Big bass were definitely biting in the Geico Bassmaster Classic 44 last weekend on Lake Guntersville in Birmingham, Ala.
The event featured 55 of the world’s best bass tournament anglers going head-to-head for a $300,000 cash first prize and what has become a chance to parlay a win into what could be $1 million of endorsements.
On the final day of the three-day tournament, Randy Howell of Alabama started catching lunker bass right from the start, and admitted he had no idea how many culls he made that day. But he did remember the enjoyment of culling four-pounders for a five-pounder or better.
His total tipped the scales at 29 pounds, two ounces, which he anchored with a seven-pound, three-ounce largemouth, giving him a three-day winning total of 67 pounds, eight ounces.
“I’ve had this dream so many times, and it’s happening now. I can’t believe I won the Bassmaster Classic,” Howell said.
His lure choices included Pro Series Livingston Lures, which are not available to the public, yet. It is a medium driver crankbait in crawfish color. He also used a Rapala DT6 crankbait in the demon crawfish color and a Yamamoto bladed jig.
Opening-day leader Randall Tharp of Florida weighed in five bass totaling 27 pounds, eight ounces that he anchored with an 81⁄2-pound largemouth. But his lead was just 11 ounces over Edwin Evers of Oklahoma. Big bass of the day was a nine-pound, three-ounce hawg caught by fourth-place Fred Roumbanis of Oklahoma and earned him $2,500.
The top 13 anglers all had 20-pounds-plus five-bass limits. Two of the early favorites, Mike Iaconelli of New Jersey and Kevin VanDam of Michigan, were in 15th and 16th place, respectively.
Tharp said that he had lost “a really good fish” early in the day and had no other action in four of his best spots that morning. But on his fifth stop, he found a school that included his big bass.
Evers moved into first place on the second day with a 20-pound, nine-ounce catch and a total of 47 pounds, six ounces. Tharp slipped to second place with 19 pounds, 13 ounces and a total of 47 pounds, five ounces.
In third was Tennessee’s Ott DeFoe with a total of 43 pounds, five ounces, followed by Oklahoma’s Jason Christie with 42 pounds, 14 ounces.
The big surprise of the day was first-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Paul Mueller of Connecticut with a five-bass catch of 32 pounds, three ounces, vaulting him from 47th place to fifth with a total of 41 pounds, 13 ounces and a spot in the final 25 that fished the
final day for the championship.
His catch also set the new heaviest B.A.S.S. one-day record for a five-bass limit.
Mueller finished strong with a final-day catch of 24 pounds, 11 ounces and a total of 66 pounds, eight ounces to take second. His reward was $45,000.
Third place went to Evers with 65 pounds, 11 ounces, and he received $42,500.