Mueller angling for a championship

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Paul Mueller -GARY TRAMONTINA
Paul Mueller -GARY TRAMONTINA

NAUGATUCK — Paul Mueller made a splash on the professional fisherman circuit in 2014 when he finished second in the Bassmaster Classic as a rookie. The Naugatuck angler now has his sights set on a bid for a national championship after qualifying for the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Eight Series.

Mueller, who lives in Naugatuck with his wife Kimber, began chasing the dream of fishing for the big catch more than 10 years ago when he joined B.A.S.S. Nation.

Mueller has competed in five divisional tournaments and won the 2013 Eastern Divisional in Maine. He qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic by finishing as the top Eastern Divisional Angler at the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship with an eighth-place finish.

In his first Classic, Mueller set a record with a 32-pound, 3-ounce haul on the second day of the tournament. The record-setting haul vaulted him from 47th place to the top of the leaderboard. Mueller finished second and missed out on a title by just 1 pound.

“The only reason I am where I am is that God has really blessed me,” said Mueller exhibiting his faith during an interview with Bass Nation prior to the Classic.

Mueller competed in the Bassmaster Classic for the second year in a row in February at Lake Hartwell in Greenville, S.C., and that puts him in elite company. In the 44-year history of the Classic only nine anglers made it back the year after their qualifying for their first tournament. Of the three that posted a top 10 finish in their first year, only one made the top ten the following year.

Mueller just missed that mark finishing 12th in this year’s Classic. It was rough going the first few days of the tournament as cold weather set in, but the Naugatuck angler still managed to pull in 38.6 pounds for the tournament.

“Fishing in the Classic is like the Super Bowl of fishing,” said Mueller, who is a fishing guide at Candlewood Lake in Connecticut when he’s not traveling around the country. “We practice for three days and then the tournament is a four-day event.”

The cold changed how the anglers approached the Classic.

“Once the weather got cold is changed the way we fished during the practices,” Mueller said. “We all had to make adjustments. Consistency in this sport is the hardest thing to maintain.”

Mueller has developed a flair for the remarkable as shown in his efforts at the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation National Championship in November 2014. The Naugatuck angler needed a win to get back to the Classic for the second year in a row and did it in dramatic fashion.

Entering the last day of the tournament on the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., Mueller was a distant third in the standings. He netted a 14-pound, 9-ounce haul in the last day to win the Bryan Kerchal Memorial Trophy and win the tournament.

The sponsors for Mueller are just as impressed with his accomplishments as they are with Mueller the person. Dobyns Rods and Optimum Swimbaits both told Pete Robbins of Bassmaster that they are amazed by Mueller’s honesty and integrity.

Quite a rousing endorsement for the new guy on the block.

This year Mueller qualified for the Elite Eight. On Thursday, he began a journey that will take him to eight, one-week tournaments in Texas, California, Arizona, Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, Maryland and New York.

“I’m looking forward to the Elite Eight Series,” Mueller said. “It will have its own set of challenges as I will be fishing in tide waters for the first time. There are three tournaments with tidal waters and I will just have to do what I can to make it back to the Classic again.”

This season’s Bassmaster Classic will be held at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Tulsa, Okla. on March 4-6, 2016. The total purse for the tournament is $1 million with the winner receiving $300,000.