John’s Note: On August 6-8, 2015, Randy Howell of Springville, Alabama, won the Bassmaster Northern Open on Oneida Lake at Syracuse, New York. At this writing Howell has cashed a check in 6 out of 7, 2015 Bassmaster Elite tournaments. He’s 13th in the point standing for Bassmaster Angler-of-the-Year title with one Elite series tournament left to fish. Howell was born and raised near Lake Gaston in North Carolina and moved to Alabama in July, 1998. Night Hawk wanted to know why Howell moved to Alabama and how a southern boy could travel to New York and other states where he’s never lived and win bass tournaments there.
I’m what’s known as a junk fisherman because I fish a lot of lures in many different places to catch bass. A better term may be that I’m a very-versatile fisherman. Most anglers will find a pattern that includes what type of structure bass are holding on; how deep bass are holding; what style of lure the bass wants to eat that day; and what color of lure the bass prefers. They’ll pretty much fish that pattern or try to fish that pattern during an entire tournament. However, I know that water clarity, weather, wind, temperature and all the factors that influence bass change daily, and often hourly, so I fish many various lures in a lot of different places to stay competitive in every tournament I fish.
We moved to central Alabama in 1998, because central Alabama was more convenient to most of the bass tournaments than any other place in the country. I look at the Birmingham, Alabama, area as the hub for bass fishing, so living in Alabama provided me with a more-central location where I could base my fishing. After winning the Northern Open tournament in Syracuse, NY, I was asked, “How could you win that tournament in New York when you spend a majority of your life fishing in the South?” I spend a lot of time on the water and practice fishing. I’ve got 22 years of bass-fishing experience all over the United States. I started competitive fishing when I was 18-years old and qualified for the top 100 when I was 19-years old, so I’ve been competitive fishing for some time. I put in my time learning how to read the water, the weather and the other competitors to be able to learn to make the right decisions in competition fishing.
When I was a young angler starting out, you’d go to new locations in every tournament; you might have a tournament in Michigan one week and the next tournament would be in Texas, where the bass fishing was altogether different. Until you go to many tournaments in a number of different locations and learn how to survive in the good tournaments and the bad tournaments, learning how to fish successfully all over the nation is hard. From the time I was 19 until I was 25-years old, every time we’d have a tournament in northern waters I’d be scratching my head, trying to understand why I couldn’t catch bass in those northern lakes. I’d get a check in those tournaments every now and then, but most times I wouldn’t. I kept telling myself, “Randy you’ve got to learn more and get more experience in northern lakes if you’re ever going to do well in the northern part of country.” Many people think northern waters are all crystal clear, but that’s not necessarily true. One lake may be a shallow grassy lake, and the next week you’ll have a tournament 3-hours away from that first lake where the water’s deep and clear. On the first lake, we’d catch all largemouth bass, and on the second lake, most of the bass we caught would be smallmouths.
After struggling for several years fishing northern lakes, I decided the only way I could learn to fish up North was to spend time fishing those lakes in-between tournaments. When I had any time off at all, I’d go spend a week or more fishing in the North. If we had a tournament on a lake where I did poorly, my family and I would move into a campground after the tournament, and I’d spend the next week learning how to fish for bass in that lake. I’d try to learn where the bass lived on that lake, and what the bass related to and how to catch them. That’s how I learned to fish the lakes where I had done poorly.
To learn more about bass fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and some print books, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro,” “How to Win a Bass Tournament,” “Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake: 18 Pro Fishermen’s Best Tactics, “Hot Weather Bass Tactics” and “How to Become A Tournament Bass Fisherman.” Click here to get these books.