Bassmaster Elite Pro, Randy Howell, began hauling in huge Lake Guntersville bass only minutes into the final round of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic. He lost track of how many fish he culled, but at one point, he was trading 4- and 5-pounders for even larger fish.
When he brought his five bass to the scales, they weighed 29.2 pounds, with the largest going 7.3 pounds, bumping his three-day weight up to 67.8 pounds.
“I don’t even know if I’m going to win, but it doesn’t matter,” Howell said before all the 25 finalists came to the scales. “It was the best day I’ve ever had in 21 years of professional bass fishing, a day of a lifetime.”
However, at the end of the day, he was the 2014 Bassmaster Classic champ, cashing a check for $300,000.
“I’ve had this dream so many times, and it’s happening now. I can’t believe I won the Bassmaster Classic. I don’t win tournaments very often,” said Howell as he was announced the winner, becoming only the second angler to win the Classic in his home state. His win at the Northern Open earned him the spot in this year’s Classic.
Howell repeatedly used the words “perfect” and “effortless” to describe his day on Lake Guntersville.
“I caught my first one on my second or third cast,” he said. “I caught one almost every cast or two and had a limit in the first 10 or 15 minutes. It was quick. It would have been quicker if I hadn’t had to stop and retie every time because of the rocks.”
The rocks were the riprap up against a causeway bridge on Spring Creek. That early flurry included releasing eight 4-pounders. Howell spent most of his time on the riprap.
He moved only once, going farther back into the creek to a grassy area. The move yielded a 6-pounder and allowed him to cull a 4-pounder. He then motored back to the riprap. His largest weighed 7.3 pounds. It was his fourth bass of the day and the one that told him going to Spring Creek was the right decision.
His go-to lures included a Livingston Lures Pro Series model still under development. Not yet available to the public, it is a medium diver in a crawfish color. He also used a Rapala DT6 crankbait in the “demon” crawfish color, plus a Yamamoto bladed jig.
“I went out this morning believing I could win,” Howell said. “That’s the weirdest thing. Typically, I would never be in 11th place and 9 pounds back and think I had a chance to win. But for some reason I had the feeling I could win on Spring Creek — that something big would happen there.”
Howell edged out B.A.S.S. Nation qualifier Paul Mueller of Naugatuck, Conn., by one pound. Mueller, who on Day 2 set a new one-day Classic weight record at 32.3 pounds, and a final weight of 66.8 pounds, for Second Place and a check for $45,000.
Third Place went to Second-Day leader Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., whose total weight was 65.11 pounds, garnering a check for $42,500.
Just one ounce separated Evers and Tharp on Day 1, and then Evers took the lead on Day 2. “It’s not just me and him,” said Evers, “There are a lot of anglers in this yet who can catch them. Thirty-pound bags are possible.”
After adding 20.9 pounds Saturday, Evers of Talala, Okla., racked up a two-day total of 47.6 pounds, enough to nudge him into first place. Tharp weighed 19.13 Saturday for a running total of 47.5.
In Fourth Place was Ott DeFoe with 63.6 pounds. He won $30,000 for his efforts.
Grabbing Fifth Place was First Day leader, Randall Tharp, with 62.12 pounds, earning a check for $27,500. Tharp, who stumbled on Day 2, said, “Any time I go out there and catch 19 pounds on this lake, it’s a failure for me. I had a couple of ‘good’ fish today; yesterday I had four. I was in a good rhythm this morning, things were clicking, then I had some issues with my boat.”
The Evers-Tharp place switch was just the beginning of Saturday’s leaderboard shuffle. Moving up into the Top 5 was Ott DeFoe, from 11th place into third with 43.5 pounds while Jason Christie moved from seventh into fourth with 42.14 pounds.
Paul Mueller surged from 47th to fifth place by bringing 32.3 pounds to the scales — a one-day record for a five-bass-limit Classic.
Fred Roumbanis’ 9.3-pound largemouth from Day 1 won the event’s Carhartt Big Bass Award of $1,000 plus $1,500 for wearing Carhartt clothing. Howell earned a $7,500 Toyota Bonus Bucks award and Tharp received the Day 1 GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $1,000 plus $1,500 for having a GEICO decal on his boat’s windshield. Evers won the same bonus on Day 2.