Captain Ahab spent an entire novel chasing Moby Dick. Brett Cannon could have caught him in a few days, tops.
Captain Ahab had it easy. He had to catch just one whale in one lousy ocean.
By comparison, Brett Cannon had to chase 9 species of billfish all over the world to break the time record on the International Game Fish Association’s Royal Slam. His goal when he set out in 2013 was to break the world record for the event of 36 days. He did just that, catching all nine in an arc from the Dominican Republic to Miami to Hawaii to Australia in just 26 days.
The funny, thing, though, was that the award-winning videographer for SA Co. wasn’t even really trying to set the record. He was just along for the ride. It was his friend Kitt Toomey who wanted to break the IGFA record. Brett just came along to help.
In 2012, the duo had heard “about this girl is who was trying to do it and he (Toomey) just turned to me and said, ‘You know, we can do this. We should try it,’” Cannon recalled. “So the plan was he was going to try it, get the slam, and I was just going to tag along and get some pictures.
“So that next year, we decided that March would be the best time. He calls me like a week before we’re supposed to set off and he says, ‘Hey, you want to try this slam?
“I said, ‘Seriously. I’m in.’
“So the plan was Kitt’s going to do the slam and I’m just tagging along because really, I hadn’t been out of the country much at all,” Cannon said. “I’d fished in the Bahamas, been to the Dominican Republic, but that was it. So I’m just in it, like, I’m going to see the world, document this thing, and that’ll be it.”
First, they hopped on a plane for Hawaii.
“Our first idea was, ‘hey let’s get this Spearfish’ because it looked like the hardest one to catch. Trying to get the hardest one first. We’d get the Spearfish and the Pacific Blue Marlin.”
Toomey got his Blue Marlin, but no Spearfish. But then the pair checked out where other bites were coming in around the Pacific. Social media told them the coast of Australia was really rocking so they headed off to Port Stephens, Australia.
“They were catching like 20 Black Marlin a day, which was unheard of,” Cannon said. “It’s a juvenile smaller fish. So we get on a plane that next morning and fly to Australia.
“Spent the night in Sydney and drive a car to Port Stephens. So the day we got there a front comes through and it just shut the fishing off. We had like 2 days to fish.
“Kitt was in a stateroom on the boat and an alarm went off and it was a Blue Marlin. I was standing right there so I grabbed the rod, just thinking I’d have some fun, and I catch a Blue Marlin. Then I caught a Spearfish. Kitt got his Spearfish.
“So Kitt has his Blue Marlin and Spearfish in like 7 days, and I have a Blue Marlin and Spearfish in like 2,” Cannon said. “We’re not thinking anything of it. So Kitt says on the way home we can stop in Cabo. (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico) and see how we do.”
In Mexico, the pair literally landed right into a huge school of fish. Kitt immediately got his Striped Marlin. Then Brett got one lined up.
“So my line gets hooked up under the boat. To make a long story short, a guy ends up jumping it and getting my line off the prop and I end up catching a fish,” Cannon said. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to count but I just said whatever and the next day we end up flying to Costa Rica. Flamingo, Costa Rica.”
There the pair ended up in a boat that broke down on their first day on the water. After losing a day, the captain repaired the boat and they were out on the water again.
“We get out and we catch a bunch of Pacific Sailfish. But then we see this big fin like 100 yards away. We’re on it. Ends up being a Striped Marlin. I end up catching this big Striped Marlin and it’s legit. So now I have 4 species in like 4 or 5 days and Kitt has 4 species in like 12 days.
“We’re still not thinking about it, but I’m catching a second fish everywhere we go.
Next, they were off to Miami for Atlantic Sailfish. After just a day in the boat, both Toomey and Cannon caught nearly a dozen.
They then turned toward the Dominican Republican for their White Marlin.
So far, this sounds easy. Fun, even. The two experienced anglers had largely landed on calm seas in ideal conditions. That was about to change.
In the D.R., both Cannon and Toomey got their Atlantic blue and white marlins on some of the roughest seas they’d ever fished.
“We started out from the inlet and we’re like immediately in 12-foot, 14-foot seas. Nasty. Real nasty,” Cannon said. “We were like in a 62-foot boat. We get out. Kitt catches a White Marlin. I catch a White Marlin.
“I fought this marlin for like 4 hours. It was so rough. I just couldn’t get to it so many times. At the end of it I had no motor functions,” Cannon recalled.
The boat was teetering, flooding with water. The cockpit slowly flooded as coolers and other items flew all over the boat.
“My hands were just cramping. I had been dealing with this fish on this light leader and light line and I just couldn’t do anything. It was like 250 pounds, but on a 20-pound test. It just took forever. I was trying weird positions, everything I could think of to bring it in.”
Cannon and Toomey flew back to Miami after Kitt caught his Blue Marlin. They then headed down the Florida Keys for their Swordfish.
“Ordinarily, people fish for Swordfish in a day but you’re not allowed to use electric reels,” Cannon explained, quoting IGFA rules. “It just wore us out. Every time you get a bite you’re like 1800-feet, 1700-feet down with a bunch of lead and you have to reel it up.
“You’re talking about 45 minutes of straight reeling sometimes. We were so worn out. By the end of the day Kitt and I are taking turns because your arms are shot.”
After another night, both had their respective Swordfish.
Now, you’re thinking, why don’t these guys just kick back for a while? Let down their hair, see the sites, sample the local talent? They had their run, after all. But Cannon had 8 of the required 9 and Toomey had 7 of the 9. So they did what any self-respecting anglers would have done.
They hopped a plane back to Australia.
“From Miami to Sydney from Sydney to Perth from Perth to Exmouth (Australia),” Cannon said. “Then we had to drive 2 hours. It was like 30 hours of travel time. It was insane. The second day we both end up catching Black Marlin. I caught the first one.”
Cannon had caught the 9 billfish species in 26 days. Toomey came in at 32 — he flew back to Panama to get his last fish — also breaking the previous record of 34.
“I never in a million years thought I was going to get it,” Cannon said. “I thought I might have a shot at it, but it somehow worked out that I ended up getting it.
“The hardest part was we never knew where we were going to be the next day,” he said. “Every day we were either traveling or fishing. Getting up each morning and fishing all day long just wears you out.”
Since they were never sure when they’d land the right fish, there could be very little planning for charters. After the right catch, they’d be on the phone immediately lining up boats and captains in the next country.
“There were times when I wasn’t sure where I was or what day it was,” Cannon said, chuckling. “At one point I ate dinner in Australia at 5 or 6 p.m. and I few back to Kona and I had dinner that same day, only an hour earlier. I had just come from the future.”
What advice would Cannon give to anyone attempting this feat?
“None,” he laughed.