ISLAMORADA, Fla. The first time Jeff Howell fished a Redbone Celebrity Tournament with is father, Mitch, he was 10 years old. Jeff demonstrated his potential then by catching the largest permit in the Key West S.L.A.M.
But that didn't compare to what the 22-year-old angler accomplished Sunday. Just months away from a U.S. Coast Guard commitment, Jeff Howell won the the Grand Champion Angler title in the ESPN Saltwater Series Redbone Celebrity Tournament here with 1,675 points.
Mitch Howell of Plantation, Fla., couldn't have been happier. Mitch, a veteran Redbone Series competitor and champion, won the first ever Redbone event high-point angler title at Islamorada in 1988, and has added several other Redbone Series crowns since.
"I've got more joy in my heart than in any tournament I've won," said Mitch, a Morgan-Stanley financial adviser, who has combined with his son to win Redbone team titles before but never seen his son take an individual crown and the Rolex watch that goes with it.
"He was just right on target all day," Mitch added. "He got the shrimp in front of the fish, right where it needed to be."
And that's exactly what he had to do to hold off Memphis neurosurgeon Mo Smith. Smith ended up with 1,700 individual points. So how does a guy with 1,700 points lose to another with 1,675 points?
In the Redbone scoring format, it's the high-point angler on the high-point team who claims the individual championship. Smith and partner Frank DeLucas, fishing with guide Mark Krowka, recorded a two-day total of 1,750 points. The father-and-son Howell team finished with 2,150 points. The Howells were guided by John Donnell, the same guide Mitch had when he won the first Redbone at Islamorada.
Smith caught eight redfish Saturday and five bonefish Sunday, including one that measured 27 1/2 inches long. That gave him five "slams" and the bonus points that go with the final four.
Jeff Howell caught nine redfish on artificial lures Saturday and four bonefish on live shrimp Sunday. That gave him four slams three with bonus points.
Smith has won multiple awards in this Redbone Series and secured both the Redbone Trilogy (Key West S.L.A.M., Key Largo Baybone and Islamorada Redbone) overall championship for the second year in a row. He also repeated in the Trilogy on the Superfly event.
So Smith had nothing but best wishes for the young man who snatched the Redbone title from his grasp Sunday.
"I wouldn't have predicted we'd catch this many fish (this weekend)," Smith said. "But the weather changed a little bit, and it was awesome. It was a good day of fishing."
Redbone Celebrity Tournament results
• Grand Champion Angler: Jeff Howell (guide John Donnell)
• Pro Celebrity Grand Champion Angler: Chris Lane (guide Mark Gillman)
• Celebrity Grand Champion Angler: Mark Cooper (guide Mark Hutchinson)
• Grand Champion Lady Angler: Linda Denkert (Dave Denkert)
• Team Grand Champion Anglers: Jeff and Mitch Howelll (guide John Donnell)
• First Runner-Up Team Grand Champion Anglers: Mo Smith and Frank DeLucas (guide Mark Krowka
• First Runner-Up Angler : Mo Smith (guide Mark Krowka)
• First Runner-Up Celebrity Angler: Bill Hurst (guide Dale Perez)
• Spin/Plug Division Champion: Jeff Howell (guide John Doonell)
• Fly Division Champion: Bob Rich (guide Rusty Albury)
• Most Bonefish Releases- Mo Smith (guide Mark Krowka)
• Most Redfish Releases: Jeff Howell (guide John Donnell)
• Largest Bonefish: Bill Hurst (guide Dale Perez)
• Largest Redfish: John Timura (guide Brian Helms)
• Top Rod Angler Day One : Mark Cooper (guide Mike Hutchinson)
• Top Rod Angler Day Two: Mo Smith (guide Mark Krowka
• Florida Keys Outfitters Superfly Grand Champion: Mo Smith (guide Mark Krowka)
• Runner-Up Grand Champion Superfly Grand Champion Angler: Cal Collier Jr. (guide Dustin Rea)