Mueller ecstatic over 7-13 smallmouth

CLAYTON, N.Y. — Paul Mueller is good with this, no matter what happens over the next three days of the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River. The Day 1 leader with 27 pounds, 1 ounce, will be wearing a smile based on one magic moment Thursday – landing a 7-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth bass.

“That fish right there was a fish of a lifetime,” Mueller said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever catch one like that again. And, honestly, I don’t really care how the rest of the week goes. I’m being completely honest.

“That’s a freak fish, man!”

It’s believed to be the biggest smallmouth bass caught in an Elite Series tournament, and it might be the biggest in any B.A.S.S. tournament. But the 46-year-old Mueller doesn’t care about that. The Naugatuck, Conn., resident has long been a fan and a seeker of smallmouth bass. A 7-pounder has been a lifetime goal. His previous best was a 6 ½-pounder from Connecticut’s Candlewood Lake.

“I feel like a little kid in a candy store with that fish,” Mueller said. “That fish would be a state record in Connecticut by one ounce. I feel like I’ll never catch another one like that.”

It wasn’t far off the New York state smallmouth record of 8-4. Mueller got the length - 22 ¼” – and girth – 17 ¼” – measurements so he can get a fiberglass replica made. Fighting that fish to the boat is burned in Mueller’s memory.

“I’ve fought a good number of strong smallmouth bass in my life, but none like that,” he said. “It was mean. You’re talking about a big, mean fish. I just tried to keep my composure. When you see a fish like that there’s a ‘wow’ factor. It was like I wasn’t even in the tournament anymore. I was thinking, ‘I have to catch this fish just for my overall being.’”

As for the specifics, Mueller caught it in 21 feet of water in Lake Ontario on a natural shad-colored Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm on a drop shot.

“This is a special place,” Mueller said of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. “The more I fish it, the more I realize how special it is. It holds a special place in my heart.”

Both now and forever. Amen.