Indecision is the kiss of death in tournament fishing; however, a resolute change of mind executed at the right moment can make magic happen. Such was the case for Bassmaster Classic champion Randy Howell, whose key adjustments on the tournament’s last day delivered just what he needed to secure the victory he termed “a lifelong dream.”
“I was going to start at the Mill Creek Bridge where I had caught a lot of fish there (on days one and two),” Howell said. “As I’m running about a mile after takeoff, I had an overwhelming feeling and this voice in my head said ‘Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great?’
“I don’t know what it was, but I turned and started going back south to Spring Creek and when I did, I just had a rush of peace over me like it was going to happen.”
And happen, it did. Howell; who placed 12th and 11th on days one and two with 20 pounds, 3 ounces and 18-3, respectively; busted out a massive limit of 29-2 and posted a winning total of 67-8.
For much of the week, Howell fished a Rapala DT-6 crankbait, but in the final round, he also used a Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Fizzle Jig (bladed vibrating jig) and a new prototype Livingston Lures medium-diving Pro Series crankbait that he was given a day before the tournament.
“They gave me a big bag of lures to try at Media Day (prior to the Classic) and I didn’t even get to practice with it,” “I dug it out and put the hooks on it. It’s a bright crawfish red color and I mean they ate that thing up.
“I thought to myself ‘Why didn’t I have this earlier? It’s been in my boat and I didn’t even know I had it until I dug it out today.”
In 21 years of bass fishing, his day-three catch was his largest ever.
“It’s amazing how everything clicked and everything happened,” he said. “I left one time and went to the back of a creek, because I had a feeling. I caught a 6-pounder and I only won by one pound so that fish really is what made the difference. This has been an amazing week and it still feels like a dream.”
In second place, Paul Mueller represented the B.A.S.S. Nation with the event’s most dramatic turn of events. Mueller reached the final round after making a huge day two comeback, in which he rocketed up from 47th place to fifth on the strength of his 32-pound, 3-ounce limit. Mueller’s big bag set a new Classic record for the heaviest single-day catch. It was also the largest of the Classic and the event’s only bag of 30-plus pounds. On day three, Mueller bagged 24-11 – the day’s second-largest limit, behind Howell’s – and finished in second place with a tournament total of 66-8.
Mueller relied on a Rat-L-Trap for the first day and most of the second. When the trap bite slowed on day two, he switched to a chatterbait with a swimbait trailer and the fish responded aggressively. He stuck with the blade bait throughout day three.
Oklahoma pro, Edwin Evers was the event’s most consistent performer. He placed second on day one with 26-13, took over the lead on day two by adding 20-9. In the final round, Evers caught 18-5 and slipped to third with 65-11. The highlight of Evers’ day-two catch was a 7-pound, 2-ounce kicker.
Evers caught his fish on a selection of lures that included a Megabass Flap Slap shallow running crankbait, a vibrating jig and a Megabass Knuckle 60 crankbait.
“I was catching my fish out in front of the gator grass the first two days,” Evers said. “I moved shallower and got a lot of bites today, obviously, I just didn’t get that 7-pound bite I needed.”
Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn. progressed from 11th, to third on day two and eventually settled into fourth on day three with a total weight of 63-6. DeFoe was the only angler in the Super 6 to break 20 pounds all three days. He caught 20-10 on day one, 22-11 a day later and finished with limit of 20-1 on day three.
DeFoe caught the majority of his fish on a Rapala DT-6 crankbait for most of the event. The first two days, he fished bridges, but switched to main lake points when decreasing lake current diminished the bridge bite.“It was a tougher day for me today; I only caught six keepers,” DeFoe said. “Fortunately, I had one very large fish.”
In fifth place, Randall Tharp employed crankbaits, jigs, jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits to sack up a 3-day total of 62-12. Tharp came out of the gate strong by placing first on day one with 27-8 – the event’s second-largest bag. On day two, he slipped to second behind Evers by one ounce. Day three saw him struggle with changing water conditions and the lack of a solid kicker fish.
Rounding out the Super 6 was Jordan Lee – the Bassmaster College Series champion from Auburn University – who also made a dramatic day two improvement. Starting the second day in 40th place, Lee caught an even 24 pounds and earned his final-round berth with a 14th-place effort. On day three, Lee added 24-10 to finish in sixth place with 62-1
Notably, Lee’s brother and fellow Auburn fishing teammate Matt fished last year’s Classic after winning the College Series championship.