Brandon got his first B.A.S.S. win last weekend 👊 and did it by reading the weather and the water, starting before he even got there. Here’s what went down.
> “I was looking at the long-range forecast before I headed down there – with the Opens you can practice as long as you want to, there’s no cutoff. I didn’t rush down there because a huge cold front hit and I knew it would be backed up by that warming trend. So I didn’t get there right in the cold front…gave myself 2.5 days to practice.
> “The water temp was 53-54 on the lower end of Kissimmee, which is cold for down there. I just had 4-5 bites, kind of looking around, looking at the grass. I’ve finished in the top 10 there 2 times before and I always fished Kissimmee – that’s normally my favorite lake on the chain.
> “I found 1 spot that first day – a little hydrilla spot where they came up schooling. I caught 2 on a Rat-L-Trap really quick and never made another cast there. I just kept it in the back of my mind.
> [On day 2 he started on Kissimmee again and] “mid-morning I went into Hatchineha, Lake Cypress a little later. The water temperature had crept up to 58-59 [in Cypress]…a lot of beds scattered along, 50 or 60 beds. They were not tilapia beds – I knew they were bass beds and saw a few fish trying to pull up on those beds. In 58-59 degree water, that told me they’re coming and when it hits 64-65 it’s gonna be on.
> “Day 3 we had to be off the water by 12. I put in on Toho and looked around but didn’t find anything. I was looking for something to hit on the way back through the lock in the afternoon.”
> “The first day of the tournament it’s supposed to get up to 80 degrees and I’m in the last flight. I get down to Kissimmee and start on the little Rat-L-Trap hole…caught 3 keepers on a ChatterBait.
> “Some mats were close by, blown-in hyacinth mats and scattered hydrilla. I finished my limit there – I maybe had 11 lbs.
> “I left there about noon and ran to Cypress. I culled 2 times – I caught a 3.5 and a 4.5 pitching at those beds. A few guys were there, but everybody else was sitting way out…thought the beds were vacant. I learned a long time ago in FL, just because you can’t see fish on the beds, doesn’t mean they’re not there.
> “I caught 8-10 small males too. The water temp was 62-63 – it was getting up there where it needed to be, but they still hadn’t made that push yet.
> “Day 2 I ran back down to Kissimmee…real early boat draw, get down there and they don’t fire on my starting spot. I fish around for a little while, lose 1 on a ChatterBait then lose 2 fishing grass mats. And at 10:00 l don’t have a fish.
> “I was like, Alright it’s time to go all in on the bed deal. I wanted to let it get as warm and bright as possible before I went to those fish. I ran to Cypress…this is it, do or die right here. From 10:00 to 1:15 I caught 18 lbs. I would make a pass down through there, let the wind drift me, and when I came to a bright spot I would pole down and pitch at it. I made that pass 3-4 times. Every time I would catch a new fish.
> “I had to be in at 3:00 and told myself I was going to leave at 1:15. I had a decent bag, but probably not enough to make the top 10. At 1:15 my boat had drifted out some and I started seeing some new beds. I was like, Man these are new beds, I need to keep pitching. I decided I was gonna pitch 2 beds. I made one pitch and caught a 5.75 – it was 1:16. I got to the lock and that was the fish that got me in the top 10.
> “Day 3 I knew I would have to do something different. I knew I was going to have to find fish during the day to have a chance to win, but I also knew my best chance to win was to stay in Cypress all day long.
> “The wind was blowing and they were doing some dredging…the wind had been blowing right up that shoreline where I was catching all those fish off those beds. I got there Saturday morning and it was completely chocolate mud – I couldn’t see a bed to save my life, plus the wind was blowing 20 mph and it was cloudy, so it was done. Completely blown out.
> “My experience told me, Hey just go fishing and find a new group of fish. I was on the north end so I went to the south end and started pitching in the same depth range [2-3′]. The water was clean there. That was the whole reason I went over there…do my thing and just hunt for a new group of fish.
> “…saw fish coming up blowing up on shiners and that let me know there’s activity there. The next thing I know I have a little bitty limit. Then I caught a 5.5-lber. So I just stayed on that one 300-yard stretch and threw my ChatterBait all day long.
> “I ended up with 18-04 and had a 7-lber, a 5.5 and three 2-lbers. The water temp was 66…cloudy and windy windy. The conditions dictated a moving bait and I was trying to hunt for new fish and cover water…. It was reading the conditions.”
> The first 2 days he caught most of his fish pitching at the beds: 5″ Gambler Fat Ace (junebug stick worm), 3/0 Mustad Grip Pin Big Bite Hook, 3/16-oz Mustad Tungsten Weight, 17-lb Vicious Fluoro, 8:1 reel, 7′ 6″ H Brandon Lester signature Mustad Instinct Rod (out soon).
> “The fish were a little outside the beds. The beds were surrounded by scattered hydrilla and scattered eelgrass. Very rarely do they sit right in the middle of the bright spot for the whole world to see. FL fish get sight-fished for a whole bunch. They sit off the edge in the dark and guard the beds.”
> “…some scattered hydrilla and a little bit of scattered eelgrass. When it hit the grass, I kind of feathered it through there but I was just basically just chunking and winding it. I was keeping it free of the grass, not intentionally getting it hung in the grass…come to little piece of grass, give it a little pop.”
> He never even turned on his forward-facing sonar.
Bonus Q: Did you ever think about just going Midway on this deal or was it only All the Way? EMOJ (Midway USA is a new sponsor for him so….)
> “[Laughs] “Oh no we were all the way in this one. All the way.”