Naugy angler lands record catch

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Mueller ranks fifth in Bassmaster Elite Series point standings

Angler Paul Mueller of Naugatuck holds up a 7-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth bass he caught on the first day of the 2020 SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River in Clayton, N.Y., in July. The smallmouth bass is believed to be the biggest smallmouth ever caught in an Elite Series tournament. -PHOTO BY B.A.S.S.

Naugatuck angler Paul Mueller wasn’t too upset about his second-place finish at the Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River in Clayton, N.Y., last month. He did catch what is believed to be the largest smallmouth bass in the history of the series after all.

On July 23, the first day of the tournament, Mueller hauled in a 7-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth bass in Lake Ontario. The fish is believed to be the biggest smallmouth ever caught in an Elite Series tournament.

“That was a fish of a lifetime,” Mueller said.

Mueller went head-to-head with Canadian Chris Johnston, who was looking for his first Bassmaster Elite victory, over the first three days of the tournament.

Mueller led the event all three days and had an advantage of more than two pounds over Johnston going into the final round.

Competitors had to overcome high winds and 10-foot waves the final day of the tournament. Johnston managed to land a catch of 22 pounds, 12 ounces for a four-day total of 97 pounds, 8 ounces to edge Mueller’s four-day total of 95 pounds, 14 ounces.

Both anglers nearly made Bassmaster history by reaching the 100-pound mark.

“I led the tournament the first three days and got edged out on the last day. I won a tournament early on this year, so I couldn’t be too disappointed,” said Mueller, referring to his win at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River in Florida in February.

The Naugatuck angler is having a very successful season so far and ranks fifth in total points with 326. The top 40 anglers in the Elite Series — the highest level of professional bass fishing — will battle it out in the season-ending classic.

Mueller took home $27,000 for second place and also a $3,000 prize for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program. He also won the race for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the week with his 7-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth.

The Naugatuck angler followed up the tournament with a 14th-place finish at the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain July 30-Aug. 2 in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

“There are still quite a few tournaments left on the schedule,” Mueller said. “I feel really blessed to have had a really good start on the year.”

Mueller will compete in the Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair in Michigan this weekend.

“I’m looking forward to this next tournament, it sets up pretty well for me,” he said.

Mueller is familiar with Lake St. Clair. He has placed fifth and tenth in past tournaments on the lake, to go along with a couple of bad finishes.

“I do have a little bit of history on that lake and I’m just looking to have a good tournament this time around,” he said.

The tournament will televised on ESPN2.

“A lot of the tournaments in the spring were postponed due to the COVID pandemic, but they were rescheduled for October and November,” Mueller said. “We took a little bit of a break, but thankfully we have been able to resume, and the live coverage on ESPN2 has really brought some attention to the Bassmaster Elite Series.”