Mercury pro Randy Howell follows his gut to record come-from-behind win

Feb 24, 2014

Fishing is sometimes a sport of instinct and feeling as much as a game of rods, reels and baits. For Mercury pro Randy Howell, a feeling in his gut on the final day of the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville turned into the most historic come-from-behind victory in the 44-year history of bass-fishing’s most celebrated event.

Howell, who makes his home roughly 60 miles south of Guntersville in Springville, Ala., scrapped his championship Sunday plans of throwing shallow-running crankbaits in Mill Creek, and instead opted to propel his Mercury-powered Triton to Spring Creek to fish the bridge, deep river channel and rocky rip-rap in that section of the lake.

The result: 29 pounds, 2 ounces of largemouth, which vaulted him from 11th to first place with a total of 67 pounds, 8 ounces of largemouth for the tournament, just enough to hold off B.A.S.S. Federation angler Paul Mueller (66-8) and shoot past Day 2 leader and fellow Mercury pro Edwin Evers (65-11) for the Classic trophy and $300,000 payday.

“I can’t really explain it, I just had this feeling to turn the boat and fish Spring Creek – it was totally on a gut instinct,” said Howell, who trailed Evers by 9 pounds entering the day, seemingly out of contention. “I knew that the bridges and rip rap and that type of structure statistically have produced a lot of wins on this lake for several years. I know how many fish live in (Spring) Creek. I had told a whole bunch of people that I was going to fish Mill Creek first thing in the morning – I had every intention of going there and catching them good because they were all over the graph there.”

Howell had run his Mercury OptiMax Pro XS-powered boat between the two areas the first couple of days of the Classic, consistently catching enough Guntersville largemouth to stay within striking distance of Evers and Day 1 leader Randall Tharp. But just like his gut-instinct change of direction to Spring Creek, a spur-of-the-moment bait change on the final day played a big part in his 29-pound bag.

Howell dug into a bag of sample crankbaits yet to go into mass production that were given to him by fellow Mercury pro Byron Velvick during media day. He needed the deeper, more aggressive bait to properly fish Spring Creek, which was dominated by deeper structure than Mill Creek.

“I’d never even fished that bait before,” Howell admitted. “When I threw that bait out and pulled it down and it rattled the rod tip the way it did in that muddy water, I wished that I had pulled it out sooner.”

NOTES: Howell’s nine-pound recovery for the victory was the biggest one-day come-from-behind win in the history of the event … Howell’s Classic victory is his second of the 2013-14 B.A.S.S. season: he won a Bass Pro Shops Central Open on the James River last June to qualify for the 2014 Classic … Howell has raffled off his 21HP Triton and 250 Mercury OptiMax ProXS the past two years to benefit his title sponsor, Kings Home, a non-profit organization that provides homes and services to at-risk youth, women, and mothers and their children.

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