Ask Randy Howell about the key to his winning the Bassmaster Classic on Sunday, and he’ll talk about some divine intervention.
By BRENT FRAZEE
The Kansas City Star
Howell, who lives in Springville, Ala., was in 11th place going into the final round at Lake Guntersville, Ala., and he knew it would take an unbelievable day of fishing to take the championship.
That’s what he got. He brought five bass weighing 29 pounds, 2 ounces to the scales, lifting his three-day total to 67 pounds, 2 ounces. That was enough to edge Paul Mueller of Naugatuck, Conn., by exactly 1 pound.
Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira finished 31st in the event and missed the final-day cut.
Overcome by emotion, Howell cried afterward and talked about a voice he heard during the final round that directed his path.
“I was going down the lake and I heard this voice tell me, ‘You can have a good day or you can have a great day,’ ” said Howell, 40, who won his first Classic. “I know this might sound weird, but I’m convinced that was God talking to me.
“I just got this urge to change my plans on where I was heading, and turn around and go fish this other creek.”
It wasn’t like his change of plans was blind luck, though. Howell had caught bass in Spring Creek at end of the second day and could tell by looking at his electronics that there were plenty of bass there.
He pulled up to the riprap along a bridge on the giant reservoir and began casting a prototype of a crawdad-colored crankbait made by Livingston Lures, one of his sponsors. And he immediately started catching bass.
By the time he was done, he had the biggest bag of fish he has ever brought to the scales during his 21 years of tournament competition. Included was one largemouth bass that weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces.
“That was the best day of bass fishing I’ve ever had,” said an emotional Howell, who won $300,000. “I had a lot of spectators watching me from a bridge, cheering every time I caught a bass.
“I was just hoping I didn’t lose that lure. It’s the only one I had.”
Howell wasn’t the only fisherman who made a big jump in the tournament. Mueller, who lives in Naugatuck, Conn., wouldn’t have even been considered a longshot going into the tournament. He advanced to the event via the BASS Nation side, the amateur division. He was in 47th place after the first day and didn’t appear to be in contention. But he had two outstanding days of fishing in the final rounds to make it close.
He caught 32 pounds, 3 ounces of bass Saturday and followed with 24 pounds, 11 ounces Sunday to move into second place in the final standings.
But in the end it was Howell’s day.
This was the 12th Classic he has qualified for, and his previous highest finish was 10th place. In fact, he had only won two Bassmaster tournaments before Sunday.
“I’ve had this dream so many times,” he said. “Now it’s happening.
“You know, months ago my son Oakley made me a little sign that said, ‘My dad to win the Classic.’ I had it taped over my sink and I would look at it every day.
“It’s so awesome that God blessed me and I was able to win.”
To reach Brent Frazee, outdoors editor of The Star, call 816-234-4319 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.