By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
The old adage, it’s not how you start, but how you finish, holds some truth. Sometimes, though, how you start can carry you through a season.
Paul Mueller of Naugatuck has been fishing on the Bassmaster Series since 2014, and he started this season with a bang.
Mueller won the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Florida’s St. Johns River Feb. 8-10 along with the $100,000 prize with a three-day total of 47 pounds, 6 ounces.
It was a perfect ending at the place where he finished 62nd last year.
“It just so happens that it came at a place I had my worst finish last year,” Mueller said. “But this one was a gift from God because everything just fell in my favor.”
The tournament was a grind on day one.
Mueller’s first-day total of 20 pounds, 2 ounces put him in contention along with a lot of other competitors.
After fishing in Trout Creek about 25 miles downriver, the Naugatuck angler decided to head up river on the second day and settled into a spot on 6-Mile Creek. It was there that Mueller landed the biggest catch of the day — 6 pounds, 11 ounces — that set him on the way to his second tournament win of his career.
“You are always looking for bigger bites,” Mueller said. “I found an area that no one else found. It’s rare to find water all to yourself because these guys are the best in the businesses and there are usually no stones left unturned.”
The win put Mueller atop the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
“I’m on top of the leaderboard to start the season and that’s a good place to be,” he said. “The goal now it to just try and stay consistent.”
Mueller had a tougher time at his second tournament, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk March 6-8 at Lake Guntersville in Alabama. Mueller finished 52nd with a total haul of 4 pounds, 15 ounces.
“I got off to a tough start the first day of the tournament and dug myself a hole,” he said.
“I wasn’t alone the weather messed up everyone’s water,” he added. “I scraped everything on the second day to try and start over but it didn’t get better. In a three-day tournament you can’t afford too many bad days. It’s all about staying consistent.”
Mueller was scheduled to compete in three tournaments over five weeks, but the Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee was postponed.
Mueller is set to cast his line at the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Eufaula in Alabama April 2-5 and the Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes in South Carolina April 16-19.
“I have never even put a boat on these waters, so I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
Staying in contention and near the top of the leaderboard certainly takes some doing, and Mueller has the experience to do it. In 54 tournaments, he’s landed in the money 32 times.
“It’s a long season,” Mueller said. “You can’t get ahead of yourself. Until you get on the water and face the conditions at the present time you really can’t do any advanced scouting that would do any good.”
“Of course you are going to check out the maps and have an idea what you want to do,” he added. “But the key is to just try and be consistent each and every day. And when you win a tournament consider it a gift from God.”