Season wrap-up, almost

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a little over a month since the season ended. We’ve not really had any "off season" yet, just no more tournaments. We've stayed exceptionally busy at the Howell household, trying to finish our house and get moved in soon. 

Our family is excited for the big change, and it'll be nice to have some room to spread out and find all of the tackle that I couldn't find all year. We've been living in a 700 square-foot rental in the campground all season, with all our stuff in a storage unit.

I just finished filming some TV shows for Bass Pro shops, and while sitting here in the cabin the first night, I realized I haven't written a blog to update everyone on the season and how it ended. In the past couple of blogs, you may remember that I was struggling with a couple poor finishes that dropped me in the points.

I went four straight events without making a check this season, and in looking back I don’t think that’s ever happened before. There were a few uncontrollable mishaps this season for sure, but going into La Crosse, Wis., I was holding down 53rd place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, and I needed to make up some ground in order to make the cut for the Mille Lacs AOY Championship, let alone the 2017 Bassmaster Classic.

I was doing pretty well on Days 1 and 2 at La Crosse, but on Day 3 I still didn’t have a fish by the middle of the day. For me to stay in the hunt for a trip to Mille Lacs and a Classic berth, I had to have a top 12 finish at La Crosse in order to advance. I have to admit; there were a few moments when it was beginning to look impossible. But this is where it gets exciting.

I needed a big finish to dig out of the hole, so I decided fishing pool 9 was my best shot in Wisconsin. This required tricky time management because I had to lock back up to Pool 8 from Pool 9 of the Upper Mississippi River by 1:30 p.m. in order to make it to weigh-in on time.

Day 3 started tough, and I only caught two little keepers by noon. I needed to fill out my limit to even have a chance. Then it happened: It was 1:07 p.m. — almost time to go in, and I had to leave at 1:15 to make it to the lock by 1:30.

I threw my frog into this little creek mouth, and almost instantly a 3-pounder inhaled it. The next cast to the exact same spot produced another good keeper. In fact, I caught five bass in five casts to the same spot, which was enough to finish my limit and allowed me to cull up once before having to race to the lock. And, we barely made it!