like a crawfish eating contest and animals from the zoo for the kids to play with and other youth programs plus a sponsor area for people to shop for clothing and artwork. That’s why the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo 2020 is the “Funnest” tournament on the Gulf Coast.