CULLMAN, Ala. – Amid strong south winds and cloudy, overcast conditions that foreshadowed the impending weather change expected over the next 24 hours, pro Randy Howell of Guntersville, Alabama, caught a total of 18 bass Sunday, weighing 41 pounds even, to win the Knockout Round and advance to the final day of competition at the Favorite Fishing Stage Three on Lewis Smith Lake Presented by Mercury in Cullman, Alabama.
After taking the lead early in the day, Howell held off several fierce competitors and rose to the top of a stacked field going into Monday’s Championship Round. Among the star-studded field of pros that will compete in the Championship Round are 2019 REDCREST Champion and 2019 Bally Bet Angler of the Year (AOY) Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, and 2021 REDCREST Champion Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, along with Bass Pro Tour multi-event champions pro Ott DeFoe of Blaine, Tennessee, 2020 Bally Bet AOY Jordan Lee of Cullman, Alabama, and the 2021 Bally Bet AOY Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee.
Late Sunday, MLF officials made the decision to start Monday’s Championship Round one hour earlier due to the possibility of incoming inclement weather.
“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our anglers, their families, our staff and fans,” said Aaron Beshears, Bass Pro Tour Tournament Director. “After discussing with the MLF team, including our pro anglers, the decision was made to start Championship Monday an hour earlier in an effort to get as much fishing in as possible, in the event of a potential lightning delay or the possibility of having to cut the tournament day short due to inclement weather.”
The final 10 anglers are now set, and competition will resume Monday morning with Lines In at 7 a.m. CT in the Championship Round, where weights are zeroed, and the angler that catches the most one-day weight will win the top prize of $100,000.
The six-day event, hosted by Cullman Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism, Cullman County Parks and Rec and the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, showcases 80 of the top professional bass-fishing anglers in the world competing for a total purse of $805,000.
The top eight pros from Sunday’s Knockout Round that will compete in Monday’s Championship Round on Lewis Smith Lake are:
They’ll be joined by Qualifying Round winners:
Full results for the entire field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
“Praise the Lord for a good day,” Howell said. “Man, it feels good, I just wish it was the last day. We got one more day to fight, but what a blessing this has been. I’ve caught a lot and haven’t lost any – I just need to beat nine more anglers tomorrow to win that big red trophy and that $100,000 prize.
“I am fired up and excited and this is exactly where we want to be at the end of tomorrow’s competition. The Lord has blessed me so much this season and everything has just been falling into place. It’s all about making good decisions and staying on course, working hard to figure it out and put the puzzle together. I didn’t even know what I was going to do until the first tournament day, and it all finally started coming together.”
The pieces certainly seem to be falling into place for the Alabama native, who has made it to two of the three Championship Rounds this season and broke the Bass Pro Tour record twice, two days in a row, for the largest bass ever weighed in Bass Pro Tour competition during Stage One of the 2022 season – with a bass weighing 10-11 and again with a bug-eyed largemouth weighing 12-14.
“The pattern I’ve been fishing is holding up, and I’m moving around a lot,” Howell said. “I caught 18 keepers today and a bunch of little ones, so there are a lot of fish in the area.
“We’ve got rain and storms coming in tomorrow, so the fishing’s probably going to be really good,” continued Howell. “The conditions are already changing and the water’s falling fast, so I’ve got all the Daiwa rods rigged up and a variety of Livingston jerkbaits and crankbaits ready to go. I caught a bass today that spit out a big crawfish, so I’m definitely going to have a red Livingston Howller tied on tomorrow.”
Rounding out the Top 40 finishers were:
Overall, there were 338 scorable bass weighing 713 pounds, 13 ounces caught by the 38 pros Sunday.
Clabion Johns caught a 5-pound, 12-ounce largemouth on a bladed swim jig early in the first period that earned Sunday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.
The 40 Anglers in Group A competed in their two-day qualifying round on Wednesday and Friday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Thursday and Saturday. After the two-day Qualifying Round, the anglers that finished in second through 20th place from both groups advanced to Sunday’s Knockout Round, while the winner of each group advanced directly to Monday’s Championship Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 38 anglers competed to finish in the top eight to advance to the Championship Round. Tomorrow, in the final day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.
Due to anticipated inclement weather throughout the day, the final 10 anglers competing in Monday’s Championship Round will launch at 6:30 a.m. from the Smith Lake State Park, located at 403 County Road 386 in Cullman, Alabama. The General Tire Takeout will be held at the park, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and takeout events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLF NOW! live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The Favorite Fishing Stage Three on Lewis Smith Lake Presented by Mercury features anglers competing with a 1-pound, 8-ounce minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.
The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, competing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2023 championship.
The MLF NOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action on Championship Monday from 6:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CT. MLF NOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of the Favorite Fishing Stage Three on Lewis Smith Lake Presented by Mercury will premiere at 7 a.m. ET, Oct. 1 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on the Discovery Channel, with additional re-airings on the Outdoor Channel. Each two-hour-long reality-based episode goes in-depth to break down each day of competition.
Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, BallyBet, Bass Cat, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Covercraft, Favorite Fishing, Garmin, General Tire, Googan Baits, Grundéns, Guaranteed Rate, Humminbird, Lowrance, Luminox, Mercury, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak, Nitro Performance Boats, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Power Stop, Rapala, Starbrite, Toro, Toyota, Wrangler, Yellowstone Bourbon and Zoom.
For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.