Randy Howell, of Springville, Ala., posted the biggest final-day comeback in Bassmaster Classic history on Feb. 23 as he won by just one pound over Bass Federation angler Paul Mueller.
Randy entered Sunday in 11th place 10 pounds out of the lead.
Randy had a three-day total of 67-lbs., 8-ozs. on Lake Guntersville. He received $300,000 for the win in bass fishing’s biggest event.
The lone Georgian to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic this year, Patrick Bone, of Cleveland, placed 33rd. Only the top-25 after day two fished the third and final day of the tourney. Kevin VanDam placed 26th, just missing the final-day cut.
Collegiate national champion Jordan Lee, of Auburn University, finished sixth.
Randy became just the second angler in the Classic’s 44-year history to win in his home state. Boyd Duckett won on Lay Lake in 2007.
Randy, a devout Christian, attributed the win to divine intervention. He said he was on the way to his first stop when a voice told him to turn around. He went to Spring Creek instead and posted his biggest catch ever in 21 years of competitive fishing.
“I’ve fished all the way to California, New York and Florida, and I’ve never had a day like this,” he said. “Coming to the weigh-in, my wife Robin and I cried all the way, and we didn’t even know at that point if I’d win.”
Randy said he pulled into Spring Creek and saw fish everywhere on his depthfinder. He said he could see numbers of big bass everywhere right on the bank as they tried to get into the warmer shallow water.
“I used a Rapala DT6, the same bait I used the whole tournament,” he said. “I started catching big fish and had 22 pounds right off the bat.
“They camera crew came and got in my boat, and the bite slowed down. I could see the fish had moved off and were over deeper water. I dumped a bag of lures that my sponsor Livingston had given me. I wanted something the same color that went deeper. I put that crankbait on, and once I put that on, I started culling big fish.”
Randy said the bait doesn’t even have a name or a number because it was a prototype.
When word got around about Randy’s catches, fans began pouring onto the bridge where Randy was fishing. Hundreds of fans, including Randy’s wife and two kids, were among those cheering him on.
He said it was an incredible experience.
Lee, who finished sixth, was left to ponder what might have been. He roared back after a disastrous first day that left him in 40th place. He said he misjudged how the storms Thursday night would affect Friday’s first day.
“I’ll be thinking about this a long time, I really will,” he said. “I caught good fish Wednesday on the practice day, and I was catching them in about 5 feet of water.
“I went there Friday, and they weren’t there. It took awhile for me to realize that they had gone so shallow. It took me awhile to realize they were in less than a foot of water.”
His big catches on Saturday and Sunday just weren’t enough to dig him out of the hole, he said.
2014 Bassmaster Classic, Guntersville
Angler 3-Day Lbs. Money
1. Randy Howell 67.8 $300K
2. Paul Mueller 66.8 $45K
3. Edwin Evers 65.1 $42.5K
4. Ott DeFoe 63.6 $30K
5. Randall Tharp 62.12 $27.5K
6. Jordan Lee 62.10 $22K
7. Todd Faircloth 61.1 $21.5K
8. David Kilgore 60.7 $21K
9. Doug Thompson 60.3 $20.5K
10. Adam Wagner 59.3 $20K
11. Casey Ashley 57.9 $15K
12. Bobby Lane 56.7 $14.5K
13. Aaron Martens 55.1 $14.25K
14. Brandon Palaniuk 54.6 $14K
15. Morizo Shimizu 53.1 $13.75
16. Jonathon VanDam 53.5 $13K
17. Dean Rojas 52.1 $12.9K
18. Jason Christie 51.9 $12.8
19. David Walker 51.2 $12.7K
20. Ish Monroe 50.9 $12.6K
21. Fred Roumbanis 49.0 $14.9
22. Keith Coombs 49.0 $12.3K
23. Chad Morgenthaler 47.1 $12.2K
24. Cody Carden 46.9 $12.1K
25. Terry Scroggins 43.6 $12K
Note: Money includes various BASS sponsor bonuses.