So the boats turn around. Many of them make for the "tide line." This is a favorite place to troll, a line of distinct demarcation along the meeting of coastal water and the deep-blue Gulf water. It comes in close sometimes, according to tidal variations, or again it may be 15 to 20 miles out. Dolphin and king mackerel inhabit it. Cobia lurk under items of flotsam. The outboard rigs venture out there too, more and more of them every year. The popularity of being captain of your own vessel, however tiny, is strong here, for Mobile's anglers are of a city of seagoing tradition, and will boldly put out into the Gulf in any kind of a boat.
Big yachts compete, notably a 63-footer out of New Orleans owned by E. V. Richards of Paramount Theatres Inc. In 1954 this and smaller vessels sailed as far as 80 miles out into the Gulf, with radio conversations indicating that they felt they were exploring for great new big-game fishing. This class of boat didn't do well, but hopes are high for finding big-game grounds this year. After all, the Fish and Wildlife Service research vessel Oregon has been bringing in fabulous stuff—tuna, mako, marlin, sailfish—from out there. There's a good chance some yacht owner will win, say, a washing machine.
Fort Morgan, across the bay to the east from Dauphin Island, has a stake in the glory of the rodeo, for Fort Morgan, until the newly arrived era of the bridge, was the closest point attainable by land. Thus, last year rodeo participants bought at Fort Morgan 5,000 gallons of gas with which to pursue fish and 10,000 pounds of ice to keep them. Many participants simplify things by staying at the Fort Morgan Inn and running back and forth across the bay to rodeo headquarters to take in their fish and cargo away their prizes, which cover practically every species.
A GREAT TARPON AREA
The rodeo—often called the tarpon rodeo despite its official name—would be an incongruity without a tarpon. Mobile Bay has been one of the great tarpon places, although for the past two years they have not been plentiful. In 1954 it looked for a time as if there would be no tarpon entry—none was caught until the last day.
But around the point at Fort Morgan the outgoing tide forms a riffle, and at the right moment anglers can see tarpon swirling everywhere, beneath a cloud of screaming gulls and diving pelicans. The tarpon become so wildly excited that they actually bump into the sides of boats. Undoubtedly this spot will be more carefully watched this year than it was during the 1954 rodeo. When the tarpon appeared off the point that time, the whole regatta was converging on a tarpon sighted up in Bon Secour Bay. The only man at the riffle was Jack Gaines, in an outboard rig, fishing for tarpon for the first time. He lost the only one he hooked.
The first prize for tarpon in 1954 was taken by Tony Patrick, 13, fishing aboard the Gypsy X out of Destin, Fla. The biggest tarpon was caught aboard the Sally II, charterboat owned by Raz Crenshaw, but it was disqualified because it took two anglers to whip it—G. F. Monteal, who hooked it and got a Charley horse, and M. A. (Bubber) Norden, who took over and endured to the end.
Bubber Norden disqualified the fish himself, an act which made him hero and star of the rodeo. His moral stature was broadcast in telephone conversations throughout the radio community and then was picked up by the Mobile papers. They gave Bubber's sportsmanship a page-one play and a recording of the affair went on a CBS hookup from coast to coast, which was a pleasant way to end the rodeo.