Triton's Howell wins inaugural Elite 50
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Randy Howell was understandably emotional Saturday when he accepted the winner's trophy for the first tournament in the inaugural Bassmaster Elite 50 season.
The win was Howell's first victory on the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, and he earned it with a winning weight of 30 pounds, 9 ounces on Lake Dardanelle.
"I get tore up pretty bad," said a misty-eyed Howell. "It took me 11 years on the Bassmaster Tour to get this. It's better than I ever dreamed. It's just an awesome feeling. This is the most fun I've ever had in a Bassmaster tournament and that's how it's supposed to be when you win."
Alabama's Randy Howell puts his first Tour win in the books on Dardanelle. With the win, Howell leads the Elite 50 point standings, and is in strong contention for a big share of the $1.6 million purse that will be distributed to the 50-angler field at the end of the four-event series. He is also closer to another goal: earning one of the berths to the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, which will be given to the top 10 anglers in points at the end of the series. The Alabamian was more than aware of the stakes heading into the final day.
"This morning, I was comfortable that I had a lead, but to say I didn't have some nerves?" Howell said. "I was brushing my teeth this morning and I had to slack off a little because I thought I was going to gag, that's the honest truth. The Lord knew I needed to catch one early today because I caught that 4-pounder early and that helped settle my nerves.
"I thought they would bite better (today), the way I was fishing, but man, they got tougher for me. I had several fish just running up, slapping at it and they weren't eating my jig as well today. Finally I changed baits and started catching them. When I left the second hole I had four fish and that gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the day."
Howell, who was fishing a rattleback jig with a Berkley Gulp Swim Frog trailer, was a mere 10 ounces over second-place angler Greg Hackney, who brought in 29-11 over the four-day event. The Louisiana pro's day four catch of 17-11 was the largest of the day, earning him a $1,000 check from Busch for the Busch Heavyweight. That catch also included a 6-10 lunker that was not only worth $1,000 as the Purolator Big Bass of the Day, but also earned a second $1,000 as the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament.
The crowd looks on on the last day at Lake Dardanelle. "I'm kind of disappointed," Hackney said, "but these are the best fishermen in the world. I get to fish with my heroes every day. …
"When I caught that big fish today I got pretty excited. I couldn't help it, I was yelling and stuff, but I just couldn't help it. They got some pretty good footage of that on camera, too."
The tournament will be telecast Saturday, April 24 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
BASS also held the CastingKids competition sponsored by CITGO Saturday at the Lake Dardanelle State Park. Eight-year-old Hunter Frey of Conway, Ark., was the winner in the 7-10 age group and 13-year-old Joshua Griffin from London, Ark., was the 11-14 winner.
The Bassmaster Elite 50 series travels to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Columbus, Miss., for the second event of the series May 19-22, to Prattville, Ala., on the Alabama River, June 2-5, and concludes on the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers in Paducah, Ky., June 16-19.