So, how does it feel to catch a giant bass…on back-to-back days?
We talked to Randy Howell, a pro bass fisherman from Guntersville, Ala., to find out. He has quite a story about the events of February 2022 when he accomplished what may never be matched in a Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour event.
You always hear about fishermen who land giant bass during practice for a tournament, not the actual days of competition.
But Howell caught his bass when it counted. He caught his personal-best bass one day. Then he went out the next day and caught one even bigger.
And get this: He didn’t even win.
Howell will detail his record-setting tournament, talk about what turned out to be his good-luck charm, cast out some fishing tips, and talk about the charity he and his wife Robin support.
So, settle into your easy chair and live vicariously through a pro bass fisherman who experienced a dream week.
An Unforgettable Feat
When Howell landed a bass weighing 10 pounds, 11 ounces in the knockout round of a Bass Pro Tour event in February 2022, he was elated.
“My personal best before that was 10-8, and I had six bass that size over the years,” he said. “I was just happy to catch that first fish.”
“It was the biggest bass ever caught in a Bass Pro Tour event, and it caused quite a stir.”
Little did he know that he would break his own record a day later when he caught a bass weighing 12 pounds, 14 ounces.
“The odds of that happening were unbelievably small,” Howell said. “I wish I could say that I figured something out that first day and duplicated it the second day, but that’s not what happened.”
Howell caught his first giant using a Livingston lipless crankbait in a shallow pocket on Caney Lake in Louisiana.
“There was nothing special about that area,” he said. “It was probably a pre-spawn fish roaming around, feeding.”
Howell caught another monster when the tournament moved to Bussey Brake Lake the next day when he cast a black and blue Yamamoto Senko between two shallow bushes.
“You couldn’t have scripted it better,” he said. “I had a cameraman shooting a live stream feed in the boat with me, and it was all caught in action.”
So Howell had to win the tournament, right? Wrong. He finished sixth in the event, getting a few bites in the final round to back up his trophy catch.
“It was actually a tough tournament,” Howell said. “The worst cold front that area had seen in years came through, and it really affected the fishing. We couldn’t catch the numbers (of bass).”
But the big one’s bit.
All In The Family
Randy Howell briefly gave up family honors for the biggest bass caught. Shortly before dad started to practice for the Louisiana tournament, his son, Laker, traveled to Headwaters Lake in Florida after competing in a Major League Fishing Toyota Series tournament.
On his first pitch to a spawning bed, Laker landed an 11 1/2-pound bass. His friend, Andrew Norbye, caught one even bigger, 12 pounds, 1 ounce.
“That was a proud father moment,” Randy said.
When Randy caught his first lunker, Laker called to congratulate him. But he reminded his dad that he still held family honors. That didn’t last long, though.
Both father and son jokingly credited part of their success to their good-luck charm, their new Triton XrT bass boats. At the time, there were only a few pros using the new boats, and all of them had caught monstrous bass.
One of the Howells’ Triton teammates, Bradley Roy, landed an 11-pound, 11-ounce bass at the Bass Pro Tour tournament in February at Lake Fork.
And There Were Giant Smallmouth Bass, Too
What does a professional bass fisherman do on his day off? He goes fishing. After church on a warm day in March 2022, Howell and his wife Robin decided to try fishing for the big smallmouth bass biting at Lake Wheeler near their home in Alabama.
It was game-on when they found the big smallies feeding near the rocks breaking the current. Both husband and wife caught their personal best smallmouth. Randy’s fish weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces; Robin’s was 6-9. They caught those smallies, as well as many others, on Livingston Vapor finesse crankbaits.
“They were running a lot of water, and those fish were in the rocks near an eddy, feeding,” Howell said.
“Unbelievable. I caught the two biggest largemouths and the biggest smallmouth of my life, all in three months.”
Professional bass fishing can have lots of peaks and valleys. Howell knows that all too well.
He won the Bassmaster Classic, the championship of the B.A.S.S. circuit, in 2014 and won other major tournaments on the circuits before moving to Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour. But he hit a valley in 2021 when he struggled through the worst season of his 28-year career.
“I had COVID twice, and it really affected me,” he said. “I had it so bad that I missed the first tournament in my career.
“It turned into pneumonia, and I was down for eight days hooked up to I.V.s and everything. It was a scary time.”
But Howell credits his faith for pulling him through.
“The Lord healed me and got me back in good shape,” he said. “I think that’s why my fast start has been even more gratifying.”
Can Bass Hear Their Food?
When Howell used a prototype of a Livingston crankbait to catch some of his bass in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, he captured the attention of the bass-fishing world. Not only did the crawdad-colored crankbait imitate the look of the forage the bass were feeding on in Lake Guntersville, but it also sounded the part.
Livingston had partnered with the biology department at Texas State University to study the sounds fish and crustaceans make in the water. They concluded that bass rely on sound to hone in on their food.
The crankbait Howell used included a microchip that imitated the sound of crayfish. That chip emits sounds while in the water, then shuts off when pulled out of the water.
Howell, an avid shallow-water crankbait fisherman, is a big believer in that sound technology. He is sponsored by Livingston, and he has helped design many of the company’s crankbaits.
“Livingston has microchips that emit the sounds made by shad, crawfish, and other types of forage,” Howell said. “Through studies, they determined that all forage make a different sound., and that bass can (differentiate) those sounds.”
Howell even has a crankbait named after him, the Howeller D.M.C. (Dream Master Classic, the bait he used to win the Bassmaster Classic).
When Randy and Robin Howell searched for a way to use his fishing career to benefit those in need, they found it in King’s Home. The Christian organization, based in Alabama, is a lifeline to kids and women in need of refuge and hope from domestic violence, abuse, neglect, and other threats.
For almost 50 years, King’s Home has helped thousands get back on their feet and discover God’s healing. About 12 years ago, the Howells decided to use the tournament boat to raise money to benefit King’s Home. King’s home then sells tickets for $100 apiece for a shot at winning that boat.
“Every one of the kids who live at King’s Home comes from a bad situation,” Howell said. “Some came from homes where their parents were on drugs; some were abused, some came from foster care, where they were neglected.
“Their last hope is at King’s Home. We’ve seen a lot of success stories.”
Fishing Tip From A Pro
Are you looking for a good starter bait? Howell recommends the Yamamoto Senko, one of his confidence baits.
“It’s probably the easiest way to catch a bass,” he said. “You don’t need a fancy rod and reel or anything. You just hook the Senko in the middle and work it slowly, raising it and letting it drop back down, and you’ll catch fish.”
The beauty of the Senko, one of the best-selling lures of all time, is that it can be rigged in multiple ways. As Howell described, it can be used wacky style, weightless, Texas-style, and on drop-shot rigs.
Howell contends that you must be versatile to succeed in professional bass fishing. But he does have his favorite tactics–shallow-water crankbait fishing and slowly working a black and blue Senko in stained water.
There is no substitute for time on the water, he said. Even that won’t guarantee you will catch bass like the ones Howell did in 2022.
“Do you know how many casts I made before I caught those giant bass?” he said. “Sometimes, it helps to have a little luck on your side.”
Here’s hoping you will run across one of those 10-pound-plus bass someday. In the meantime, keep casting.
If you could ask a professional angler any question, what would it be? Let us know in the comments!