Howell can relax some. However, he still has to fish two more Northern Opens to complete the qualifications. Rules state winning anglers must fish all three of the regional events to hold the Classic berth. The next Northern Open in on Lake Oneida in New York in August and event three is on Lake Erie in September.
Elite pros often fish the Open events for a shot at qualifying for the Classic. Howell, along with other area pros, fish the Southern Opens for the same chance. He will also finish out the Elite Tour, which has three tournaments remaining.
Howell is in the 35th spot in the Elite point standings. Anglers usually need to finish about 75th place and higher to get an invite back on the Elite Tour the following season. So he can’t relax too much. Howell will need a couple of top 50 finishes in the final Elite events to hold on to his tour card.
On the James River, Howell made a long run of about 40 miles one way each day to his fishing spot. He rigged a Senko wacky style to catch a majority of his fish. A small culling error on the second day didn't hurt him. Howell won by more than six pounds after three days of competition.
Quality bass fishing is well known around the state, However, Alabama is being recognized in the catfish side of fishing. Fishhound.com ranked the top 25 lakes around the country for premier catfishing destinations. Our state had four lakes make the list, which included the top two spots.
Lake Eufaula came in as the top spot for cats and Lake Wheeler was second. Lake Guntersville a top bass lake was 15th for catfish, while Logan Martin was 21st. Not bad considering some of the lakes with world record catfish are in Virginia and Kansas.
Catfish are among the top species of game fish targeted by anglers. The average size for some species is in the 20- to 40-pound range. The state-record blue catfish caught from Holt Reservoir hit the scales at 120 pounds. Big cats topping 50 pounds from the Tennessee and Coosa rivers are not uncommon.
Summer is a great time to hit the lake in search for monster catfish. Current is the key to get the big cats stirring around. Some catfish anglers like the tailrace below hydro-electric dams during power generation. The moving water helps the fish to become more active.
For large cats, think big. Heavy rods and reel with strong line and large hooks are the ticket. For bait, above-average size shad or blue herring will tempt the taste buds of monster-size catfish. Give these lakes a shot this summer.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com.