By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor


Russell Cecil had won two Texas Rayovac derbies prior to last week's event at Toledo Bend Reservoir. On both of those previous occasions, he knew he'd prevail before he put his final-day bag on the scale – his margins of victory were 4 1/2 pounds in one and an even 9 pounds in the other.

Such comfortable cushions were nowhere to be found this time. As he carried his sack across the stage, he was sure he'd been beaten out by eventual runner-up Clark Reehm.

"I honestly didn't know that I had almost 16 pounds," said Cecil, who held off Reehm by 7 ounces in the final tally. "I thought I only had 14 and I was sure I'd lost. It was a complete surprise."

Each day was a rollicking adventure for the 43-year-old owner of a sales agency. He sight-fished throughout the tournament, but never began the day knowing the specific location of a spawning fish that he would target.

He took command of the event with a huge day-2 stringer and then watched his initial limit of run-of-the-mill keepers stand up on the final day as he was unable to entice any of the large bed-dwellers he worked on to bite. The win earned him $33,000, plus a new Ranger boat package.

Following are some of the particulars.

Practice

Cecil described his 3 days of practice as "not that great." That mattered little, however, as the scenario had been altered dramatically by the time the first day of competition rolled around.

He gambled that the event could be won by sight-fishing, but had no hard evidence to back that play by the time practice had concluded.

"This time of year things change immediately," he said. "Going by the long-term forecast, the fish had to be moving up, but in practice that's not what was going on. I saw some bucks, but no females.

"I spent my time looking for places that were a little warmer than other places so I could sight-fish when the tournament started."

Competition

> Day 1: 5, 16-13
> Day 2: 5, 29-02
> Day 3: 5, 15-10
> Total = 15, 61-09

The morning of day 1 was a complete bust for Cecil and he was fishless at lunchtime. An early-afternoon stop surrendered a 7-pounder and a 2, and with just minutes remaining he ran to his last-resort keeper pocket and completed his limit. Two of those final-stop fish were 3-pounders.

"Those were the only five fish I caught that day," he said. "I made the comment to the tournament director, Ron (Lappin), that you can't win it on the first day, but you sure can lose it. I was so close to spinning out and weighing only 9 or 10 pounds. I was really fortunate that I didn't."

Day 2 was a different story entirely as he brought three giants to the scale – a 9 1/2-pounder and two more in the 7-pound class. That trio and the two 3-pounders he weighed came from various parts of the lower portion of the lake.

"I actually fished different places each day and I found every fish I caught on that particular day during tournament hours. It had gotten warm (during the day) and the nights were continually getting warmer, so I just started running places that looked good in practice and places where I'd seen a few bucks.

"The females eventually started showing up."

He went into the final day with a 1-13 lead over Todd Castledine, his good friend and team-tournament partner. Just a month earlier, the duo had combined to win a Texas Team Trail event at Sam Rayburn.

"He was leading the first day, then the next day I jumped him and he was in 2nd. People thought we were sharing a lot more information than we were – the only thing that both of us knew was there was a pocket that had one big one on a bed.

"I was very confident I was going to catch them on the last day, and I knew I had to bring it or Todd was going to beat me. I thought I needed 20 pounds and I didn't catch that, but it turned out to be Clark who almost beat me."

Fog delayed the start of day 3 until about 11:40 a.m. Because of that, check-in was pushed back to 5 o'clock.

"I decided to go to the place that I knew had the most fish to make sure I got five, then I'd go looking for game-changers," he said. "I got those five in 45 minutes to an hour, and that was it.

"I found three big ones that were all in the 6- to 8-pound range, but I never caught any of them. I got one to bite, but it got rid of the bait before I could set the hook."

Catching any of those three would've made the next couple of hours less stressful, but sparing them a trip to the Walmart in Many, La. made no difference in the end.

Big Bite Baits
Photo: Big Bite Baits

A Warmouth in green-pumpkin was one of several Big Bite Baits that Cecil employed for sight-fishing.

Winning Gear Notes

> Sight-fishing gear: 7'3" heavy-action Falcon Cara Amistad rods, Shimano Chronarch and Shimano Curado casting reels, 80-pound Sunline FX2 braided line, 5/16- or 3/8-ounce Strike King tungsten weight, 5/0 Owner Rig-N-Hook or 5/0 Owner 2X strong straight-shank hook, Big Bite Baits Warmouth (green-pumpkin), Big Bite Baits Craw Tube, Big Bite Baits Swimming Craw or Big Bite Baits YoMama (watermelon/red or bluegill).

The Bottom Line

> Main factor in his success – "Being able to save myself on the first day was very key. The other part of it was not being too scripted – I fished as open-minded as I could."

> Performance edge – "My Costa 580 sunglasses allowed me to see those fish. The other thing was the Power-Poles – when the wind was blowing, I needed both of them, not just one."

Notable

> Cecil once had aspirations of competing at the tour level, but those are on the back burner for now. "I don't even know if I have the ability to do it or if I love it enough, but I know that right now I'm not willing to make the sacrifices to do it," he said. "I have a 13-year-old daughter, and I won't even consider it until she goes to college. I'm going to be around to watch her play volleyball and be a cheerleader and those kinds of things."

> His other sponsors are Ranger, Evinrude, Humminbird and Minn Kota.

Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here..

Final Standings

1. Russell Cecil -- Willis, Tx -- 16-13 (5) -- 29-02 (5) -- 45-15 (10) -- 15-10 (5) -- 61-09 (15) -- $33,000 + Boat

2. Clark Reehm -- Huntington, Tx -- 21-08 (5) -- 18-10 (5) -- 40-02 (10) -- 21-00 (5) -- 61-02 (15) -- $12,788

3. Todd Castledine -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 24-04 (5) -- 19-14 (5) -- 44-02 (10) -- 13-14 (5) -- 58-00 (15) -- $9,901

4. Andrew Upshaw -- Tulsa, Ok -- 18-03 (5) -- 19-07 (5) -- 37-10 (10) -- 20-03 (5) -- 57-13 (15) -- $8,251

5. Ronnie Wagner -- Houston, Tx -- 22-00 (5) -- 17-04 (5) -- 39-04 (10) -- 16-04 (5) -- 55-08 (15) -- $7,426

6. Nick Lebrun -- Tyler, Tx -- 12-10 (5) -- 22-02 (5) -- 34-12 (10) -- 18-01 (5) -- 52-13 (15) -- $6,600

7. Troy Broussard -- Beaumont, Tx -- 11-15 (5) -- 23-15 (5) -- 35-14 (10) -- 16-00 (5) -- 51-14 (15) -- $5,775

8. Lendell Martin Jr -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 18-15 (5) -- 16-12 (5) -- 35-11 (10) -- 15-09 (5) -- 51-04 (15) -- $4,950

9. Jim Tutt -- Longview, Tx -- 18-03 (5) -- 16-14 (5) -- 35-01 (10) -- 14-04 (5) -- 49-05 (15) -- $4,125

10. Ricky Guy -- Humble, Tx -- 16-01 (5) -- 21-06 (5) -- 37-07 (10) -- 4-10 (2) -- 42-01 (12) -- $3,300

The following anglers did not make the cut and did not fish on day 3.

11. Philip Crelia -- Center, Tx -- 17-02 (5) -- 17-04 (5) -- 34-06 (10) -- $3,094

12. Corey Stanley -- Orange, Tx -- 15-09 (3) -- 18-10 (5) -- 34-03 (8) -- $2,888

13. Jay Yelas -- Corvallis, Or -- 17-03 (5) -- 14-13 (5) -- 32-00 (10) -- $2,475

14. Rick Carter -- Alba, Tx -- 11-02 (4) -- 20-08 (5) -- 31-10 (9) -- $2,475

15. Donnie O'Neal -- Pflugerville, Tx -- 18-08 (5) -- 12-15 (5) -- 31-07 (10) -- $2,475

16. Cloys Warren -- Bastrop, Tx -- 13-09 (4) -- 15-08 (4) -- 29-01 (8) -- $2,475

17. Carl Jocumsen -- Bixby, Ok -- 16-04 (5) -- 12-10 (5) -- 28-14 (10) -- $2,475

18. Craig Massey -- Houston, Tx -- 12-13 (3) -- 15-14 (5) -- 28-11 (8) -- $2,475

19. James Kiser -- Montgomery, Tx -- 13-06 (5) -- 15-05 (4) -- 28-11 (9) -- $2,475

20. Zack Birge -- Blanchard, Ok -- 6-09 (3) -- 21-15 (5) -- 28-08 (8) -- $2,475

21. Christopher Brasher -- Longview, Tx -- 14-10 (4) -- 13-11 (5) -- 28-05 (9) -- $2,269

22. Randy Sitz -- Prosper, Tx -- 12-11 (4) -- 15-06 (5) -- 28-01 (9) -- $2,269

23. Wade Leblanc -- Gonzales, La -- 7-12 (4) -- 20-04 (5) -- 28-00 (9) -- $2,269

24. Robert Case -- Point, Tx -- 13-04 (5) -- 14-10 (4) -- 27-14 (9) -- $2,269

25. Corey Harris -- Chatham, La -- 10-06 (4) -- 17-01 (5) -- 27-07 (9) -- $2,269

26. Lance Duff -- Liberty, Tx -- 20-09 (5) -- 6-06 (3) -- 26-15 (8) -- $2,063

27. Cody Bird -- Granbury, Tx -- 16-06 (4) -- 10-07 (5) -- 26-13 (9) -- $2,063

28. Rusty Hatcher -- Converse, La -- 19-00 (5) -- 7-07 (2) -- 26-07 (7) -- $2,063

29. Brian Branum -- Sam Rayburn, Tx -- 11-10 (5) -- 14-05 (5) -- 25-15 (10) -- $2,063

30. David Curtis -- Trinity, Tx -- 7-04 (2) -- 18-10 (5) -- 25-14 (7) -- $2,063

31. Wade Hudgens -- Longview, Tx -- 12-10 (5) -- 12-15 (5) -- 25-09 (10)

32. Michael Herron -- Paris, Tx -- 11-02 (5) -- 14-04 (5) -- 25-06 (10)

33. Randy Deaver -- Blanchard, La -- 8-05 (3) -- 17-00 (5) -- 25-05 (8)

34. Bob Vote -- Kingwood, Tx -- 9-07 (4) -- 15-14 (5) -- 25-05 (9)

35. Billy Cline -- Grapevine, Tx -- 10-03 (4) -- 14-12 (5) -- 24-15 (9)

36. Dusty Anders -- Deville, La -- 17-04 (5) -- 7-06 (3) -- 24-10 (8)

37. James Stricklin Jr -- Hot Springs, Ar -- 14-00 (4) -- 10-07 (3) -- 24-07 (7)

38. Brandon Moton -- Logansport, La -- 10-10 (4) -- 13-13 (3) -- 24-07 (7)

39. Stephen Johnston -- Hemphill, Tx -- 12-03 (5) -- 11-14 (4) -- 24-01 (9)

40. Larry Nixon -- Bee Branch, Ar -- 16-07 (5) -- 7-08 (4) -- 23-15 (9)

41. Joe Erwin -- Cleora, Ok -- 7-02 (3) -- 16-05 (5) -- 23-07 (8)

42. Austin Terry -- San Angelo, Tx -- 14-03 (5) -- 8-14 (4) -- 23-01 (9)

43. Chris McCall -- Brookeland, Tx -- 12-10 (5) -- 10-02 (5) -- 22-12 (10)

44. Phil Marks -- Dallas, Tx -- 3-14 (1) -- 18-07 (5) -- 22-05 (6)

45. Dicky Newberry -- Houston, Tx -- 4-07 (2) -- 17-14 (5) -- 22-05 (7)

46. Michael Brewton -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 5-14 (2) -- 16-07 (3) -- 22-05 (5)

47. James E Davis Jr -- Ferriday, La -- 11-14 (4) -- 10-00 (5) -- 21-14 (9)

48. Zach Caudle -- Shreveport, La -- 11-01 (3) -- 10-10 (3) -- 21-11 (6)

49. TJ Goodwyn -- Center, Tx -- 10-15 (5) -- 10-09 (5) -- 21-08 (10)

50. Jon Despino -- Colfax, La -- 10-08 (4) -- 10-14 (5) -- 21-06 (9)

51. Alton Wilhoit -- Harrah, Ok -- 11-09 (4) -- 9-11 (5) -- 21-04 (9)

52. James Dunn -- Lecompte, La -- 5-04 (2) -- 15-14 (5) -- 21-02 (7)

53. Gary Lafreniere -- Asherton, Tx -- 10-10 (3) -- 10-05 (5) -- 20-15 (8)

54. George Jeane Jr -- Evans, La -- 9-01 (5) -- 11-05 (5) -- 20-06 (10)

55. Chance Moton -- Mansfield, La -- 15-13 (5) -- 4-07 (2) -- 20-04 (7)

56. Randy Despino -- Colfax, La -- 7-02 (3) -- 13-00 (5) -- 20-02 (8)

57. Jason Wells -- Center, Tx -- 8-10 (3) -- 11-07 (4) -- 20-01 (7)

58. Travis McGuire -- Lubbock, Tx -- 8-10 (2) -- 11-05 (5) -- 19-15 (7)

59. Neal Gilmore -- Magnolia, Tx -- 7-04 (3) -- 12-08 (5) -- 19-12 (8)

60. Brooks Forsyth -- Hester, La -- 6-11 (3) -- 12-09 (5) -- 19-04 (8)

61. Jerrel Pringle -- Hemphill, Tx -- 10-01 (5) -- 9-03 (4) -- 19-04 (9)

62. Harold Allen -- Shelbyville, Tx -- 9-03 (3) -- 9-13 (4) -- 19-00 (7)

63. Brian Brown -- Grand Saline, Tx -- 1-11 (1) -- 16-14 (5) -- 18-09 (6)

64. Charles Dubroc -- Hessmer, La -- 5-14 (2) -- 12-07 (4) -- 18-05 (6)

65. Kenneth Chapman -- Odessa, Tx -- 12-10 (5) -- 5-10 (2) -- 18-04 (7)

66. Kevin Lasyone -- Dry Prong, La -- 11-12 (5) -- 5-13 (3) -- 17-09 (8)

67. Darold Gleason -- Leesville, La -- 6-08 (3) -- 11-01 (5) -- 17-09 (8)

68. Randy Cisler -- Mesquite, Tx -- 2-03 (1) -- 15-00 (5) -- 17-03 (6)

69. Larry Peacher -- Bentley, La -- 11-05 (5) -- 5-12 (3) -- 17-01 (8)

70. Kevin Madeley -- Vidor, Tx -- 11-11 (5) -- 5-04 (4) -- 16-15 (9)

71. Jim Phillips -- Greenwood, Ms -- 12-11 (5) -- 4-03 (2) -- 16-14 (7)

72. Rob Burns -- Plano, Tx -- 3-12 (1) -- 12-15 (5) -- 16-11 (6)

73. Clint West -- Beaumont, Tx -- 0-00 (0) -- 16-08 (5) -- 16-08 (5)

74. Tommy Dickerson -- Orange, Tx -- 4-11 (2) -- 11-11 (3) -- 16-06 (5)

75. Jeff Hebert -- Hemphill, Tx -- 6-01 (3) -- 10-01 (5) -- 16-02 (8)

76. Denny Brauer -- Del Rio, Tx -- 7-11 (2) -- 8-07 (3) -- 16-02 (5)

77. David Mansue -- Hemphill, Tx -- 7-12 (3) -- 7-11 (3) -- 15-07 (6)

78. Mark Hooker -- Montgomery, Tx -- 6-07 (3) -- 8-12 (3) -- 15-03 (6)

79. Travis Gray -- Princeton, La -- 1-11 (1) -- 13-02 (5) -- 14-13 (6)

80. Dale Hightower -- Mannford, Ok -- 3-08 (2) -- 11-00 (5) -- 14-08 (7)

81. Tommy Martin -- Hemphill, Tx -- 3-08 (2) -- 10-15 (5) -- 14-07 (7)

82. Burt Briggs -- Universal City, Tx -- 6-00 (1) -- 8-04 (4) -- 14-04 (5)

83. Robert Brown -- Round Rock, Tx -- 4-05 (2) -- 9-14 (3) -- 14-03 (5)

84. Albert Collins -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 7-10 (3) -- 6-09 (2) -- 14-03 (5)

85. Richard Madole -- Many, La -- 8-11 (3) -- 5-07 (2) -- 14-02 (5)

86. J.B. Young -- Deer Park, Tx -- 4-06 (2) -- 9-01 (3) -- 13-07 (5)

87. Kelly Owens -- Crowley, La -- 7-07 (3) -- 5-11 (2) -- 13-02 (5)

88. Ed Klobas -- Arlington, Tx -- 5-14 (2) -- 7-04 (3) -- 13-02 (5)

89. Dustin Boyt -- Converse, La -- 7-11 (4) -- 4-11 (2) -- 12-06 (6)

90. Joe Gerard -- Concordia, Ks -- 4-11 (2) -- 7-06 (4) -- 12-01 (6)

91. Bill Lee -- Harker Heights, Tx -- 8-02 (4) -- 3-11 (2) -- 11-13 (6)

92. Rich Dalbey -- Greenville, Tx -- 3-01 (1) -- 8-10 (4) -- 11-11 (5)

93. Tim Reneau -- Del Rio, Tx -- 3-00 (2) -- 8-04 (4) -- 11-04 (6)

94. Bill Cook -- Houston, Tx -- 2-12 (1) -- 8-02 (5) -- 10-14 (6)

95. Chris Russell -- Montgomery, Tx -- 10-10 (2) -- 0-00 (0) -- 10-10 (2)

96. Chris King -- Jasper, Tx -- 2-15 (2) -- 7-11 (3) -- 10-10 (5)

97. Gary Parsley -- Magnolia, Tx -- 10-03 (3) -- 0-00 (0) -- 10-03 (3)

98. Dustin Grice -- Hewitt, Tx -- 5-15 (3) -- 4-00 (2) -- 9-15 (5)

99. Elbia Ebert -- Porter, Tx -- 4-06 (2) -- 5-04 (3) -- 9-10 (5)

100. Phil Addison -- Baytown, Tx -- 2-02 (1) -- 7-04 (3) -- 9-06 (4)

101. Justin Cogburn -- Eastland, Tx -- 6-11 (3) -- 2-11 (1) -- 9-06 (4)

102. Larry Byrd -- Lake Charles, La -- 9-04 (3) -- 0-00 (0) -- 9-04 (3)

103. Kelly Jones Jr -- Deer Park, Tx -- 9-02 (3) -- 0-00 (0) -- 9-02 (3)

104. Glen Freeman -- Converse, La -- 8-15 (4) -- 0-00 (0) -- 8-15 (4)

105. Mark Rouse -- League City, Tx -- 8-05 (4) -- 0-00 (0) -- 8-05 (4)

106. Christopher McCready -- Breaux Bridge, La -- 3-10 (2) -- 3-13 (2) -- 7-07 (4)

107. Johnny Winfree -- Mansfield, La -- 2-04 (1) -- 3-09 (2) -- 5-13 (3)

108. Ken (Skeeter) Fowler -- Grand Saline, Tx -- 1-13 (1) -- 2-00 (1) -- 3-13 (2)

109. Eddie Norris -- Mannford, Ok -- 3-11 (1) -- 0-00 (0) -- 3-11 (1)

William Laprarie -- Deville, La -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Daniel Lee -- Leesville, La -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Big Bass

Day 1: Corey Stanley -- 10-03 -- $222
Day 2: Russell Cecil -- 9-08 -- $222