The very determined Randy Howell

Powered only by his trolling motor, Randy Howell piloted his boat on windy Wheeler Lake for four miles to reach the support crew that could repair his boat’s gearing.

It was the second day of the tournament, the Bassmaster Elite Series season closer. Howell needed to turn in a good performance on Wheeler or risk falling out of the cut for a 2012 Bassmaster Classic qualification. The first day he had brought only 7 1/2 pounds to the scales. The second day he had about 14 pounds in the livewell when the gearing acted up. A storm was brewing.

He wasn’t going to let anything stop him. He pushed on, and didn’t stop casting during his four-mile trek back to the ramp. He landed a 3 1/2-pounder, and spotted a place that later yielded an even bigger bass.

“As I was going by on the trolling motor, I saw a place that looked good, and I had a gut feeling to go fish it,” he said. “I got back in, got fixed up really fast, and got back out there and caught a 5 1/2-pounder,” he said.

His day’s bag weighed in at 18-7. That put him in 16th place, up from 87th, with 25-15 over two days.

“Everything worked out,” he said.

Wheeler Lake has been good to Howell many times, and was in fact the site of his first major win in 1998.

“I won $100,000. It was my first big break into the sport,” he said. “I was 23 years old, moved from North Carolina to Alabama, and was just getting serious and focused on a career in fishing. This lake’s been good to me.”