UPCOMING EVENT: Phoenix BFL - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Hometown hero

Hometown hero
Champion Russell Cecil holds up the two biggest bass from his day-two sack that weighed 12 pounds, 6 ounces.

CONROE, Texas - In the end, it was a local that won the 2005 Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail Championship on Lake Conroe, but winner Russell Cecil of nearby Willis had to earn his way here just like everyone else.

It's been a career year for Cecil on the TTT - he ranked 36th in year-end points to earn a championship berth and scored his first victory in April on Richland Chambers. For today's win, Cecil, a Ranger Cup qualifier, won $15,000 cash plus a fully rigged Ranger boat as well as $20,000 in Ranger contingency money.

Cecil ended day one of the two-day event in second with a five-bass limit that weighed 17 pounds. At the time, he was 1 pound, 3 ounces behind leader Barry Smith - a potentially substantial lead given the winner was determined by the heaviest two-day catch.

Russell Cecil with his championship belt buckle - the second heSmith mustered only 3 pounds, 1 ounce today - still good for fourth - while Cecil brought in another limit that weighed 12 pounds, 6 ounces to bring his two-day total to a championship-winning 29 pounds, 6 ounces. His was the only limit brought in today by a pro, and its heft gave him a near 8-pound margin of victory.

"The real key was local knowledge," Cecil said. "I didn't get too keyed into, `Oh, man, the lake's low; they're catching them on boat docks,' and all that. I had to keep my mental attitude going right."

With his mental game in check, Cecil set out to determine what exactly would make the bass bite this weekend on Lake Conroe in very unusual conditions. Hurricane Rita wreaked her havoc on the dam, causing officials to lower the lake several feet. The 16-inch minimum size limit didn't help matters, either, making for a tough tournament for the championship contenders. With conditions like these, Cecil's lifelong familiarity with Lake Conroe was indeed an advantage.

"It was an absolute clinic on trash fishing," Cecil said of his method. "We fished a point on this creek, a rock on this creek - places where they live."

Cecil primarily used a Bill Norman Deep Little N crankbait and a Lake Fork Tackle Flipper to bring in his bass. With the victory, Cecil now has something special in common with good friend and frequent fishing partner David Curtis, last year's TTT championship winner.

"It was a goal for me to win this championship," Cecil said. "I felt like it was something I should be able to do since David did it. You have to have a lot of good fortune and a lot of good things going your way.

"Fishing is like baseball or any other sport - you have highs and lows. When things are going good, you have to capitalize."

Combs takes runner-up spot

Keith Combs grabbed the No. 2 spot with a 21-pound, 9-ounce two-day catch.Taking the No. 2 spot is Temple, Texas, pro Keith Combs, whose day-two catch of 12 pounds, 4 ounces vaulted him 10 spots up the leaderboard with a two-day total of 21 pounds, 9 ounces. Combs, also a Ranger Cup qualifier, took home $6,000 in winnings plus another $5,000 in Ranger contingencies.

"I was still fishing shallow - 4 to 6 feet," Combs said. "I spent a lot of time out deep, but they didn't pan out for me."

Indeed, Conroe bass this week could be found both shallow and deep, but the deep-water bite just wasn't working for Combs. That said, his biggest bass weren't caught in water that was necessarily shallow, either.

"I couldn't get a bite (deep), but my big fish were caught fairly deep in that 10- to 12-foot range," he said.

Combs said the key to success this weekend was mixing it up.

"I had to fish structure and fish shallow and piers, too," he said, noting he caught the majority of his bass on lizards, Brush Hogs and jigs.

Griffin lands in third

Chad Griffin holds up a 7-pound, 3-ounce bass that propelled him to third place on the pro side.Pro Chad Griffin of Cresson, Texas, also improved his day-one standing by jumping from 10th to third on the strength of his 11-pound, 3-ounce day-two catch. His two-day total rang in at 21 pounds, 8 ounces and earned him $4,500 cash plus another $4,000 in Ranger contingency money.

"I was using a brand-new jig called an Ezee Jig - 5/16 ounce," Griffin said. "I was flipping and pitching boat docks, and my amateur had a 6-pounder on a crankbait yesterday. This morning I stuck a 4 1/2-pounder on a crankbait, and then later in the afternoon, I caught the 7-pounder on a Sweet Beaver."

Griffin had better luck today weight-wise than he did yesterday, when he brought in 10 pounds, 5 ounces. However, his 11-pound-plus day-two catch was the result of only two big bass.

"This is a great, great lake with some great, great fishing," he said. "This thing's got some huge fish. I caught four over 8 pounds this week."

Stan Gerzsenyi earned his first top-10 finish with a fifth-place showing at the TTT Championship on Lake Conroe.Smith, Gerzsenyi round out top five

Yesterday's leader Smith ended the tournament in fourth place due in large part to his day-one catch of 18 pounds, 3 ounces. He caught 21 pounds, 4 ounces over two days to earn $3,500 plus $3,000 in Ranger contingencies.

Stan Gerzsenyi of Alba, Texas, brought in a two-day total of 20 pounds to take fifth place and $2,500, plus another $2,250 in Ranger money.

Best of the rest

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the 2005 TTT Championship on Lake Conroe:

6th: Trey Morgan of Goldonna, La., seven bass, 19-4, $1,550 plus $1,950 Ranger contingency
7th: Ronnie Wagner of Conroe, Texas, five bass, 17-5, $1,150 plus $1,850 Ranger contingency
8th: Reagan Henry of Voss, Texas, six bass, 16-13, $750 plus $1,750 Ranger contingency
9th: Daren Sebek of Belton, Texas, five bass, 16-10, $600
10th: Jeffrey Giarrizzo of Belton, Texas, three bass, 16-8, $450 plus $1,550 Ranger contingency

Noteworthy

This 8-pound, 8-ounce behemoth was caught by pro Jeffrey Giarrizzo and was the tournamentJeffrey Giarrizzo of Belton, Texas, earned $1,000 as the tournament's Snickers Big Bass Award winner thanks to the 8-pound, 8-ounce monster he brought in on day two.

Tags: jennifer-simmons  headline-story  2005-10-15-ttt-championship 

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