Nail-biter for Louisiana boat winner

As a co-angler in the 2010 season of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open circuit, Cynthia Bryan of Farmerville, La., had been on a Bassmaster stage multiple times, but never as a winner.

Until Sunday, that is. Bryan won a $30,000 Triton/Mercury bass rig, the big fan prize of Toyota Trucks All-Star Week, and she was called up onto the stage in Montgomery, Ala., to accept it.

Bryan knew she had a good chance to win the prize. As one of only a dozen sweepstakes finalists in the Toyota Trucks All-Star Fan Favorites contest, her odds were 1 in 12. But the outcome wasn’t left to chance. Because each fan finalist was randomly paired with one of the 12 All-Star pros, the pros’ performance determined who won the boat. Her draw was Ott DeFoe, an Elite Series rookie from Knoxville, Tenn.

Bryan had entered the sweepstakes at when she registered and voted for her favorite pros to be included in All-Star Week. She didn’t vote for DeFoe because he wasn’t on the ballot; the rookie was already in as one of the Top 8 points qualifiers. Her mission was to vote for Clark Reehm, an Elite Series pro she sponsors through her business, Old River Lure Co., a small manufacturer of spinnerbaits and tungsten weights.

A week or so later, while she was in New Mexico on a motorcycle trip with friends, B.A.S.S. contacted her to tell her she’d won the sweepstakes to be a fan finalist. Fortunately, she had packed her laptop, so she was able to follow DeFoe’s progress.

“Every day there was a weigh-in, I watched and kept up with him,” she said. “He got a little closer, and a little closer. It was very exciting to watch.”

Her plans to be at her second home in Orange Beach, Ala., last weekend meshed perfectly with the possibility she would have a reason to make a quick trip to Montgomery. When her odds increased on Sunday to 1 in 2, she made the 2 1/2-hour drive to Montgomery to see firsthand if a person she’d never met would be her ticket to a new boat.

From a front-row spot, she watched DeFoe eliminate his single remaining opponent, Edwin Evers, by 5 ounces. When DeFoe was declared the winner, she leapt from her chair, clapping and cheering as much for DeFoe as for herself.

“I was so happy for him. Afterward, I talked to him for just a split second, but it was so crazy, so many people were coming up to him, that we didn’t speak for very long. And I didn’t want to take away from his time in the spotlight,” she said.

Monday morning she sent him a congratulatory message and thank-you via Facebook. While she was logged in, she started to read the 50 to 60 messages waiting for her. Her phone rang repeatedly.

It seemed as if everyone, she said, now knows she’s the proud owner of a Triton 18XS bass boat with a Mercury 150 OptiMax engine.

She plans to put the rig to good use. She’ll likely take it out first on Bayou D’Arbonne, or the Ouachita or Red rivers, all close to her Louisiana home. She said she expects to enjoy sharing time on the new boat with her son and business partner, Chris Burnham, but she wouldn’t hand it over to him. He has his own boat, she pointed out, the one he uses when he competes in the Bassmaster Central Opens.

Bryan plans to wrap her new boat to help promote her business. She said that Reehm, who was a graphic designer before he turned full-time pro, offered to create the wrap for her.

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