RANDY HOWELL: Coming ‘home’ for REDCREST on Lake Norman - Major League Fishing
RANDY HOWELL: Coming ‘home’ for REDCREST on Lake Norman
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RANDY HOWELL: Coming ‘home’ for REDCREST on Lake Norman

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March 7, 2023 • Randy Howell • Angler Columns

It’s been a goal of mine since we started the Bass Pro Tour to qualify for REDCREST, and I finally made it this year to the biggest event we have in MLF. I’ve been close to making it here before, finishing one man out by just 6 points for the first REDCREST in 2019. I had some bad luck catching COVID in 2021 and missed an event for the first time in my 29 years of fishing professionally, leading to my worst-ever points finish as a pro.

The 2022 season was a good one for me, though. I was able to turn things around and have a great season to finish 28th in Angler of the Year points and qualify for both REDCREST and Heavy Hitters. I made a couple of Top 10 finishes, landed the biggest bass of my life two days in a row at Stage One in Louisiana, and was able to set the Bass Pro Tour big fish record on Bussey Brake with a 12-pound giant.

It was a dream year and since professional fishing is all about momentum, it seems like things are clicking just in time for REDCREST. Qualifying has been a long journey, and I plan to make the most of the opportunity.

Heading home

Although I now live in Guntersville, Alabama, North Carolina is home and where I learned to fish. It feels good to come back, even though Lake Norman was never a place I fished when I was growing up.

I lived about four hours away, closer to Lake Gaston, so Norman was a little out of range for the weekend tournaments I fished. The Eastern and Western team trails, Red Mans (now the BFLs), have separate lakes they always fished, so I never really spent time on Norman until we started going there for Bassmaster events back in the day.

It had been years since I had been there, so I went and spent a few days riding around the lake before the Lake Okeechobee Invitational event last month, and I liked what I saw. I never made a cast, but I checked out the entire lake and felt it would fit my strengths.

I plan to stay shallow, and believe that changing to a five-fish tournament will give me a better chance to win. A bladed jig should be a player, and I’ll also be fishing Livingston Lures Howeller crankbait in crawfish colors around the shallow docks. I plan to stick with the dirtier water and cover water because I believe that’ll give me the best chance of winning.

Looking for another championship

My biggest win as a professional was the Bassmaster Classic in 2014 and now, at this stage of my career, I badly want to add a REDCREST trophy. I’ve had a hard enough time just trying to qualify for it against these guys, so winning would be truly special.

I won the Classic when I was 40, and I’m 49 now, so winning another big event would be huge for me at this stage of my career. That momentum from a championship win carries you for the never several years and winning an event of the magnitude of REDCREST goes a long way for your confidence. I won an Open on Oneida after my Classic win, and had another Top 5 at the 2016 Classic two years later, fishing with great confidence.

Whoever the winner is this year will experience this, and I’m hoping it’s me.