UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Seminole

Cecil sidles up to Stren Texas lead

Cecil sidles up to Stren Texas lead
Pro Russell Cecil of Willis, Texas, caught a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 11 ounces Friday to capture his lead in the Stren Series Texas Division tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. With a three-day catch of 14 bass weighing 52-11, he holds an 1-pound, 6-ounce lead over his closest competitor heading into the final day of competition.

JASPER, Texas - The leaderboard at the Stren Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir has played out a bit like a game of musical chairs this week, and Russell Cecil grabbed the best seat Friday to take over the pro lead with a three-day total of 52 pounds, 11 ounces.

Day-one leader Tommy Dickerson basically bowed out after zeroing on day two, while yesterday's leader, Phillip Walker, just missed his invitation to tomorrow's final day, only missing the top-10 cut by one slot. And a few names that seemed anchored near the top over days one and two couldn't be found at the meeting for top-10 qualifiers that followed Friday's weigh-in - names like Brandon Crouch, Bradley Stringer and Dean Alexander.

During all the commotion of reshuffling the leaderboard, Cecil quietly and consistently worked his way toward the top. The Willis, Texas, pro weighed a 20-pound, 11-ounce sack on day one to end up in fifth place; he followed it with four bass weighing 14-5 on day two for third; and today he backed that up with a 17-11 limit to lead the pros heading into Saturday.

"I got to run around and hit a lot more of my spots today," Cecil said of the improvement over Thursday, which was dominated by fog that delayed the start of competition and continued to plague navigation throughout the day. "I'm fishing a bunch of midlake pockets, just fishing grass."

Cecil has been primarily fishing a chartreuse crankbait this week; he said he got his best bites today in about 8 feet of water in the morning and then late in the day. He added that he lost a bass today, which he hopes to find tomorrow, that weighed an estimated 6 pounds.

The top seat Cecil grabbed in today's game would seem like a hot one to many, as only 4 1/2 pounds separates him from the bottom of the top 10, but he said he feels good about his chances. That's in part because he's been sharing one of his primary areas with pro Tim Reddington, who has pulled a couple of 6-pounders from the hole but didn't make the cut.

"I think I have a good chance tomorrow ... I'm real excited."

Pro Gary Vining of Morgan City, La., is in second with 15 bass weighing 51-5.Vining climbs back to second

Another pro with a potential ace up his sleeve in terms of fishing territory is Gary Vining of Morgan City, La. After sliding from second place to fifth Thursday, he climbed back into the runner-up position Friday by way of a 16-pound, 15-ounce limit, bringing his total weight to 51-5.

Vining found several sweet spots on the south end of the lake during practice, only a couple of which he milked over the first two days before adjusting his pattern today.

"They moved on me," he said of his fish. "It took me a while to try to figure them out."

Vining said he thinks his bass are getting ready to move up to spawn, which had him fishing shallower grass today, where he thinks they're in a holding pattern, than earlier in the week. He has been primarily fishing a red Rat-L-Trap, but has also had luck as deep as 15 feet with another pattern.

Of the remaining hot spots he found in practice that he didn't fish the first two days, he said on day three, "I still didn't go to them."

Pro Toby Hartsell of Livingston, Texas, is in third with 15 bass, 51-4.Hartsell makes move

After having cruised the depths of the top 10 over the first two days, pro Toby Hartsell of Livingston, Texas, got into the passing lane Friday, speeding into third place and easily making the cut with a five-bass limit weighing 18 pounds, 1 ounce for a total of 51-4.

A Texas Division veteran, Hartsell knows his way around Sam Rayburn; he placed seventh here in a Stren Series event in 2006. And like Cecil, he has Stren Texas momentum on his side: Both anglers top-10ed at the record-breaking season opener on Falcon Lake last month, with Hartsell in ninth and Cecil in 10th.

With 12 career top-10s in FLW Outdoors competition but no win, Hartsell has got to be determined to finally pull off a win in his home state, essentially on his home lake. And it's clear he's on to something here at Sam Rayburn, a pattern which has served him well for three days running.

Pro Darrell Lyons of Hemphill, Texas: fourth with 15 bass, 50-11.Lyons claws his way into fourth

Pro Darrell Lyons of Hemphill, Texas, has proven himself a methodical hunter this week, and his prey is the top spot. After posting 14-11 and a 31st-place finish on day one, he sharpened his focus yesterday to improve 17 places and up his daily weight by 1 1/2 pounds. Today he further closed the gap on his goal, pulling an 18-11 limit out of the grass for fourth place and a three-day total weight of 50 pounds, 11 ounces.

How has he managed to improve his skills each day, even in the face of drastically changing weather that flummoxed the forecasters? By adapting.

"We changed it up today," he said. "I had been throwing a Rat-L-Trap ... I knew we had to slow it down - way down."

So, to the amusement of his co-angler partner, Lyons decided to drag a watermelon/green-pumpkin swimbait Friday. The change-up did the trick, pulling in sizable largemouths from grass points in about 6 feet of water at the edge of Sandy Creek.

Here's the kicker ... fish: Lyons would have accelerated his learning curve even more dramatically had he not had a 6-pound female shake off right at the boat today.

Pro Dicky Newberry of Houston: fifth with 15 bass, 50-2.Newberry finds fifth place

Veteran pro Dicky Newberry of Houston said Thursday that - despite all the conjecture to the contrary, including reports from meteorologists that lent credence to the idea that Friday could be the day - he wasn't so sure the bass were ready to spawn. Today his sage advice and his pattern were validated. Newberry has been catching more than 15 bass a day, but not in the extreme shallows.

"They're moving up ... I guess - but I'm still catching them out."

Newberry has been fishing for staging bass and said, "I'm fishing all over the lake in sweet spots of 5 to 10 feet (of water)."

He's fishing a variety of baits "in drops right outside grass breaks," including jigs, Carolina rigs with lizards and crankbaits.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the pros to make the top-10 cut on day three of the Stren Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir:

Cory Rambo of Orange, Texas, earned $268 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 9-pound, 7-ounce bass.6th: Shonn Goodwin, Moore, Okla., 15 bass, 49-2
7th: Stephen Johnston, Hemphill, Texas, 15 bass, 48-14
8th: James Stricklin Jr., Jasper, Texas, 15 bass, 48-11
9th: Greg Gleason, Houma, La., 15 bass, 48-6
10th: Cory Rambo, Orange, Texas, 15 bass, 48-4

Big bass

Rambo stormed the Snickers Big Bass award with a 9-7 monster worth $268.

Dalbey unshakable co-angler leader

Rich Dalbey of Greenville, Texas, just keeps slinging bass in from Sam Rayburn Reservoir despite his position in the back of the boat. The co-angler extended his lead Friday with another five-bass limit for 9 pounds, 4 ounces, though only half the weight he hauled in yesterday. Still, with a three-day total of 43-7, he has managed a 9-ounce lead over his nearest competitor heading into the final day of Stren Texas action.

Rich Dalbey of Greenville, Texas, leads the Co-angler Division in the chase for a Stren Texas win thanks to a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 43-7."I'm looking forward to going fishing tomorrow," he said.

Dalbey caught one on a spinnerbait today, but mainly stayed with the pattern he found during practice. Dalbey has had the fortune of fishing with pros favoring the midlake area all three days, and his pairing with Cecil should suit him well tomorrow.

"I'm just sticking with that Rat-L-Trap," he said, adding that most of his fish came from 4 to 6 feet of water in submerged grass today.

Of his consistency from the back of the boat, he said: "It's just probably confidence in the baits I'm throwing. I just wait to see my kind of areas ... and I just keep my bait in the water as much as possible."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the co-anglers to make the top-10 cut on day three of the Stren Texas event on Sam Rayburn:

2nd: Jonathan Simon, Orange, Texas, 14 bass, 42-14
3rd: Nick Diberardino, Huffman, Texas, 15 bass, 40-10
4th: Steve Evans, Lufkin, Texas, 15 bass, 40-9
5th: Ryan O'Neal, Woodville, Texas, 15 bass, 37-7
6th: Randy Hicks, Lumberton, Texas, 14 bass, 37-1
7th: Dan West, Ada, Okla., 13 bass, 36-8
John Moon of Brookeland, Texas, earned $138 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 9-pound bass.8th: Mark Lester, Marion, Ind., 14 bass, 36-7
9th: Jeremy Brown, Ringgold, La., 15 bass, 35-8
10th: Danny Cherry, Kountze, Texas, 14 bass, 35-5

Big bass

The Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division went to John Moon of Brookeland, Texas, for a 9-pounder worth $138.

Tags: patrick-baker  headline-story  2008-02-20-sam-rayburn-reservoir 

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