The 2014 Bassmaster Classic saw history made as a new champion walked away with a haul in prize money and a memorable comeback. Alabama's Randy Howell made an inspiring run on the final day to claim top honors, and the stars aligned to deliver his mammoth victory.
Todd Masson of The Times-Picayune described Howell's third and final day of the Classic:
He stopped at the Big Spring Creek bridge across U.S. 431 right in the midst of Guntersville, and there proceeded to haul in one lunker bass after another, often on consecutive casts, while a crowd that quickly assembled on the bridge right above his boat cheered him on. Howell put over 22 pounds in the live well in that insane flurry, later culling up to his total bag of 29.2. He released what he estimated at close to 30 pounds more.
Not only did Howell win a $300,000 purse, but he also made some history, according to Frank Sargeant of The Huntsville Times: "B.A.S.S. statistician Ken Duke said Howell's charge from 11th place to first was the greatest comeback in Classic history."
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Total|
|Place||Name||Weight (fish)||Weight (fish)||Weight (fish)||Weight (fish)||Prize Money|
|1||Randy Howell||20.3 (5)||18.3 (5)||29.2 (5)||67.8 (15)||$300,000|
|2||Paul Mueller||9.10 (3)||32.3 (5)||24.11 (5)||66.8 (13)||$45,000|
|3||Edwin Evers||26.13 (5)||20.9 (5)||18.5 (5)||65.11 (15)||$40,000|
|4||Ott DeFoe||20.10 (5)||22.11 (5)||20.1 (5)||63.6 (15)||$30,000|
|5||Randall Tharp||27.8 (5)||19.13 (5)||15.7 (5)||62.12 (15)||$25,000|
|6||Jordan Lee||13.7 (4)||24.0 (5)||24.10 (5)||62.1 (14)||$22,000|
|7||Todd Faircloth||16.6 (5)||21.3 (5)||23.8 (5)||61.1 (15)||$21,500|
|8||David Kilgore||18.15 (5)||16.11 (5)||24.13 (5)||60.7 (15)||$21,000|
|9||Doug Thompson||12.7 (4)||22.7 (5)||25.5 (5)||60.3 (14)||$20,500|
|10||Adam Wagner||14.14 (5)||24.3 (5)||20.2 (5)||59.3 (15)||$20,000|
According to Brent Frazee of The Kansas City Star, Howell readily admitted he had a banner performance on the water at just the right time. "That was the best day of bass fishing I’ve ever had," Howell said.
Howell was also willing to accept that he had a special blessing working in his favor, per Frazee: "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.' 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."
Whether God intervened in the results is open to interpretation, but if certain athletes believe there is spiritual influence on home runs, touchdowns and three-points shots, certainly bass fishing is within the divine purview.
However, as Frazee pointed out, there were also empirical reasons for Howell to stop at the location he did: "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."
Nevertheless, Howell made history with his haul on Day 3 by bringing in the heaviest bag of fish he has ever captured. It was also his first title at the Bassmaster Classic in his 21-year career.
Paul Mueller overcame a brutal showing on Day 1 with a massive Day 2 haul that weighed over 32 pounds. Despite bringing in just 13 fish, fewer than any other competitor who finished in the top 17, Mueller finished in second place and only one pound behind Howell.
As noted by Masson, Howell primarily used a "crawfish red Rapala DT6 and a prototype Livingston Lures medium-running crankbait, also in crawfish red." Surely, that is now his lucky lure and crawfish red is his new favorite color.
The next tournament on the slate is the Bassmaster Elite Series at Lake Seminole in Georgia from March 13-16, and the series continues the next week on St. Johns River in Palatka, Fla.
Howell will hope to lure another strong finish. With the way he fished at the Classic, he won't even need the luck of the Irish in those competitions sandwiched around St. Patrick's Day.