Randy Howell's self-described "most exciting moment of the season" occurred yesterday, and it's is a big reason why he's leading going into the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Ramada Championship.
Around noon Saturday, Howell made a 15-mile run to the opposite end of Oneida Lake. He'd shook off what felt like some good fish there in practice Wednesday, but hadn't been back during the tournament.
He stopped at an isolated patch of grass and made one pitch with a 1-ounce Rattleback Jig trailed with a 4-inch green pumpkin Yamamoto Craw. Boom! 4-pound largemouth.
"I was so fired up I wanted to head-butt the windshield," Howell said. "That's as excited as I've been in years out here."
That fish allowed him to cull a 1 1/2-pound smallmouth. Then he cranked his outboard motor and headed in for the day. He'll undoubtedly come back to that spot today.
Howell has never won an Elite Series tournament, so he's got a chance to reach a new level of excitement today, if he can hang on to his lead. Boyd Duckett is 2 pounds, 6 ounces back, Scott Rook trails by 2-9 and Terry Scroggins is fourth, 3-4 behind Howell.
As everyone knows, Oneida simply doesn't have enough 4- and 5-pounders that are biting this week to make up ground easily. Howell got his big bite yesterday (it actually weighed 3-11), and Duckett didn't.
Catching five 3-pound smallmouth isn't easy some days, but it has been doable. It's those one or two kicker largemouth that will probably be the difference for someone today.
"(Friday) I had two of those, and today I had none," Duckett said. "I've got to get a couple of those to catch Randy."
It won't be easy. The wind is blowing as hard as or harder than it was on Oneida yesterday, according to photographer James Overstreet, whose boat has taken a few over the bow already.