Photo by Josh Gassmann
By Joel Shangle - January 15, 2019
ARDMORE, Okla. – On a hot, torpid day in central Oklahoma where every bite mattered, Major League Fishing veteran Randy Howell got the first bite. And as it turned out, the bite that mattered the most.
Just minutes into the second Elimination Round of the 2019 Summit Select in Ardmore, Okla., Howell connected with the first scorable bass of the day: a 6-pound, 7-ounce giant. That fish – one of the biggest ever caught in MLF Select competition – was Howell’s difference-maker for the day, part of a 13-10 total that advanced the Alabama pro into the Sudden Death Round.
“That was one of those bites you dream about,” Howell admitted. “It was just like ‘Boom!’, one big explosion. He just smashed it. I saw him jump, and thought to myself ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a giant!”
That fish ignited a Period 1 flurry for Howell: he landed a 1-7 six minutes later, and then a 2-8 eight minutes after that, giving him 10-6 within the first hour of competition, and a cushion he wouldn’t relinquish despite him landing only two more scorable bass over the remaining 6-plus hours of competition.
“After I caught that big fish, I just tried my best to grind it out to get into the next round,” Howell said. “I caught just enough fish to give myself a pretty good lead, but, man, it was a tough day out there overall.”
That said, Howell was never really threatened: his 10-6 in the first period was enough to win the round outright. First-year MLF pro JT Kenney finished second with 10-0, Chris Lane finished third with 9-12 and Mark Rose claimed the final spot in Sudden Death with 8-3. Dave Lefebre, Michael Neal, Todd Faircloth and Justin Lucas failed to advance.
“No matter what format you’re fishing in, a 5- or 6-pounder is going to make a difference,” said Kenney, who logged a 5-3 in Period 3 to jump from the bottom half of SCORETRACKER into second place. “Randy put us all in a position of playing catch-up right from the get-go with that big fish, I’m just glad I could scrounge up enough to make it to the next round.”
Howell’s winning gear
Howell’s key bait was a black, 3/8-ounce Lunker Lure Buzzin Toad, which he fished on a 7-foot-2-inch Daiwa Tatula Elite Randy Howell Signature Universal rod and a Tatula 100 7.1:1 reel spooled with 16-pound Gamma fluorocarbon.
NOTES: First-year MLF pro Justin Lucas failed to land a scorable fish in the round … Howell, Kenney, Lane and Rose join Elimination Round 1 anglers Wesley Strader, Fred Roumbanis, Fletcher Shryock and Gary Clouse in Sudden Death … the final Elimination Round features Brandon Palaniuk, Cody Meyer, Marty Robinson, James Watson, Scott Suggs, Russ Lane, Jason Lambert and Jordan Lee.