UPCOMING EVENT: ABU GARCIA COLLEGE FISHING - 2020 - Harris Chain of Lakes

Is it over before it's over?

Is it over before it's over?
Wth a commanding 7 pound, 4 ounce lead, Russell Cecil of Willis, Texas is in the driver's seat heading into the final round of the Stren Series Texas Division tournament on Sam Rayburn Lake

JASPER, Texas - A look at the leaderboard at the Stren Series Texas Division tournament on Sam Rayburn Lake might lead an observer to think that the winners are a foregone conclusion.

In first place on the pro side is Russell Cecil of Willis, Texas, with a commanding 7-pound, 4-ounce lead over second place. On the co-angler side, Randy Hicks of Lumberton, Texas, is leading by 9 pounds, 3 ounces.

But with the current bite on Sam Rayburn, it would be a mistake to hand first-place checks to Cecil and Hicks just yet. Friday's top 10 in the Pro Division had four new members, while on the co-angler side three new guys crashed the party. Yesterday's pro leader, Charles Bebber, is now in third place, while yesterday's co-angler leader, Donny Cherry, is packing his vehicle for the ride home after falling to 11th place. Only the top 10 in each division after the first two days fish on the final day.

Sam Rayburn is in transition, which always throws anglers a curve. Bedded fish accounted for much of Thursday's weight, and many of those fish have been picked over, certainly those that are most visible. Other fish are in transition from prespawn to spawn and from spawn to postspawn.

What's certain is that the Rat-L-Trap and similar lipless rattling crankbaits are the lures of the tournament. Almost everybody has thrown one for at least part of the tournament. Sight-anglers are throwing soft plastics, mainly the Senko, and hoping that pattern holds for one more day.

It should, as the weather forecast calls for continued sunny, warm weather. But pressure is taking its toll on the bedded fish, and Saturday will bring college tournament anglers and weekend anglers to Sam Rayburn.

After day one, Cecil was in second place with 23 pounds, 4 ounces, which was 2 pounds, 3 ounces behind the leading weight. He improved on Thursday's sack by 5 ounces today, which was enough to vault him into first place with a two-day total of 46 pounds, 13 ounces.

With a 7-pound, 4-ounce lead heading into the final day, the tournament is his to lose. He's a three-time winner of Texas bass tournaments. His last win came in 2007 at a Stren Series event on Toledo Bend. Prior to that he won two tournaments on the old Texas Tournament Trail.

"I knew I would be fishing tomorrow," Cecil said after weighing in Friday, "but tomorrow's another day. I'm going to go fishing and see what the bite dictates."

When Friday's bite changed, Cecil went with the flow. He wasn't alone in the area where he fished - indeed, at least eight of the top 10 pros are working the same general area - so he showed the fish something different: a Big Bite Swimming Minnow, which accounted for four of his fish. The other came on a Rat-L-Trap. He said he saw fish on beds, but chose to fish the 5- to 7-foot weedline he staked out.

"If I see a good one, I'll go for it, obviously," Cecil said. "I caught some off the beds today, but they all got culled out."

Villines looks to break through

In his fourth year as a pro, Scotty Villines of Ponca, Ark., Is looking for his first top-10 finish. His best tournament ever came as an amateur on Sam Rayburn in 2004, when he placed ninth.Scotty Villines used a 25 pound, 6 ounce sack to leap into second place in the pro division. Perhaps it

His situation didn't look too good after day one, when he was in 32nd place with 14 pounds, 3 ounces. But a 25-pound, 6-ounce sack, the heaviest weighed by any pro Friday, vaulted him into second. Can he keep that momentum going?

"I was on the same size fish yesterday," Villines said, "but I couldn't get them to bite. So I switched from a Wacky Worm to a watermelon fluke, and that seems to have made the difference. These are postspawn fish. I'm not seeing the fish I'm catching."

Bebber hopes for better day tomorrow

Charles Bebber of Willis, Texas, fell to third place today with a sack weighing 13 pounds, 6 ounces, considerably less than his day-one weight of 25 pounds, 7 ounces. But with a total weight of 38-13, he's still within 8 pounds of the lead and believes he has a good chance to make up the weight.

"I'll do tomorrow what I did yesterday and today," said Bebber, who is assured of his first top-10 finish in a Stren Series tournament. He also has three top-10 finishes in the Cowboy Division of the Walmart Bass Fishing League.

Lupe Garcia brings in the big bass of the day

Big bass of Day 2 at the Stren Series Texas Division tournament on Sam Rayburn Lake was this 9 pound, 3 ounce fish caught by Lupe Garcia. ItLupe Garcia of Springdale, Ark., weighed 24 pounds, 11 ounces Friday, the second-heaviest bag in the Pro Division, and 9 pounds, 3 ounces of that weight was supplied by one fish, the biggest of the tournament so far and the $450 Big Bass for Friday.

Lupe hooked the brute on - you guessed it - a Rat-L-Trap, and he said he lost another fish that would have went about 6 pounds. Not bad for an angler who started the day in 40th place and who's now in fourth.

All the fish Lupe is targeting are schooled in an area about 40 feet square. He's spent the entire tournament on that one spot.

"Yesterday I had it to myself," Lupe said, "but then a guy saw me catching them, and he was there today too."

Gaia comes on late

Andy Gaia of Tomball, Texas, is in fifth place with 38 pounds, 3 ounces. Day two started slow for this sight-fisherman, as early winds made it tough. But when the wind calmed the bite turned on, and Gaia used it to good advantage, catching 16 pounds, 8 ounces of Rayburn bass.

"I got my biggest at 3:25 (p.m.)," Gaia said, "right before I had to head in."Will Welch of Nederland, Texas was barely hanging onto the top 10 yesterday, but after Friday

Rest of the best

Rounding out the 10 pros to make the cut in the Stren Texas competion at Sam Rayburn:

6th: Wade Grooms, Bonneau, S.C., two-day total of 36 pounds, 8 ounces
7th: Stephen Johnston, Hemphill, Texas, 34 pounds, 7 ounces
8th: Robert Baney, Montgomery, Texas, 34 pounds, 5 ounces
8th: Toby Hartsell, Livingston, Texas, 34 pounds, 5 ounces
10th: Todd Castledine, Nacogdoches, Texas, 34 pounds, 2 ounces

Hicks keeps his cool

When co-angler Randy Hicks drew pro Todd Castledine as his day-two partner, he reasoned he might be in for a tough day.

Castledine prefers sight-fishing. That can be tough for the angler in the back of the boat, who doesn't have the advantage of a raised bow platform. Sure enough, as of noon Hicks had just two small fish in the livewell.

Randy Hicks of Lumberton, Texas is shooting for his first win as a co-angler. With a nearly 10 pound cushion over second place, his chances appear to be good.But his fortunes soon would change. Castledine caught his limit and then focused on helping Hicks. Specifically, he set him up with a red Rat-L-Trap.

"I whacked 'em," Hicks said.

Indeed, his 26-pound, 9-ounce sack was the best bag of day two and vaulted Hicks from ninth place into first place.

Like Cecil in the Pro Division, Hicks' lead of almost 10 pounds would appear to be insurmountable. He has three previous top-10 finishes and is looking for his first win.

You can bet he'll be throwing a Rat-L-Trap at least part of the day Saturday.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the 10 co-anglers to make the cut at the Stren Texas event on Sam Rayburn:

2nd: Will Welch, San Angelo, Texas, two-day total of 27 pounds, 9 ounces
3rd: Steve Hope, Ovilla, Texas, 27 pounds, 4 ounces
4th: Joe Embry, Tyler, Texas, 27 pounds, 1 ounce
5th: Keith Honeycutt, Temple, Texas, 27 pounds
6th: Rusty Harvey, Nederland, Texas, 26 pounds, 12 ounces
7th: Kevin Carter, Spring, Texas, 26 pounds, 9 ounces
8th: Claude Rabb, Vidalia, La., 25 pounds, 8 ounces
9th: Stephen Francis, Brookeland, Texas, 24 pounds, 13 ounces
10th: Bob Snyder, Marion, Ind., 24 pounds, 9 ounces

Saturday's final round begins a 7 a.m. with the launch from the Umphrey Family Pavilion off Route 255. Weigh-in begins at 4 p.m. at the Walmart in Jasper.

Tags: vince-meyer  headline-story  2009-03-19-sam-rayburn 

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