The Howells' Elite adventures

Every year, all of us wives wait anxiously to hear what the new schedule will be for the following season. Before we started camping, as soon as the schedule came out, I would gather all my houses, cabin and hotel information together to make reservations for the upcoming season. If you didn’t do it quickly, you would miss out on the better places to stay. Now that we have been camping for 11 years, things are no different. We all get our campground lists together and begin making reservations immediately.

You might wonder why there is such a needed hurry just to make a campground reservation. Well, not all camping sites are created equal! There are those that are hilly, muddy, too close to the road, or too far away from the take-off location. You really wouldn’t believe how much effort many of the wives put into making the perfect reservation for the next year’s tournaments. 

Now that you know the first step taken in preparing for the new season, I thought I would write about the 2014 Elite Series destinations … but with a twist. I have often said Randy and I need to write a book about our adventures in fishing. All I would have to do is get my old calendars back out so that I could see the location and immediately there would be stories of each one that would come to mind. Honestly, there would be so much material for the book that it would have to become a volume of books, and 2014 is no different.

I am also sure Randy could do the same from a fishing perspective. He could look back at a location and the year it took place and his mind would immediately remember things that happened on the water. He is so amazing to me when he sees a picture of himself holding up a fish and he can actually remember how and where on the lake that particular fish was caught!

See the family's photos here.

Lake Seminole – Georgia

The first 2014 Elite stop took place at Lake Seminole in Georgia. We have been going there off and on for as long as I can remember. In fact, it is one of the oldest tournament locations in my memory from our 22 years of fishing.

In 2014, we traveled to Lake Seminole the day before the event was to start. We usually give ourselves a couple days of getting settled in, but this year started out a little different. After winning the Classic only two weeks before, to say we were out of sorts is an understatement. We truly had a difficult time focusing on packing and getting the camper ready to go.

One story sums up the condition of our minds! We had stopped to get gas about an hour away from Lake Seminole. As you know, we double drive. He pulls the camper, and I pull the boat. Many times we are in different areas of the gas station when we fill up our tanks. He was on the phone with a writer or a radio station doing an interview and mistakenly left his credit card with the clerk in the station. However, we didn’t realize this until we got to the campground and tried to pay. No credit card was to be found.

We traced the card back to the gas station, so guess who had an early Monday morning trip back an hour up the road to retrieve the card. Yep, you guessed it, I did! No worries though, we went to the Walmart and got our shopping done for the week and made a Chick-fil-A stop as well.

St. Johns River – Florida

Our second stop this past year was at the St. Johns River in Florida. Two memories come to mind from this tournament. First, Randy was bummed after a bad tournament at Lake Seminole where he started the year with no points.

It’s really interesting how the human mind works. He had just won the Superbowl of bass fishing two weeks earlier and followed it with a 106th place finish. You would think it would not be a big deal to him. After all, his trophy was in the back of the truck reminding him of a dream come true just days earlier. However, the competitor in him, and me for that matter, would not let him think that way. In his mind, it was a failure that needed to be corrected.

He ended up getting his head in the game, concentrating on the task at hand and enjoying the time on the water fishing as a break from the craziness the Classic win brought with it. He ended up finishing 7th here. It truly was a cool thing to see him bounce back after giving himself a good kick in the rear!

My second memory has to do with me. As many of you know, I enjoy running. It is my quiet time where I clear my mind for the day ahead. Our take-off location at the St. Johns River was in the town of Palatka. I will never forget the sunrise I experienced while running across the river bridge each morning after take-off. There’s nothing comparable to how God puts things in perspective. “Enjoy the moment and relax in it.”

Table Rock Lake – Missouri

Our third location was Table Rock Lake in Missouri. We had the perfect campground location right at takeoff for this tournament, which always makes for a great week! We sleep until the last minute which makes Randy’s life so much easier.

I am laughing hysterically as I am writing this memory! I decided to take a run outside of the immediate campground area down a very long, winding, through the woods trail by myself one morning. I don’t usually do things like this. However, this particular trail appeared to be somewhat safe because it was right beside the water most of the way with an opening in the woods where you could see the road. I was feeling brave, or so I was telling myself.

See the family's photos here.

After running for a while, my mind started wandering. I thought, “Why am I in these woods by myself?” My answer, “Oh my gosh, run faster girl!” This thought process only made it worse though. All of a sudden I heard something that sounded like it was right behind my ear. I didn’t think twice before I took off running as fast as I have ever gone. I would say about a 5-1/2 minute mile pace for 1/8 of a mile or so. Then I mustered enough guts up to look behind me quickly, only to see nothing. Here comes the punch line: It was my ponytail moving side to side on my running vest that I heard! I laughed the whole way back to the camper, and for the rest of the week, I ran in the campground.

Toledo Bend Reservoir – Louisiana/Texas

Our fourth stop was at Toledo Bend Lake in Louisiana/Texas. I have many memories racing through my mind about this tournament, but there are a couple that are more special than the others.

We meet so many nice people traveling to these different locations. Toledo Bend has many special people that are loyal fans of the Elite fishermen. The campground we stay at is also at takeoff and there are a group of great people that also stay at the campground with us. One particular couple has become great friends, and we look forward to seeing them each year.

The boys love to fish, and unfortunately they do not go out with Randy when he is practicing or during tournament days when he comes in. There is a rule against having anyone in your boat during the official practice and during tournament days, and the anglers are not allowed to fish after check in. Therefore, the boys usually fish off the bank. At this particular tournament, they got the chance to go on the water two different times to fish. A great friend of ours took them out bass fishing during one of the tournament days, and another awesome couple took them out to crappie fish one night on their pontoon. They were so excited, and it made my heart happy to see them get so excited to experience a new lake!

Lake Dardanelle – Arkansas

Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas was our fifth stop. Just before it started, we traveled up to Northern Arkansas for a Casting Kids event at one of the main Walmart locations in the area. Both of our boys participated in the event and came home with trophies for their age groups. You can just imagine how proud Randy and I both were watching them compete and excel at casting at targets. It’s always cool to see your kids work hard and accomplish a goal they have set. 

Chickamauga Lake – Tennessee

Stop number six was at Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee. This event was only a few hours from our house, so we arrived the night before practice began. A great memory from this event was when several of the moms and I rented a large pontoon boat for the kids to have a day on the water swimming and jumping off the two-story boat into the water. They absolutely loved every second of it, and a few of them were also lucky enough to see their dads practicing on the water. These times will always be special to them.

It’s really interesting how we see our fishing families about half the year off and on and the kids just seem to pick up where they left off the last time they saw each other. I would say there are many special bonds amongst the fishing kids that they will always count as special as they grow older.

Delaware River – Pennsylvania

Stop number 7 was at the Delaware River in Philadelphia. For this event, we stayed at a little paradise in the midst of chaos. Philly is your typical big city with traffic and lots of fast paced commotion. It was very odd to find such an awesome campground so close to a big city, but we loved it and enjoyed staying there!

Another fun memory from this tournament was our trip into New York City. Several of us got together and took our kids on a field trip to see the sights of NYC. The boys were excited to see the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, the Home Alone Park Place Hotel (from the movie), Central Park, the subway, Time Square, the Hudson River and so many other sites. 

Cayuga Lake – New York

Cayuga Lake in New York was the last of the eight Elite events. After the prior week in Philly, this location was quite a bit more relaxed and quiet. We stayed just a couple blocks from takeoff at a boarding school campground.

The kids had so much fun at this event just doing simple outdoor things. We found a local waterfall to take them to and swim one day. We took them to the park to fish the lake. We took them to the local bakery and to the pizza kitchen several times. It was such a great little town with that hometown feel of long ago. It’s really special to expose our boys to so many different cultures, and to see the similarities and differences, but at the same time respect those differences.

Bays de Noc – Michigan

Finally, we traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the Angler of the Year Championship. This was also a cool location and we tried to experience every part of the Yoopers lifestyle. The campground we stayed at was awesome here, too.

Because they have a hard, early winter there, this particular campground has a Halloween extravaganza each year in September. The campground fills to capacity, which is well over 100 sites. They all decorate their campers and sites and all the kids trick or treat.

We walked the campground with several other Elite families while the kids trick or treated. It’s pretty funny to see how a piece of candy can bring so much excitement for the kids…and the adults! (I might have squealed with each Tootsie Roll the kids gave me! They are my favorite!)

In conclusion, the 2014 season was a special season. There have been so many great memories, and each one has its own special quality. I can truly say that Randy and I have learned to appreciate the little things and hold simplicity in high regard.

I hope you enjoyed a look back at 2014, and remember to SMILE, it can change the world around you!

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