Caution: Female boat backer

About the author

Robin Howell

Robin Howell

Robin Howell, wife of Elite Series pro Randy Howell, has spent more than 20 years on the Tournament Trail with her husband. Now they travel with their two children, Laker and Oakley.

In my first column, I mentioned learning from failures pertaining to my boat backing skills. I thought I should explain a little further.

It was Randy’s first full year of competing on the Bassmaster Tour, and I was still attending college. I worked really hard at making good grades so that the professors would allow me to leave about one time per semester to travel with Randy. One such time was when I traveled with him to a tournament at Lake Wheeler in Alabama.

There we were – two young, married kids at the age of 19 and 20 on the road together (yes, I am older but only by 9 months!). We had so much excitement and hope and enjoyed every single minute of the journey.

I used to practice with Randy for all of his tournaments back when family was allowed to be in the boat. I went out almost every single day of practice. We have some pretty awesome memories of time on the water before his tournaments.

It was also at that Lake Wheeler tournament that I began our routine of putting Randy in the water on tournament days. This is where my mad boat backing skills originated. And by “mad” boat backing skills, I mean it’s when Randy got mad, I got mad, and I swore this scenario would not be repeated!

Picture it: First morning of the tournament, two young kids show up. He thinks he’s cool; I think I am cool. He is in the boat, and I am in the line to put him in the water. It is dark – and I mean very dark – at the ramp except for the blinding truck lights.

I make the turn around and start to reverse. Instead of going straight, the boat decides to try and come up beside the truck, you know in a V shape. Otherwise known as a JACKKNIFE!

Yep that was me, and it didn’t stop there. I go forward, reverse, jackknife. This happened several times over, and then embarrassment took over. Randy raised his voice, I raised my voice, and out of the driver’s seat I hopped. He backed it in and off he went. It was in that very moment I decided that this would NOT happen again!

After the tournament was over, we returned home. For those of you who are just getting to know me, you should know that when I decide to do something, I put my all into it. I have what you might call an addictive personality; I’m “all in” when I put my mind to something.

When we got home to Lake Gaston where we lived, I told Randy that I was going outside to learn how to back the trailer. It was a very skinny boat ramp; and that actually turned out to be a blessing because I learned the skill under the toughest of conditions.

I told Randy not to come out and help at all. For the next 2 1/2  hours, I backed down to the water and pulled forward. I learned to do this mostly looking over my right shoulder, which I would not recommend to newbies. Always learn using your mirrors! I did “get it” by using the mirrors, but I was a PRO looking over my shoulder. As time went on, I learned to back in with only the mirrors.

And this my friends is “the rest of the story.”

So, the next time you are in line at the boat ramp and you see the blonde woman drive up, don’t jump to conclusions thinking this is going to take forever. She might just know what she is doing because she learned from a past failure!

Until next time, SMILE – it could change the world around you!

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