DESTIN — Texas Gov. Rick Perry caught the biggest fish Monday, but Florida Gov. Rick Scott caught the most fish — and got to brag that he finally beat Texas at something.
The governors of the two biggest Republican states have long traded friendly jabs over Texas' eight-year record of creating more jobs than Florida has. On Monday, the two Ricks enjoyed some male bonding as they took their competition to the high seas aboard Relentless, a 65-foot charter fishing boat.
After two hours under a cloudless sky in the Gulf of Mexico off Destin, with cameras on board from Fox News and a fishing publication, Scott's team netted five fish to Perry's two.
"We won," a triumphant Scott said as he stepped off the boat, wearing a "Beat Perry" baseball cap made for the occasion. Perry's hat read: "I'm worried."
Scott, more relaxed and jocular than usual, presented a huge trophy to Perry labeled "#2" and said: "You're so good at this that we got you a trophy. Oh, you're No. 2."
"You caught the most fish, but who caught the biggest fish?" Perry asked Scott, describing a huge red snapper that "swam all the way from Texas."
A gracious loser, Perry said: "Rick Scott is one of the great competitors in the world. Trust me. I'm going home, and we're going to tax, regulate, litigate and tighten it up so that Florida will be back in its rightful place at No. 2 in economic development."
Perry, who referred to Scott as "brother," conceded that while Texas may have the better business climate, Florida's beaches are vastly superior to the ones in his state.
"The most beautiful beaches in the country — I'll give you that," said Perry, who recalled that the last time he was in Destin was in 1971 as a young man in training camp at Eglin Air Force Base.
Monday's event also was a way for both governors to salute the sacrifices made by America's military service members.
On board were Purple Heart recipients from Florida and Texas who fought in Iraq. Sgt. Nathaniel Reichenberg of Jacksonville suffered migraines and hearing loss from a bomb explosion, and Capt. Dan Moran of Texas required three years of treatment to recover from extensive third-degree burns from an improvised explosive device.
Perry's snapper seemed to get bigger and bigger as he and Scott taped an outdoor segment for Your World With Neil Cavuto on Fox. A spokesman for Scott said the snapper was tossed back to sea because it's out of season.
"My one fish was bigger than all of y'all's combined," Perry said.
A Scott aide had a copy of Scott's application for a Florida fishing license, and Perry's spokeswoman said Scott's office arranged for him to have one, too.
As they made small talk with local Republicans, Perry needled Scott over the size of one of Florida's fish. Holding his hands about 8 inches apart, a grinning Perry said: "It was this fricking big!"
Nor could Perry resist upping the competitive ante, telling Scott that the Texas A&M Aggies will play the Florida Gators on Sept. 8 in College Station, Texas, in the Gators' first road game of the college football season.
"And we're going to kick your butt," Perry said.
Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.
Correction: The red snapper caught at sea was not brought to land and eaten, the governor's office said Tuesday. It was released. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.