Alabama’s Randy Howell had only two B.A.S.S. wins to his credit when his twelfth Bassmaster Classic competition began on Friday. He went into today’s final round in 11th place, 9 pounds behind the leader.
No one, including Howell really thought he had a shot.
“I didn’t expect to have the chance to win after the first day, and especially after yesterday,” Howell said.
But he whacked the bass today, putting 29 pounds, 2 ounces on the scales to seal the 2014 Bassmaster Classic championship and pocketing the $300,000 first-place prize.
And he did it in record-breaking style, making the biggest Classic jump in rankings in the history of the B.A.S.S. championship.
“In 21 years of professional bass fishing, that’s the biggest stringer I’ve weighed in a tournament in my life,” Howell said. “It was a day of a lifetime. My and my wife, Robin, drove over (to the weigh-in), and I cried for an hour trying to get it all out…. It’s my best day fishing.”
Federation Nation member Paul Mueller of Connecticut finished second with 66-8, Okalhoma’s Edwin Evers wrapped up in third with 65-11, Tennessee’s Ott DeFoe claimed fourth place with 63-6 and Day 1 leader Randall Tharp ended in fifth with 62-12.
Howell said he caught his final-day stringer the same way he caught fish on Day 2 — cranking riprap.
The key distinction, however, was that he switched fishing areas. It was a choice he made while running from the launch to his intended target of Mills Creek.
“I was running this morning, and I already knew where I was going, Howell said.. “And I just got the overwhelming urge to turn around and go to Spring Creek.
“I caught them in there yesterday on riprap.”
He said he had stopped in Spring Creek for a few minutes on his way to the weigh-in yesterday, and whacked some fish quickly.
“I caught one on every cast,” Howell said. “I saw them on the graph. I knew there were there.”
But his plan was still to go to Mill Creek, but he said he just felt led to make the last-minute change.
“I know it was the Lord leading me to go there,” he said. “When I turned around, I honestly had an overwhelming feeling I would win the Classic.”
When he pulled up on the Spring Creek riprap, he began throwing a Rapala DT6 in Michael Iaconelli’s demon color.
“I caught my first 20 pounds or so on a DT6,” he said.
But he could see on his graph that he needed to get a bit deeper.
“I could see these big arches in 10 feet looking up at 6 feet of water,” Howell explained.
So he decided to switch to a Livingston medium-diving crankbait (which has yet to receive a model name or number). That turned out to be the ticket.
“I bet I caught 30 or 40 on that bait,” Howell said.
He also employed a Yamamota Fizzle jig, a ChatterBait-type lure.
Hundreds of people lined the banks and cheered him on, but Howell said there wasn’t any real secret to his tactic.
“All I did was fish the same way any Joe Blow fishing a weekend tournament would fish,” he said.
But he said he believed there was a higher power at work.
“God is awesome,” Howell said. “I don’t win many tournaments. His timing was this day, and he made it happen today from (being in) 11th place.
“He made it happen today to show me and everybody else that when it is his will he can make it happen."