I always set goals before each trip, and on this trip I had a very unique goal. I’m not sure what Captain Buzz thought when I told him about my goal for our trip. I wanted us to catch six quality redfish, and to bring shaving cream with a razor for each of these fish.
I’ve had a beard for the greater part of the last five years. I’m also crazy superstitious. Like, certifiably crazy. But, you know what? It works. Always remember – it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.
The beard started initially as a Bahamas Mancation fishing beard (that was dyed black), then it morphed into a hunting beard (that was dyed pine tree brown for camouflage purposes), back again to a tournament fishing beard (dyed cobia brown). Then it made a run as a Red Sox World Series winning beard (all natural in honor of my beard soul mate, Red Sox catcher and former Gator, David Ross), a multiple Super Bowl winning beard for the Patriots (I hadn’t fully committed to growing a true playoff beard in a while, so I accept full responsibility for their drought), and lastly as the key feature to my Coach America alter identity (think 70’s PE Coach who loves America and fishing more than anything else!).
So, what were the purpose of shaving cream and a goal of catching six quality fish?
There are 2 reasons to grow a beard. Number one is because you’re a man, so it’s your biological responsibility. Number two is so you can shave it into goofy facial hair combinations.
Everyone knows the standard goatee, moustache, and Fu Manchu; I’m talking the next level of facial hair. I’m talking about the 80’s NASCAR driver, Magnum PI, Joe Dirt, Catfish Hunter, Whaler Beard, ScruffBurns, the Horseshoe (See Coach America’s version below, and so much more.
I almost felt bad for putting this pressure on a guy I had never met, but I showed up at the dock with my favorite fishing rod, a can of shaving cream, and a razor. Buzz stated he had never had any client’s show up with that combination – and I bet he never does again! We pushed off from the dock in search of some quality Jacksonville redfish and good times.
I first talked to Captain Buzz Brannon via text with his cousin, Matt Cason, who had mentioned he was related to a Captain in Jacksonville. He asked if I was interested in a fishing trip, and I had a one word reply … “When”? I had no idea the connections that Buzz had to Lake City, Florida; after all, he was a Jacksonville charter captain who loved to surf. That’s not a common site around land locked Lake City.
Buzz’s dad and step mom are George and Sue Brannon, and his mom and step dad are Todd and Debbie Koons. He grew up fishing the Suwannee River with his grandmother and grandfather, PD and Joppy Cason. Buzz moved from Lake City in 1980, at the age of ten, to Ponte Vedra Beach, where he took up surfing and fishing the Intracoastal Water Way. Later he returned to Lake City and graduated from Lake City Community College. He currently lives in Neptune Beach with his wife, Heather, and son, Blaze.
He’s been a fast riser on the fishing circuit. He started as a tournament angler for the past five years on the IFA, Florida Pro Redfish Series, and the HT Team series. He recently joined the Patagonia Clothing endorsed Guide program, as well as Rapala’s VIP Guide program. He attained his Captain’s license four and a half years ago, and has been guiding professionally ever since.
Captain Buzz quickly shook off the shock from my arrival with shaving cream and a razor. We boarded, and he drove us in a direction where they had recently caught some nice redfish and trout…on topwater lures!
If you get one thing from my articles about the most fun way to fish – in my opinion – it’s catching fish on topwater. It’s visual, exciting, and you tend to catch bigger fish. We fished around an island, drifting the shoreline and casting as close to the shore as possible. After about 30 minutes, we moved without a sniff.
Buzz next drove us under the Dames Point Bridge near my old stomping/fishing grounds at Jacksonville University. We tried the same pattern with the tide starting to move, and the conditions looked right, but not a sniff – again. We weren’t worried as we had absolute perfect Chamber of Commerce weather – It was 78-degrees with full sun, no wind, zero humidity, and no chance of rain.
I’d tell you what direction we headed next, but I was so turned around that I didn’t know South from North, East from West, or up from down. But, Buzz did. He made his way back into a maze of creeks that all looked the same to me. It’s like he knew every single oyster bar, mud flat, and blade of grass as he poled us around. We worked some “fishy” areas with different lures and shrimp, and we couldn’t buy a taker. After a few more creeks, we decided to exit the maze, hit the main water, and move completely.
Later, Buzz would admit that as we made this move near lunchtime he was getting a tad nervous. I unfairly put pressure on him to catch six quality redfish, especially given the fact we had never met, but I could tell he was going to make this mission happen. He’s the kind of guide who doesn’t stare at the clock; he throws away the clock.
We pushed through the mouth of a creek off the main channel, turned a corner, and there was a massive school of reds. Several hundred.
Now, we had to figure out our game plan because they were hungry and feeding, and we ultimately were between them and the exit of the creek. Buzz went into stealth mode on his poling platform and pushed us into the perfect position. We set up camp and waited. Here’s where a guide knows better than the average fisherman. Most would have been tempted to cast right in the middle, and probably catch one, or maybe two. We didn’t do that. In fact, we stopped several hundred yards from the school and casted well short of the school – so we didn’t spook them.
Like clockwork, they started milling in our bait’s direction none the wiser to three eager anglers on the other end of the line. Within minutes, Jonathan had a whistling drag. Fish on! It was a gorgeous slot redfish and the first of several. We kept up this pattern, taking turns, leading the fish, and waiting. Next up was Buzz with another slot redfish. Then, it was my turn, and I lucked into the biggest fish of the day – a 28″ solid redfish pushing nine-pounds.
We ended up with the exact number of redfish I hoped for – six. Captain Buzz had come through to his end of the deal, so it was my turn next. Out came the shaving cream, and the razor. One by one, I trimmed off parts of my face mane, and my bare face slowly appeared. For each fish, a new style emerged.
First fish received the full mountain man beard photo treatment, and then it went downhill quickly. Next fish up, goofy goatee and lamb chop combination ala a 1960’s rock band made an appearance. Next, standard goatee and sideburns that a current CHS coach (or three) may sport. Then the horseshoe mustache in honor of Hulk Hogan (minus the blonde dye). Next, the 80’s Nascar driver or Tom Selleck circa Magnum P.I. moustache. Lastly, the choirboy aka baby face aka clean-shaven ultimately appeared.
Six quality redfish, six different facial hair combinations, and one awesome guide made for a truly one of a kind fishing trip!
Did I mention I hate being clean shaven? This was the last time I didn’t have a beard! 2 years ago today was my beard Birthday, and hopefully my beard and I will be celebrating another 50 or so!
About the Author: Rob Chapman IV is the founder and creator of Outdoors360. He’s an IGFA world record holder, award-winning marine artist, outdoor columnist, and tournament-winning angler from Bradenton, Florida. Rob has designed and worked with companies throughout the world from fishing industry leaders like the IGFA, Mustad, and PowerPole to BassProShops and Bealls. He is the creator of the Fish Poker, Scubafish, and Rob Chapman IV collection. He’s a near world record holder (missed by less than a centimeter), social media, marketing, and branding junkie, cardio-hating, junk food loving, beard modeling goofball who’s passion is his family and the outdoors.
If you have any ideas for unique articles, send him an email.