March 21, 2014 by David A. Brown
MANY, La. - Now this is what the spawning season is supposed to look like. Sight-fishing specialist Russell Cecil hauled a massive stringer of bass weighing 29 pounds, 2 ounces to the scales and took over the lead on day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Toledo Bend.
The Willis, Texas pro, who made a big move up from 13th on day one, tallied a 2-day total of 45-15. Cecil said he worked new water today.
"It seems to me like you have to find new ones every day," Cecil said. "It's not a tournament where you can pick out a few big ones to run to. I actually like this better because you don't end up with a bunch of boat races and people on top of one another so it's been a really enjoyable way to fish.
"The other part is that this lake is so big, it is so much fun to fish here. It's one of the best tournament lakes in the country. At least the best in Texas, in my opinion, because of the fact that (the field) can get so spread out. You can win this thing from the dam, 80 miles up."
Fishing toward the lake's lower end, Cecil said he's targeting new arrivals to the bedding scene. Here, the abundant grass keeps the water relatively cleaner - a distinct benefit to the way he's fishing.
"The clearer water allows me to see a little deeper and those big ones tend to be deep," he said.
Cecil caught his fish on a Texas-rigged Big Bite Warmouth - a soft plastic imitation of the small panfish that terrorize spawning bass by attempting to eat their newly-laid eggs. Naturally, impersonating these little nest raiders plays upon the largemouth's protective instincts. (The bluegill color pattern helps sell the deal.)
"It seems to be getting those females aggressive," Cecil said. "Today, I had one male and four females. I had two in the 6- to 7-pound range and then a 9 1/2 (the day's Big Bass winner).
"My whole theory is that I want to throw something in there that will make them territorial and aggressive."
Unlike hardbaits, jigs or any other lure with exposed hooks, the Big Bite Warmouth allowed Cecil to fish a realistic baitfish profile without snagging worries.
"You're able to fish this bait as light as you want and then it's Texas-rigged so there's no exposed hook," he said. "It won't get hung on a stump or grass or anything."
Cecil said he did a lot of pocket-hopping - moving from one spawning area to another throughout the day. His bites increased later in the day.
"I think right now the afternoons are a little better because the water has not been warm and the afternoon sun is helping. By the afternoon, more of those fish are moving in and they're getting more aggressive because the water's heating up."
A flurry of activity from about 1-3 p.m. kept Cecil busy. This period also produced his biggest bass.
Castledine goes to second
After leading day one with 24-4 - the second-heaviest bag of the tournament - Todd Castledine added 19-14 today and dropped a notch to second with 44-2. As he did on day one, Castledine spent his time looking for bed fish, but his day-two bite commenced a little earlier.
"I went looking in totally different places," the pro from Nacogdoches, Texas said. "This morning, I went to a couple of the males I found yesterday and caught them and I had a limit before I had one yesterday. I wanted to make sure I had that so I could spend some time on a big one.
"I found one or two (big bass) but I don't think I've come across an easy one yet. I've had to catch males and then wait for the (larger) females to move in. It's been alright; it's just a normal day of sight fishing, but I haven't had one of those where you just roll up and catch them."
Castledine caught his fish on a Texas-rigged Kicker Fish Kicker Craw. He occasionally varied his presentations between the larger version and the smaller.
With Saturday's forecast calling for cloudy conditions, the sunlight needed for sight-fishing may be dimmed considerably. If that's the case, Castledine said he'll likely throw a frog.
Reehm steady at third
Texas pro Clark Reehm caught a limit of 18-10 today and held on to the third-place spot he secured on day one with a total weight of 40-2. With only six fish today, Reehm had slim opportunity, but he made the most of what came his way.
"I actually caught one right off the bat that helped out," he recalled. "At 2:30, I only had four fish in the box and at 2:40 I caught my fifth one. It was one of those that I was hoping would squeak by, but I decided to go check one little area, so I ran through there and at 2:55, I caught my last one."
That final fish, Reehm said, took him to the absolute end of his fishing time.
"I knew how long it took to get back and the wind started blowing and I said, `Alright, at 2:50, we have to go.' And that fish started nipping (my bait) and I said, `At 2:55, we have to go.' At 2:55, I stuck that fish and we ran back."
Reehm said he saw lots of fish actively engaged in spawning activity. Rolling and twisting, the fish are easily spotted from a distance as their shifting positions tend to reflect sunlight more than fish sitting upright in the water.
Wagner slips to fourth
Ronnie Wagner, of Houston, Texas, got off to a strong start with a second-place bag of 22 pounds on day one. Today, he added 17-4 and slipped to fourth with 39-4.
Wagner said he mostly sight fished again on day two, but he also started throwing some moving baits around secondary points and channel bends for prespawn fish. This, he said, was as much about day-three preparation as it was day-two productivity.
"I feel like the fish are really starting to move in, but with the front we have coming tomorrow and all the wind and (possibly) rain), it's going to make sight fishing a lot harder. Tomorrow, I'm probably going to change it up and throw more moving baits.
"I caught 90 percent of my fish today sight fishing. But I needed to get on something for tomorrow because I think the game is going to change tomorrow. But it may not. All the conditions are right for (spawning), so we'll see what happens."
Upshaw improves to fifth
Andrew Upshaw, of Tulsa, Ok., improved from eighth to fifth on the strength of a 19-pound, 7-ounce bag that raised his total to 37-10. He spent most of his day bed fishing, but decided to shift gears toward the end of his fishing time in an effort to upgrade his limit.
"I was really fortunate to catch that fish and it was probably one of the biggest topwater blow-ups I've ever had in my life," he said. "I needed a big change, so I was running something I used to catch them on a long time ago. It was a pattern and I ran it right at the end of the day. I caught that big one and another one that culled.
"I knew I had to make an adjustment from bed fishing because I just wasn't seeing a giant. I needed a giant and I didn't have a whole lot of time - I had about an hour left. So I said `This is what I have to do,' and I went and did it."
Of his sight-fishing program, Upshaw said he's confident that his areas have new fish pulling in daily. Nevertheless, he'll start day three by running the pattern that produced the day-two afternoon drama.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the Rayovac FLW Series Toledo Bend event:
6th: Ricky Guy, of Humble, Texas, 37-7
7th: Troy Broussard, of Beaumont, Texas, 35-14
8th: Lendell Martin Jr., of Nacogdoches, Texas, 35-11
9th: Jim Tutt, of Longview, Texas, 35-1
10th: Nick Lebrun, of Tyler, Texas, 34-12
Adjustments key to Kitchens' co-angler lead
Jeff Kitchens, of Henderson, Texas earned his final-round berth by shooting up the standings from 10th to first. Adding 17-12 to his day-one weight of 10-4 gave him a total of 28-0.
Fishing the mid-lake area, Kitchens and his pro partner found fish in the mornings, but making an afternoon move is what really delivered the opportunities.
"We made a move later in the day that really paid off," Kitchens said. "The area that we were fishing is really obscure and there aren't a whole lot of people in there. We had quite a few fish that are moving up - they're staging fish. They're really thick right now."
In addition to a location change, Kitchens said that adjusting his technique also proved beneficial. Slowing down his soft plastic presentations was the key.
Day-one co-angler leader Kerry Barnett, of Waldron, Ark., dropped to second with 25-3, while Ronnie Ray Jr., of McKinney, Texas took third with 22-15. In fourth place, John Martin, of Buna, Texas, had 21-12 and Mike Power, of Conroe, Texas, took fifth with 21-3.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the Rayovac FLW Series Toledo Bend event:
6th: Dan Wilson, of Pilot Point, Texas, 20-6
7th: Ryan Bailey, of Humble, Texas, 19-5
8th: Clint Lipham, of Conroe, Texas, 18-6
9th: Neil Herline, of Silsbee, Texas, 18-6
10th: Travis Kelehan, of Broussard, La., 18-5
Mack McCoy earned Big Bass honors for his 8-7.
Day three of Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division action on Toledo Bend Reservoir continues at Friday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:00 a.m. (Central) at Cypress Bend Park in Many, La.