Randy Howell of Springville, Alabama has fished in 12 Bassmaster Classics. Last year, 40-year-old Howell finished 10th in the Classic, after almost always finishing in the top 20. After earning almost $1.5 million in his career, Howell has an opportunity to earn $500,000 in three days of fishing during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic this weekend—a dream come true.
I asked Randy Howell to give us an insider’s look at how the Classic will play out this year.
John Phillips: Randy, why do you think you have a chance to win the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville this weekend?
Randy Howell: Since I moved to Alabama in 1998, I have a fairly good working knowledge of the lake. I fished it last winter when B.A.S.S. announced the 2014 Classic would be held there. We just finished Classic practice this past Sunday, February 16. I was expecting Guntersville to be better than ever. However, Alabama and especially North Alabama has had record cold weather, creating a volume of high and muddy water.
What did you learn in practice about Guntersville that the competitors must deal with this Classic week?
I discovered that the grass was almost gone or was dead from the cold weather on the main lake grass flats—a drastic change from what I was expecting. Cold water and limited amounts of grass will make finding the bass much more difficult than normal at this time of the year, when the grass is just starting to grow under the surface of the water. That’s the bad news.
So, you think fishing will be tough on Guntersville this weekend due to bad weather.
Not at all, and there’s also good news. For the tournament days, the weather forecast is predicting daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s and nighttime temperatures in the 40s. On last Sunday, I went in a creek with a water temperature of 40 degrees early in the morning. I returned there in late afternoon, and the temperature had warmed up to 49 and 50 degrees. With 60- and 70-degree daytime temperatures during tournament days, the bass should really turn on. If the sun comes out strong and the water temperature reaches 50 degrees or more, we’ll have one heck of a Bassmaster Classic, as big bass will move up shallow and start feeding. We have one more practice day (Wednesday, February 19), and I hope to find bass then.
Randy, which baits do you think will win the Classic at Lake Guntersville?
The lipless crankbait will be the lure that’s probably fished by most anglers and has proven to be one of the best big-bass catching lures in February on Guntersville. I caught quite a few bass during practice on Livingston Lures’ Pro Ripper. It’s a lipless crankbait like the Rat-L-Trap and the Red Eye Shad.
If we asked you to not consider yourself, who do you think has the best chance to win this year’s Classic?
Randall Tharp lived in Alabama until he moved to Florida two years ago. He’s fished Guntersville all his life and won bass tournaments there. He won the FLW Championship last year and a Bassmaster Open Tournament this year. You also can’t overlook Gerald Swindle from Hayden, Alabama or David Kilgore from Jasper—both who also know Guntersville really well. Kevin VanDam (four-time Classic Champion), Aaron Martens (also from Alabama), and some of the other pros can catch good bags of bass wherever they go.
Other than their knowledge of the lake, what other advantage do the Alabama boys have?
Plenty of spectators and a lot of fishing pressure will be on Guntersville, and that boat traffic may have a negative effect on some of the better nationally-known pros. For instance, Kevin VanDam may have 50 or 60 boats following him, but most of the Alabama boys are relatively unknown and won’t have to deal with many spectators.
Randy, you have another reason other than the cash and fame to try and win this Classic, don’t you?
Yes, I do. My charity is King’s Home, an organization that provides homes and a positive influence for abused and neglected, and other wards of the state. They’ll be at the Classic every day with T-shirts and pom poms cheering for me. They’ll also be selling T-shirts and chances to win my bass boat that I’ll fish with in the Classic and throughout the rest of the year. Last year 1,200 tickets were sold. This giveaway has taken place for three years and has raised $335,000. In November, the winner will get my fully-rigged Triton tournament bass boat with Mercury motor, trolling motor, electronics, and all the equipment with which I’ve fished the Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series. The total price of this boat fully-rigged is about $75,000.
To learn more about Randy Howell, go to his webpage.
You also can see a video with B.A.S.S. Elite Series Pro James Niggemeyer, on how to fish riprap embedded below:
Register to win one of 10 copies to be given away of John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBook, How to Win a Bass Tournament: Personal Lessons from 8 Pro Bass Fishermen. Click here (will open a new email in your default email software) to submit your choice for who will win the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. Those who answer correctly will have their names put together and a random drawing made for the winners.
Images courtesy John Phillips