John's Journal...

2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion Randy Howell - from Good to Great: $15,000 to $300,000 in 8 Hours of Bass Fishing

Day 5: 2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion Randy Howell Says God Told Him to Go to Spring Creek and Asked, Do You Want to Be Good Or Do You Want to Be Great?

Editor’s Note: The 2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion ( Randy Howell ( of Springville, Alabama, explains, “There’s often one defining moment in a person’s life when they have to choose between being good and being great. Usually, the choice comes from a voice deep within, and the option to be great usually redefines reason. Some call it intuition, some call it faith, and some call it the Holy Spirit. I’m totally convinced that each one of us has the potential for greatness. When opportunity comes along, there’s always a choice between reason and faith.”

Click for Larger ViewBefore I went to the launch site the last day of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville (, I told my wife, Robin, “Take Oakley and Laker down to Mill Creek, so they can see their daddy fish in the Bassmaster Classic.” Some of the outdoor press covering the Bassmaster Classic said they wanted to see me fish and shoot some photography, on the last day of the classic. So, I told them to be at Mill Creek. That’s where I planned to start. I had set up my game plan for the last day of the Classic. I felt confident that I could get a limit of bass early at Mill Creek and possibly catch enough big bass to win the tournament there. If I didn’t catch the bass that I thought I needed to win at Mill Creek, I’d run up to Spring Creek the last hour or two of the tournament and see if I could get those bass to bite on the riprap on the second bridge going into Spring Creek on Highway 431.

Click for Larger ViewHowever, as I raced down the lake from the launch site, I heard that familiar voice say, “Go to Spring Creek now.” I remembered that I had told my wife, my children and the press to meet me at Mill Creek. So, I decided that I had to fish Mill Creek first. I felt I couldn’t very well turn around and go to Spring Creek first. If I did, I would have broken my promise to my wife, my children and the press. But then, I heard the voice again. This time it was much louder and much stronger. The voice gave me an option. “Go to Spring Creek now. Then there was a pause, and I heard, “Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great?” I remembered the tournament that I had lost, because I didn’t listen to the voice and do exactly what it said, when it commanded me. I also remembered what happened when I heard the voice at the Virginia tournament and followed the voice’s instructions and won the tournament. Instantly, I realized I shouldn’t argue and try to compromise with the instructions I was given. I turned the boat around in the middle of the lake and ran hard and straight to the Highway 431 Bridge.

When I got to Spring Creek, there were no anglers fishing from the bank, and no other boats were fishing around the second bridge where the 431 Highway crosses Spring Creek. I couldn’t believe it. Once I got to Spring Creek, it was the warmest, clearest, prettiest day we’d had all winter long, and the conditions were perfect for bass fishing. The water temperature was 65 degrees, and there were no other fishermen in sight. As I mentioned earlier, Spring Creek was a community fishing hole where crappie and bass fishermen fished most of the year. So when I didn’t see any fellow fishermen, I had a lot of confidence that the voice had told me exactly where I needed to be. However, I had two voices talking to me at the same time. I knew tournament fishermen rarely, if ever, fished in a place where all the local anglers always fished. The other side of my brain was saying, “Randy, you’ve caught 5-6 pound bass here before, and now you’ve got the spot all to yourself. If everything works out right, and the big fish bite, you can catch five big bass to win the tournament right here.”

I motored my boat under the bridge and started fishing the corners of the riprap on both sides of the bridge. I saw the water swirling and making an eddy hole right off the corners of the bridge. The first cast I made, I caught a 3-pound largemouth. The second cast I made, I caught a 4-pound largemouth. I re-tied my line after catching those two fish, because a fish’s mouth is like sandpaper. As the line works back and forth in the fish’s mouth, and its small teeth rub across the line, the line weakens. After catching two fish, I wanted to have fresh line to tie onto my Rapala DT-6 crankbait. On my third cast, I caught a 7-1/2-pound largemouth - the biggest bass I’d caught that day. When I hooked that fish, it exploded out of the water. As I was reeling that big bass in, I knew for certain I had done what the voice had told me to do, and now I was being blessed for following the voice’s instructions immediately. I knew, as soon as I had put the big bass in my live well, I was about to have an awesome day of bass fishing.

I finished my limit of 5 bass quickly. Then, I started culling little fish already in the live well with bigger bass. I rotated fishing from the left corner of the bridge to the right corner of the bridge and was catching bass on every cast. My first five bass that I put in the live well weighed about 19 pounds, including the 7-1/2-pounder. Then the sun came up really high in the sky, eliminating the shade where the bass were holding. The current slowed down and wasn’t coming out of the creek as fast as it had been when I was really catching the bass. The bite started dropping off about 9:45am, when I had 25 pounds of bass in the live well. I could still see big bass on my depth finder, but they had moved out deeper. The water was also getting warmer and muddier. I knew I had to get a deeper-running lure than the Rapala DT-6 crankbait that I had been using. Also, the lure needed to be bright in color, so the bass could see it in the muddy water, and the lure needed to put out sound, so the bass could hear it to get the bass’s attention and make them bite.

Click for Larger ViewCurrently, I work with the Livingston Lures (, and the company had brought me a bag of prototype lures. During Media Day when I wasn’t fishing, I had dumped those prototype lures out in the bottom of my boat. I spotted a reddish-orange, crawfish-looking color crankbait that would dive down to the depths where the bass were holding. At that time, the name of lure was #4. This lure was the only one in that bag of that size and color. After the Classic was over, the lure was named “The Howell 1 Bassmaster Classic Crank” in the Guntersville craw color.

This crankbait would run 8 -10 feet deep. Although I had never fished with this bait before, I had seen it swim in a swimming pool. Instantly, I knew this was the lure I was supposed to fish, and I tied this new crankbait to my line, took the prototype hooks off the lure and replaced them with Daiichi Bleeding Bait hooks ( I knew this lure would run at the depth where I was seeing the bass. When it wiggled back and forth, the lure displaced a lot of water and had the sound of feeding baitfish. I had a lot of confidence that I could catch bass on this new lure that I had never fished before. On my second cast, I caught a bass that weighed 3-1/2-pounds. On the fifth cast I made, I caught a 5-pound largemouth. My crankbait went deep into the bass’s throat. That’s when my confidence really soared, because the bass wanted to eat this bait. I knew the Lord had directed me to the right lure. I had fished in 12 Bassmaster Classics before, and I’d never before tied on a lure that I hadn’t ever fished to fish it in a Classic, until that day. The Livingston Lure caught bass on almost every cast for 2 hours - something I’d never seen before. Because of its success, my biggest fear was losing that crankbait, because I didn’t have another one that size or color. I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof every time that crankbait got hung. Thankfully, I didn’t lose the lure all day long.

B.A.S.S. and ESPN had a leader board set-up every day. An observer in each contestant’s boat would send in the number of bass each contestant caught and the approximate weight of each bass the contestant was keeping in his live well. I knew on the last day of the Bassmaster Classic, the ESPN camera boats usually tried to film the top-six leaders in the tournament. Therefore, when I saw the ESPN camera boat with Robby Floyd in it come under the bridge and start filming me, I knew I should be at least in the top-six finishers in the tournament.

I continued to fish, catching, releasing and culling bass, until the time to return to the launch site and check-in almost arrived. I looked at my watch. I had about 45 minutes before I had to leave the bridge. During that last 45 minutes, I caught three or four bass that would weigh 4-1/2- to 4-3/4-pounds each. I caught a 5 pounder, threw it back and kept a 5-1/2-pounder. After I tied on the Livingston Lure crankbait, I caught another 30-40 bass. By the end of the day, I had caught and released between 60-70 bass, making this the greatest day of fishing I had ever had in my life.

When I got back to the weigh-in at the Birmingham/Jefferson Civic Center in Birmingham, Alabama, another weird thing happened. Normally on the last day of the Classic, the six anglers the officials believe will win weigh-in last, to increase the likelihood of a dramatic finish. However, as soon as I got back to the Civic Center, the TV show was a little behind schedule. They took me straight to the weigh-in. I went to the scales, and my five bass weighed a total of 29 pounds, 2 ounces. My largest bass weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces. This gave me a limit of five bass per day, and the weight of those 15 bass for 3 days totaled 67 pounds, 8 ounces. At this point, I moved straight to the leader of the tournament.

As the 20 other anglers weighed in behind me, I sat nervously watching the TV monitor, waiting for the final six. I felt certain Paul Mueller or Edwin Evers were the only two anglers who might have caught more total weight of bass than me. When Paul Mueller pulled that huge bag of bass out of his live well, I felt sick, almost to the point of throwing up. I was fairly confident that Mueller’s five bass would give him the Classic win. Mueller weighed in with a grand total of 66.8 pounds, exactly 1-pound less than I had caught. Dave Mercer, the emcee of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic looked straight at me, after he announced Mueller’s weight. His eyes were huge. It was as if he was saying, “You did it. You just won the Classic.” I dropped my head down, and another wave of emotion hit me. I felt like Mueller’s catch was the last hurdle I really had to get over to win the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

I was still nervous about Edwin Evers weighing-in, because many times the weight that’s called in from the water by the observers can be off by 2 to 5 pounds. Edwin needed to have five bass that weighed 20 pounds to take the lead. When they announced that Edwin’s five fish weighed 18 pounds and a few ounces, I breathed a sigh of relief. His three-day total was 65.11 pounds. In that instant, I realized I had won the Classic. Then, just as quickly, I realized I hadn’t won the Classic - God had. If I hadn’t followed His instructions, I wouldn’t have won. I’ve always believed the scripture found in Matthew 19:26, “With God all things are possible.

Click for Larger ViewI learned later that no angler in the 44 years of the Bassmaster Classics had ever come from as far back as I did – 11th place - and won the Classic. Casey Ashley finished in 11th place at the 2014 Classic and took home $15,000. For winning the Classic, I took home a check for $300,000. When I was asked what I planned to do with the money I had won, I said, “The first thing I’m going to do is make sure we have the funds to pay for my two sons’ college educations and secure their futures. This check also allows me to give more to the King’s Home (, a charity ‘with which I work. I’ll be able to spend more time helping raise money for these children to have a home and help battered women have a safe and secure place to live. The title of 2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion also gives me a platform to tell others about the God I serve.

Editor’s Note: Each year for the last 3 years, Randy Howell has auctioned off his tournament boat at the end of that year’s bass-fishing season to raise money for the King’s Home. To learn how you can have a chance to win Howell’s bass tournament fishing boat, click here:

To learn more about bass fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle ebooks, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro,” “How to Win a Bass Tournament” and “Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake: 18 Pro Fishermen’s Best Tactics” go to, type in the names of the books, and download them to your Kindle and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

Check back at this website after March 10th for John E. Phillips’ latest Kindle ebook, “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting” and a reprint of his popular, sold-out book, “The Turkey Hunter’s Bible” 2nd edition.

Share this page with a friend!

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Check back each day this week for more about 2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion Randy Howell - from Good to Great: $15,000 to $300,000 in 8 Hours of Bass Fishing"

Day 1: The Choice between Reason and Faith with Bassmaster Classic Champion Randy Howell
Day 2: When 2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion Randy Howell Didn’t Have the Faith to Listen to the Voice
Day 3: The 2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion Randy Howell Explains That Mountains Are Moved by the Prayers of Children
Day 4: 2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion Randy Howell Mentally Stays in the Hunt But Is in 12th Place before the Classic’s Day 2
Day 5: 2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion Randy Howell Says God Told Him to Go to Spring Creek and Asked, Do You Want to Be Good Or Do You Want to Be Great?

ALL CONTENT PROTECTED UNDER THE DIGITAL MILLENIUM COPYRIGHT ACT. Content theft, either printed or electronic is a federal offense.


Entry 760, Day 5