Toyota teammate there in spirit

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Jeff Ragsdale

FLORENCE, Ala. — Of the 230 boats competing in the Toyota Bonus Bucks Owners Tournament all but one departed the launch site with two anglers. The passenger seat was vacant in the boat driven by Jeff Ragsdale of Gardendale, Ala.

Missing from the boat in this team tournament was Ragsdale’s partner, Doug Webster. He had every intention of being there to join his teammate, as he has for the past four owner’s tournaments. 

What prevented Webster from being there was cancer. Earlier this year, Webster was diagnosed with colon cancer. After undergoing multiple rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, doctors last week suspended further treatments. The cancer was advancing to other vital organs in his body.

“The doctors said there was nothing more they could do,” said Ragsdale.

Ragsdale said the team still planned to compete as recently as two weeks ago.

“He lost use of his right arm, and we were trying to figure out how he could hold a rod,” he added. “He really wanted to be here.”

Ragsdale, a construction worker, and Webster, a diesel mechanic, met 30 years ago at local tournaments in the Birmingham area. They fished team tournaments and took a brief hiatus for a few years due to work. Later reunited, they fished again in team tournaments and were running mates at Costa FLW Series events. At an April event in South Carolina, Webster got sick and was unable to fish on the final day. He returned home to find out about his terminal illness.

Ironically, Ragsdale is fishing from his teammate’s boat after his own rig was damaged in a car wreck.

“That’s just the kind of guy he is, will do anything for you,” said Ragsdale.

Ragsdale has physical challenges of his own, but not anything like what his teammate is going through. 

“I’ve got stage four Melanoma, and I’m not going to let it get me down,” he said. “I’ve got too much fishing that I want to do.” 

Webster might not be in the boat with Ragsdale, but he certainly is in spirit.

“I had mixed emotions about being here,” admitted Ragsdale. “But he told me to go for it, win it, and think about him being in the boat.”