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Cecil’s Final Morning of Practice

Cecil’s Final Morning of Practice
Russell Cecil

Russell Cecil is one of a number of standout Texas anglers fishing the FLW Tour opener this week on Sam Rayburn. After a lackluster rookie campaign in 2018, fishing near home is a great opportunity for the Willis, Texas, pro to get the year started off strong. Though the conditions are far from normal, a few hours on the final day of practice reveal that Cecil certainly has a read on the bass.

 

Cecil and I meet at a gas station at 6:45 a.m. CT, and from there he heads to a nearby ramp just above the TX-147 bridge. Before putting the boat in, Cecil unloads some rods from his truck, makes a few tackle changes, and meets up with Todd Castledine and Luke Dunkin, who are both rooming with him on Tour this year.

 

After slipping the boat in, Cecil runs south under the TX-147 bridge and stops at a nearby point where he picks up a Carolina rig and settles down to drag around some scattered grass. 

“I’ve never been here this time of year when it’s this high,” says Cecil. Rayburn is about 9 feet above full pool. “A lot of my waypoints are pretty much useless. They’re in, like, 30 feet.”

Of course, through two days of practice, Cecil thinks he knows what the deal is going to be.

“Generally, they’re hard to find this time of year, but those big ones group up,” he says. “When you do get on ’em, you can end the party in five casts. I think fishing the grass, the inside and the outside, that’s the way to win. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go up shallow some, but this is the way to win. This is where those big ones are.”

 

After dragging his rig all along the outside of the point, Cecil moves in a bit closer and into more grass. Soon after, he gets a bite and swings hard. Hard enough to break off, in fact.

“My leader had a knot in it. I saw it yesterday. I was like, ‘Aw, it doesn’t matter, it’s practice,’” says Cecil. “That wasn’t a giant, but it sure wasn’t a spotted bass.”

He sits down to re-tie, rigging up nearly a carbon copy of the Carolina rig that Castledine described for an FLW article in the fall, just with a lead weight instead of a tungsten one.

 

Cecil keeps at it. He drags the rig around the shallower grass for a few more minutes, apparently enjoying the mild morning and focusing on his graph between drags.

In 2018, Cecil finished 149th in the standings, far off his usual pace in the Costa FLW Series and well below expectations. Fishing a lake this week where he’s won piles of money before should be a good way to get the season rolling for him.

“I was looking forward to the home cooking for sure,” says Cecil. “I came over and pre-practiced in December, and it was really good. This high water has changed all that though.

“Fishing is a game of momentum, and I never got going last year,” recalls the Texan. “I couldn’t string days together, and when I did something would happen. The Harris Chain would have been my best event, and I couldn’t weigh my fish on day one because of a mechanical issue.

“What I’m saying is, I think it’s important to get the year off to a good start.”

 

After a few more drags and a re-fish of one specific clump of hydrilla, Cecil stows his rod and cranks the Evinrude, running across the lake to his next spot. It’s a similar stretch of grass off the bank, but the water is quite a bit dirtier. There’s a bunch of pine needles and other junk floating around, so Cecil is far from crazy about it.

 

Cecil says his employees tell him that he “only has one squirrel cage,” and he admits to being single-minded, but he’s really taking it to impressive levels on the water. Though the conversation ranges broadly, he literally never picks up anything but a Carolina rig. The other Falcon rods on his deck stay exactly there.

 

After dragging the C-rig around with no bites for a while Cecil fields a call from Castledine, his team partner and fellow Tour sophomore. They swap a bit of information, and Cecil decides to make a move. It’s time to look for clearer water.

 

Running down the lake, Cecil takes a slightly winding route, avoiding the patches of standing timber out of habit.

He stops on an offshore flat and idles for a bit without a hint of a bass. The bottom is hard and there’s the occasional stump, but at almost 30 feet deep, the spot seems to have been abandoned by the fish. So, he abandons it too, running back closer to the bank to another point with grass.

 

Dragging the rig around as usual, Cecil again mentions that he thinks the winning wad of bass is relating to the grass, but he feels like he has a few other things he could do to catch a fish. In Texas, his strengths are multiple, but on Tour around the country, he recognizes that he still needs to grow to get on the level of the pros that make the FLW Cup year in and year out.

“I want to win, but I’ve got to get better at saving myself,” says Cecil. “Fishing regionally, you want to knock it out of the park. I’ve got to get more well-rounded to be able to save myself when I’m not on ’em. I’ve got to figure out how to do good in tournaments when 10 or 12 pounds is a good bag. Even in Texas I never do well in those.”

 

After making another move to a similar point, Cecil idles around to ID a hard patch on the inside of the grass and then begins dragging. Shortly into it, he loads into a bass, but after a brief glance around he opts to shake it off. With a handful of other boats in sight, he doesn’t want to reveal the location of the fish.

He finishes out the point with a few more casts and prepares to make a big move. Cecil has a few Hail Marys to throw at the lower end of the lake, and it’d be a heck of a ride back to drop me off after that.

 

We buckle up and roll back north, under the bridge and to the ramp. There’s no telling how Cecil will do in the tournament, but his history suggests he’ll have a good finish, and he’s for sure one of the anglers that isn’t going to be totally crossing his fingers come Thursday morning. With any luck, the home cooking will get him started off on the right track.

Tags: jody-white  pre-tournament  2019-01-10-sam-rayburn-reservoir 

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