Meet Bruce Cheves, the “Master” Weighmaster of The Destin Fishing Rodeo
Bruce Cheves is a fixture among anglers along the Emerald Coast, and if you haven’t heard his name, you will most certainly recognize his voice. Now in his thirty-third year as a local Weighmaster, you can find Bruce on the dock at AJ’s in Destin daily from 10a to 7p during the month of October. Armed with a hands-free microphone, Bruce spends his October days at the Destin Fishing Rodeo standing, spouting the weights of the latest catches, fish facts, funny stories and whatever rolls off his tongue. Last week Bruce sat down with me on the dock before his workday began, and we talked about his life, his work and some memorable stories from years past.
Bruce moved here in 1977 and began work on a Destin fishing boat. Over a period of 35 years, for 7.5 months of the year, Bruce was up at 4 in the morning and out on a charter boat. He said, “This town turned me into a fisherman. Fishing is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.”
In 1979, during a break from his fisherman’s life, Bruce worked at LaFountain’s Wharf Restaurant, where the Destin Shark Tournament was held. Bruce told me that on the last day of the tournament, with one hour left, he noticed a PA system that no one was using. He was invited to try his hand at shooting the breeze, and the rest is history. He told me that during that hour, he attracted a crowd of 80 people and sold all of the tournament merchandise. Later that night, at a local bar, he was instantly recognized and asked if he was ready to get “shipped,” with his new friends. In the angler world, that means enjoying a few too many brews.
He worked the Shark Tournament for 17 years. Additionally, he spent a few years helping his friend Captain Bill Sherman, Weighmaster of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. When Captain Sherman retired, Bruce was the natural choice to replace him. Since then, Bruce has spent his October days on the fishing dock, educating adults and children, messing with people and having a good time.
Bruce told me that he enjoys seeing kids facial expressions when a fish is weighed. Bruce said, “As far as kids go, I’ve seen miles and miles and miles of smiles.” Every child who catches a fish that weighs 1 pound gets a pole. Bruce told me he had 2 vacationing children who brought him a bag with 2 fish in it. He put it on the scale and the combined weight was about four-tenths of a pound. The kids were leaving the next day and didn’t have time to catch any more fish. Funnyman Bruce dumped his iced tea in the bag, making the weight increase to over a pound, earning the kids their rod.
Full of great stories, Bruce told me he tries to make everyone feel special, even if they don’t get on the Leader Board. He told me about Donna Rock. She was on a boat that pulled into the dock with fish to be weighed. The captain of the boat said to Bruce, “She caught that.” Bruce understood what he was saying when he saw that she had no arms. Donna had caught a 6.5 pound snapper with her feet. Bruce invited her later that night to demonstrate to the crowd how she caught the fish. The crowd was silent as they watched her amazing skill with her feet. Once finished, she asked to take the microphone, and then said, “Destin Rocks.” Bruce told me the crowd went wild.
It’s stories like these and Bruce’s personality that keep his crowds engaged. He has an endless knowledge base and shares much of it with his audience, educating them about fish, food and anything else he feels like broadcasting. In 2010, to celebrate his wealth of knowledge and his contribution to the community and to the fishing world, Bruce was given an honorary degree from the University of Northwest Florida. He participated in the ceremony with a full cap and gown. Listening to Bruce share this story, I could tell this was a proud moment for him in his life.
The Destin Fishing Rodeo runs through October 31st. My family loves to go sit at AJ”s, enjoy the nice breeze, eat some dinner and watch the weigh-ins. In early November, there will be an awards ceremony for the winners in each category. During the ceremony, there will be a drawing for a boat, motor and trailer, which raises funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities. Chances are $5.00 each and you can buy them at the rodeo.
Reflecting during the interview, Bruce said to me, “That’s what life is about, having fun.” Stop by the Destin Fishing Rodeo, have some fun, eat dinner and say hello to Bruce down on the dock. When you take pictures of your fun, you can post them on Instagram here… Destin Fishing Rodeo Instagram You can also follow the Destin Fishing Rodeo on Facebook here… Destin Fishing Rodeo Facebook
Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the history of Destin fishing and the Rodeo watch our interview with Kathy Marler Blue. Kathy is the Executive Director of the Destin History and Fishing Museum… 30A Prime Interview with the Destin History and Fishing Museum