When Northwestern State University Fishing Team’s Evan Howe and Noah Trant compete for a national championship in August at Pickwick Lake in Alabama, they’ll fish and feel almost right at home there.
Through high school and their first year of college both sophomores-to-be have fared well on the impoundment shared by Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi. The 2023 Strike King Bassmaster College National Championship is scheduled Aug. 10-12 at Counce, Tennessee.
“We’ve had three trips there this year,” said Howe, a North DeSoto High School graduate (Class of ’22). “I’ve made two trips in high school and Noah actually got seventh in worlds his senior year. We’ll get to run some history spots. But every time we go to Pickwick, it’s been a different time of year.”
Trant, who graduated from Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, finished seventh as a senior with his younger brother, Mark-Andrew Trant, in a national high school tournament at Pickwick Lake.
Qualifying for this year’s Bassmaster nationals was a nail-biting and boat-jarring adventure at Lay Lake in Shelby County, Alabama. Howe and Trant were fortunate to get out on the water for the 5:30 a.m. takeoff from Beeswax Creek Park.
“I’m telling you, Lay Lake was kind of hectic,” Howe said, noting they pre-fished up until the last official day of practice and ended up near the dam. The Bassmaster College Series Wild Card tournament was the next day.
“About an hour before we had to get off the water, our lower unit got ripped off, he said. “We got up on step and hit a boulder, tore the skag off, bent the prop shaft and destroyed the prop” on the Yamaha 250 powering the Skeeter XFR21.
They were unable to get off the water in time, but a quick call to the tournament director went smoothly. Clearing that hurdle, the collegiate bass anglers scrambled to get a ride.
“I ended up calling my high school partner, Drake Wadsworth of Stonewall. I said, ‘Buddy, we need a boat tomorrow. We’re on fish.’ They got it here at 2 in the morning. Takeoff was about 5:30,” Howe said about getting the Skeeter Fx21 with a Yamaha 250 Sho delivered overnight by his mother, Melisssa Howe, and his brother, Ethan Howe.
The NSU Fishing Team took advantage of the second chance and finished sixth in the 152-boat field with a two-day total of 26 pounds, 15 ounces, writing their ticket to Pickwick Lake. LSU-Shreveport Fishing Team members Levi Thibodaux and Chance Shelby (former high school bass fishing profile subjects in Louisiana Sportsman) finished one notch higher with 10 bass for 28 pounds, 3 ounces.
“We’ve had a few mishaps since starting to fish together,” Trant said, noting a powerhead cracked while using their boat the first day of their first out-of-state tournament as NSU Fishing Team members. Howe’s father, Mark Howe, towed a boat 13 hours to get it to them for Day 2.
Trant began fishing bass tournaments as an eighth grader. As a junior, he and his brother won the first LHSAA state title at Caddo Lake.
“They put it in our backyard,” Trant said, warming up to one of his favorite subjects — Caddo Lake.
“August is probably one of the funnest months to fish out there,” he said, noting he prefers to fish with a Spro Popping Frog, a big swim bait and/or a glide bait. “I like to fish mats and underwater grass and floating grass on Caddo. There’s not many points so I like to find hard edges typically and there’s got to be bream popping in the grass. There’s got to be baitfish.”
He also likes to target schooling bass on ledges or points there.
Howe’s favorite lake to fish in August is Toledo Bend. He concentrates on “offshore” waters as soon as the water temp reaches 75 degrees.
“As soon as the water temp gets right, I’m offshore. I don’t like to fish with the bank beaters. I like down south, honestly,” he said, adding he usually targets 12- to 18-foot depths with a big plastic worm, jigs and Carolina-rigged soft plastics and relies on marine electronics to find drains leading from the river channel.
Howe started bass fishing at around age eight. His dad was boat captain his junior and senior years while fishing high school bass tournaments with Wadsworth.
How’d Howe and Trant pair up at NSU?
“We both kind of knew each other,” Trant said. “When I was graduating I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, even if I’d fish in college. His (Howe’s) mom came up to me and asked if I’d want to fish with Evan. We both knew if we got in a boat together we’d do good.
“It’s been fun, extremely fun, definitely way more fun than high school, traveling across the country and seeing all these lakes. It’s nice getting to see a different body of water every tournament.”