Randy Howell began guiding on Kerr Reservoir in North Carolina at age 11 and has never held down a job outside the fishing industry. Currently 9th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, a good finish in the season finale will secure his spot in BASS' first postseason. Here's how he fared with our 20 Questions:
1. Where are you from, originally?
Lake Gaston, N.C.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
My dad got me started. He was a dedicated bass fisherman, and I grew up learning to love it like he did. He owned a fish camp and marina on Lake Gaston, and I actually started guiding out of his marina before I turned 12. He guaranteed folks they'd have fun and a good day or they wouldn't have to pay, and we never had to give anyone their money back. When I was 14, I took Kevin Costner out when he and Tim Robbins got away from the set of Bull Durham. They stayed at the cabin by the lake when they could. This was when he was just starting to get big, and he was thrilled we had never heard of him because we lived out in the country and didn't have a movie theater to go to. We actually had six people from the movie come out one day, and I took Kevin and two others, and my dad took Tim Robbins and two others.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Jimmy Houston, Rick Clunn, Woo Daves — I grew up close to him — Guido Hibdon and Larry Nixon were guys I always looked up to. These were the straight up and good guys.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
The 1997 Classic. I was 23, and that was my third season on the Top 100 tour. I was ninth in points, made the Classic, and I think that was the best year of my career. That was the year I realized I was here to stay and was not going to quit.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
The biggest one I ever caught and weighed was 10 pounds, 8 ounces. That was on Lake Amistad last year (2008) at the end of the first day of competition. I've caught a few in practice that were about the same size if not larger, but I didn't weigh them. You look at them and go, "Yeah, it's about 10," but don't big eye them. It's hard to guess weight when they're that big; you don't get to do it that much!
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
There are so many things I love about it — the thrill of competition and the thrill of trying to figure out what they're eating and what they'll bite. Anymore though, it has to be the competition. I mean, I love that it's fishing and that's still fun, but it's the competition that drives me to enjoy it now.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
Hmm... I'd have to say versatility because there are a lot of things I like to do and can do well.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
Oh, I don't like that word and try not to use it anymore. I used to say shallow cranking, but I've gotten a lot more comfortable and confident in it that now I like to think I don't have any.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
That's a hard one to answer because I always say it's the last place I caught 'em really good. However, I do like the south Texas lakes like Amistad, and I like Kerr — where I used to guide — and Gaston. Those are my favorite east coast lakes. Oh, and I like Guntersville. I live an hour away but don't hardly get to fish it much.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
Let's see... these are some hard ones. Probably, "How do you get sponsors?" A lot of people want to fish tournaments and make a living by fishing. I tell them that nothing is easy, and it takes a lot of hard work. For young guys, I tell them to get an education first, then fish. You also need to make a name for yourself by winning a few events before you go asking anybody for anything.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
Probably that they fish too close to the bank.
12. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
A lot, and on a one-day event it can be huge, but with multiple day events, the luck is gone after the first day. Like the saying goes, for a one-day event, I'd rather be lucky than good, but after that you need to be good.
13. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
I think it's my consistency and making nine Classics. Next year I'll be fishing my ninth. Also, winning the inaugural Elite 50 event is a feather in my hat. I've been more consistent than a big hitter.
14. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
I want to win a Classic, of course. That's everyone's goal. Also I want to win Angler of the Year, and I hope with the standings the way they are now I can get to the postseason and have a shot at that.
15. What keeps you motivated to reach that goal?
The sheer enjoyment of the competition and striving to get better and catch more every day. That keeps me driven to go out and do it.
16. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
I can't think of anything that stands out, but if I had to say it would be bad decisions in big events that I had a chance to win.
17. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
With my wife and two boys. One's 3 1/2 and one's 8. I like to play sports like basketball and go four-wheeling. I also like to saltwater fish, but I don't get to do that as much as I'd like. I think I may get to go to Pensacola, Fla., later this year, though.
18. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
(Laughing) I don't even think I've thought of that. I'm doing exactly what I want to do. I've never done anything else since I got out of high school. There are no "what ifs," either.
19. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?
I want people to remember me first and foremost as a man who loved the Lord and put Him first, and tried to lead other people to Him, and also as a man who was a great husband and dad. All of that way before fishing. I guess fishing is third or fourth, or something. Faith, family, and then fishing. No matter how many trophies you've won or how much money you make, none of that is any good in eternity. I also want to be known as a guy who helped and gave to people.
20. What's the biggest lesson you've learned in you career?
Never count your bass before you catch 'em! And never save any fish and think you'll have them tomorrow because they're never there.