One of the oldest sayings about fishing is that 90 percent of the fish are caught by 10 percent of the fishermen. When you work as hard as Capt. Steve Brownlee, there is a good reason for that.
Brownlee, captain of the most recent inshore division winner at the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament, fishes hard and fishes often. Over past years, his name has been associated with team Plan B as well as CK Andros with teammates Brian Bower, Adam Reister, and Gene Dibetta. Both teams have been extremely successful across various fishing tournaments. With his recently acquired captain's license, Brownlee is now expecting to spend 200 fishing days on the water a year.
For this weekend's De Soto Fishing tournament, the team began preparation two weeks ago when he began to "prefish," meaning finding tournament-quality redfish, snook, and trout in advance of the big weekend.
"Before a tournament I usually fish three to four days and nights per week," said Brownlee. "I fish from Clearwater to Boca Grande and weigh out my options."
The De Soto tournament is a grueling event. Hot days can mean slow daytime fishing as storms pop up and drive fishermen off spots. Warm water also provides other problems, which Brownlee describes. "Keeping a ton of bait alive in the heat is difficult. Some areas don't have enough oxygen in the water, or the water is too hot for the bait to adjust."
These areas are ones Brownlee tries to avoid, making his pre-fishing knowledge more important. With his two weeks of scouting knowledge, his game plan in a tournament is to target different species at different times during the two-day event.
"First thing in the morning we are going to go for trout, and probably catch a few reds in the mix. The plan is to trout and redfish all day Saturday then night fish for snook. We catch our snook at night then target flounder Sunday morning."
To target the redfish and trout, Brownlee and the rest of team Fish Hawk Charters will be doing a lot of wading during the day, allowing the team to cover more ground as well as stay stealthier in shallow water.
"We will probably be wading most of the daylight time and some into the night. We bring several pairs of clothes to change into because we wade so much."
Brownlee expects a great catch to bring home the victory at this year's tournament, which features the area's best anglers targeting the most points between six fish they can catch with only two of any one species eligible.
To win, he thinks it will take at least two 39-inch or larger snook, two 34-inch or larger redfish and two 24-inch or larger trout with the possibility of a 3- to 4-pound flounder replacing the trout. That would truly be a well-earned victory for a great catch.
The weigh-in will take place Sunday starting at noon at Tarpon Pointe Marina, where it will all unfold and champions will be crowned for the Junior, Inshore, Spearfishing and Offshore divisions.