If Randy Howell and Brent Chapman would finish the Ramada Championship first-and-second on Sunday, like they're ranked currently according to BASSTrakk, it would be a fitting end to the Elite Series regular season. These two best friends were ranked near the top of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings throughout the first half of the season.
Then Howell got a bad case of "the bends." If you're a scuba diver, or old enough to remember Lloyd Bridges starring in the TV series Sea Hunt, you know "the bends" is a decompression sickness that occurs after surfacing too quickly.
But Howell's illness was different, it was "the Toledo Bends." As is always the case, the smile never left his face Thursday as Howell explained his most painful memory of the season, a 75th-place finish at Toledo Bend that opened the second half of the season.
"That's the one I'd like to have back," Howell said. "I just never got on anything down there."
That's when the big split between Howell and Chapman occurred in the AOY race, as Chapman won at Toledo Bend with a four-day total of 83-9.
Simply by comparing the seasons of those two guys, you can see the limit of mistakes permitted in order to win Angler of the Year: One.
Chapman's only finish lower than 27th (at Green Bay) was his bomb at Douglas Lake, where he finished 68th.
Howell had two: 75th at Toledo Bend and 58th at Green Bay. He had some mechanical issues at Green Bay, so he can forgive himself for that one. But not those two days in Texas where he managed a total of only
18 pounds while Chapman whacked 'em, that one left a bruise.
"I'd be right in the hunt if I'd just finished in the top 40 at Toledo Bend," Howell said Thursday, smiling all the while.