Published 10:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jason Howland sits in his boat that he has prepared for a fishing trip. Howland will be competing in the All-American tournament next June. -- Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

In June, one Albert Lea man is going to have the chance to compete for $50,000 — on Nickajack Lake near Chattanooga, Tenn.

Jason Howland, who many people may recognize from his time at KAAL as the sports director and then as morning news anchor, placed second in the Bass Fishing League regional tournament on Kentucky Lake Oct. 11 to 13 in Gilbertsville, Ky., advancing him to the All-American tournament next summer.

He qualified for the regional tournament after placing in the top 40 of the Great Lakes Division, which fishes the La Crosse, Prairie De Chein and Wabasha areas.

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Howland fishes in the BFL as a co-angler, an angler who is paired up with a pro in each tournament.

“I don’t call the shots,” Howland said. “I just have to adjust based on what my pro or boater does. It’s challenging, but you learn a lot from the pros.”

Howland’s dad, Tom, was the one who reeled him into fishing the circuits.

“As a kid I used to go to tournaments with him, practice with him and then be there at the weigh-ins,” Howland said. “He’s definitely my role model for fishing.”

Howland, on his own, bought his first fishing boat when he was just 14 years old with money he earned mowing lawns and shoveling sidewalks.

He estimated his dad has been fishing for 30 years, starting in the smaller tournaments and working his way up.

The two still fish together. In fact, on Kentucky Lake, which a reservoir along the Tennessee River, Tom finished 18th, but it wasn’t high enough to advance.

“He’s never made it to the All-American, which is a shame,” Howland said. “He’s been really close though.”

Going into the final day of fishing in the BFL regional tournament, Howland and his pro were in ninth place.

“We knew we both needed to do well,” Howland said.

He ended up catching around 10 pounds and his pro caught around 20 pounds and won the tournament on the pro side.

Howland was close to winning the tournament himself in the co-angler division.

“I only caught four fish,” Howland said. “It’s a five-fish limit and had I caught the fifth fish — which I had on, and it got off — I would have had a $35,000 bass boat in my garage.”

All the winnings aside, Howland is excited to be advancing to the All-American tournament.

“That’s the most important part,” he said. “It’s the most prestigious tournament in the country.”

Even though Howland has been competitively fishing since 1998, he said the night before the All-American he’s not going to be able to sleep.

“It’s like the night before a big game,” Howland said.

Before he goes, Howland will do research to learn more about the lake since he has never fished on it before. He’ll look on the Internet but said he also has his own archive of DVDs to watch.

“I’ve recorded every Bass Master and FLW tournament since 1998 on ESPN and Fox Sports,” Howland said.

When he’s not away on tournaments Howland said he and his dad often can be found fishing in town on Fountain Lake. He said the two have competed in tournaments as a team before and not last year but the two previous years they won the championship in the Mankato Area Bass Tour.

On his own, Howland won a pro-am in Wabasha in 2003 called the Gander Mountain Pro-Am and also was points champion for the Great Lakes in 2010.

Howland’s entire summer is spent fishing, but in the winter months he’d rather be hunting not ice fishing.

“I’m a bass fisherman,” Howland said. “I like the action of constantly casting, moving around and seeing fish jumping out of the water. Ice fishing, standing over a hole and watching your flasher and the fish come up and eat, is not really appealing to me.”

As he waits for the June tournament, Howland is headed to Monroe, La., today to compete in the Ever Start Championships on the Ouachita River.

Howland described the Ever Start series like the minor leagues of the Bass Masters and will offer another chance to win a new boat and cash prizes.

“I want to win,” Howland said. “I’d love to win a new boat but it’s not just about that either. It’s about knowing you’re the best.”


Jason Howland

Age: 39

Address: 1133 Plainview Lane

Family: mom, Diane; dad, Tom; brother, Brad; sister, Jennifer

Livelihood: Howland works at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato in public relations.

Interesting fact: Howland won showcase showdown on the “Price is Right” when the other contestant overbid his showcase. Howland won living room furniture, books, a hot tub and a gazebo. The episode aired May 6, 1999.