Mueller wins Eastern Divisional

CASCO, Maine — Paul Mueller really didn’t want to fish for largemouth on Maine’s Sebago Lake. It’s not his strength. He’s much better at targeting smallmouth.

But largemouth paid off for Mueller all week, and his 13-1 sack on Day 3 of the B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Divisional was more than enough for him to earn the victory.

“I really wanted to get to nationals,” Mueller said, referring to the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. “But winning is icing on the cake.”

Mueller and eight others earned berths in the championship by being the top competitor on their state team. The nine anglers will journey to Russellville, Ark., to compete on Lake Dardanelle, Oct. 24-26, against their peers from other B.A.S.S. Nation chapters. One angler from each division will earn a qualification in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

“It would be life-changing to go to the Classic,” said Mueller. “I’ve been watching The Bassmasters on TV since I was a little kid. It’s what got me into fishing.”

Mueller was fishing his fifth divisional this week, and it’s his first time qualifying for the championship. He fished his first at the young age of 19. He’s now 29. “This has been 10 years in the making,” he said.

Mueller kept finding largemouth — and ones of good size, too — and the smallmouth bite never worked out for him. He caught three smallies over the three days and culled one of them. He was one of only two anglers to get a limit all three competition days. (Randy Phillips of Massachusetts was the other.)

“I only got six or seven bites a day,” said Mueller. “I like tournaments like this. I always do well in grind tournaments.”

The largemouth he found were shallow, he said, because of the full moon. He caught a 5 1/4-pound fish at 8:30 a.m. today in Turtle Cove, when he was just about to leave the area. He stuck around for another hour but didn’t get any more bites. The bass was looking for crawfish right where the rock transitioned to grass.

He left the area and found the rest of his fish near a bridge on the southern end of the lake. These fish were holding in shallow water — 1/2 to 2 feet — in grass, enjoying a plethora of bluegill and perch.

His big fish came on a Punisher SmallJaw Shaky Jig (brown) with a Rein’s Ring Craw trailer (green pumpkin/blue). He caught a big largemouth on Day 1 with the same jig and a Rein’s Fat Rock Vibe Shad. He fished the jig using a Dobyns Champion Extreme DX703SF rod, 10-pound Gamma Torque braid and 8-pound fluorocarbon leader.

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