Brett Rutledge was back in Gulfport on Monday, this time to reel in a big payday.
The Alabama angler hauled in the biggest bull shark of the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo on July 3.
The 354-pound, 4-ounce bull shark was certified by the state Commission on Marine Resources on July 18. That set the wheels in motion to cash in on the $20,000 prize for a new state record shark.
Monday, Mayor Billy Hewes made good on the prize, handing Rutledge the check.
“When they (rodeo organizers) brought this back home (to Gulfport), they said they were going to make this some kind of big,” said Hewes. “This is the premiere fishing event in the Gulf South and it continues to grow. And prizes like this draw the fishermen in.”
Ritchie Valdez, president of the rodeo, thanked Landry Fore and Design Precast & Pipe, which sponsored the shark prize.
“They came out and sponsored the rodeo and said ‘Hey, we want to do something big for the community. We want to make sure somebody’s going home with some big money.’”
Rutledge, whose team also won big in 2016 with captain David Rogers on the reel, said they enjoy the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo because of the atmosphere.
“We love the camaraderie of the people here,” he said. “It’s easy to get here, there’s a big weigh-in and lots of crowd support.”
Valdez said it takes between $115,000 and $120,000 annually to put on the rodeo, so sponsors and volunteers make it possible for the rodeo to have just put its 70th year in the books.
In addition to the check for bull shark record, rodeo officials also issued checks to:
▪ Chase Moses for the Krewe of Gemini, $1,500
▪ American Legion, $3,662.50
▪ Rodeo scholarships, $3,250