Winter and the start of the new season bring another round of good jackpots. The big ropings provide the opportunity for guys who rope for a living to win a substantial chunk of money. The Sandhills Classic in Odessa (Texas) in January starts off our jackpot roping season, and if a guy does good he can win $10,000. Then the Wildfire (Open to the World) Roping (in Salado, Texas), which pays $50,000 a man, is obviously awesome. The Mike Cervi Memorial Roping in Tucson (Ariz.) pays $15,000-$20,000 per man. Then you’ve got the Horkdog in Vegas in the spring, that’s been paying between $15,000-$20,000. The George Strait in San Antonio is the next one that’s huge. The Mike Boothe Memorial Roping in the spring in California is a good roping. During the spring run there’s a jackpot every week with those rodeos that pays $5,000 a man or so. Then there’s the great BFI in Reno in June. Toward the end of your year, you have a roping up in Ellensburg (Wash.), the Spicer Gripp Roping in Hereford (Texas), the USTRC Finals and Rich Skelton’s roping. There are ropings sprinkled throughout the rodeo season that provide an opportunity to really cash in on some money.
The ropings are where you see guys who are riding the better horses-headers and heelers-having the upper hand. The consistent ropers excel at the ropings. The guys who are really working at it-not only working at being fast, but at being consistently fast-succeed at the ropings.
A really good jackpot year makes a huge difference to your bottom line. It really sets you up for a strong financial season. For a guy who makes a living roping, there’s just such a great opportunity there. So it’s part of your roping you really need to focus on and work on. It’s an area of my roping I’ve always tried to pay special attention to. I’ve always worked at that part of the game because of all that opportunity.
Good horses really come into play at the jackpots, because you’re generally roping fresher, stronger cattle. The guys who are really mounted have the advantage. The horses really come into play on the heading side. That’s where you’ve seen guys in the different eras dominate-because the head horse is such a huge factor in the jackpot roping environment. Scoring, running and facing on strong cattle takes a great horse on the heading side. On the heeling side too, but it’s not as big a factor over there.
When I started rodeoing, I jackpotted a lot. I joined up with Bret Beach at the start of my rodeo career and he happened to have one of the great jackpot horses of that era. Zinger was phenomenal, and Bret was equally phenomenal in his ability. Matched up with that horse, we had a significant advantage at the jackpots and did very well at them. It was the jackpotting early on in our career that kept us out on the road and helped us keep our money together while we were learning the rodeo game and how to rope the rodeo style.
After my era with Bret, Jake (Barnes) developed a really great jackpot style. He worked hard and figured it out. Charles Pogue dominated at the jackpots when he got Scooter. When he went to a jackpot on that horse the writing was pretty much on the wall. Matt Tyler on some of his great horses dominated, too. In more recent times, it’s been Speed Williams on Bob, Steve Purcella on Butterbean and Clay Tryan on Thumper.
Jackpot roping is extremely tough. It’s not easy to go make five or six runs under those types of conditions without any mistakes, and the draw comes into play also. It can seem really easy if you draw exceptionally well, but more times than not you’re going to draw some cattle that try to take you out, so you have to be disciplined, let the roping unfold and be there in the end with a chance in the short round. There’s probably more strategy and discipline that comes into play in jackpot roping, which for me makes it fun. I love a great jackpot.