Mueller takes over on Sebago

CASCO, Maine — A Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation team member leads the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Divisional Thursday. But this time, it’s Connecticut’s Paul Mueller, who overtook the top spot from his teammate, Al Gambardella, on Maine’s Sebago Lake.

Mueller, a guide on Candlewood Lake, brought in 10 pounds, 6 ounces Wednesday to land in second place. Thursday, he added 11-7.

“Yesterday, all my bass were cookie cutters,” said Mueller, referring to his Wednesday limit of 2-pounders. “Today, I had a 4-pounder.”

A big fish is what helped Gambardella on Wednesday, who had a 5-7 in his bag then but brought in a limit of small fish on Thursday.

Gambardella is only 4 ounces behind Mueller, though, so it’s still anyone’s game.

“I need to slow down, grind it out and see what happens,” said Gambardella.

Mueller agrees that it will be a grind, but he’s looking for that one big fish to keep him at the top.

“On this lake, one 6- or 7-pounder will seal the deal,” said Mueller.

That weight seemed unbelievable at the beginning of Thursday’s weigh-in. Jimmy Lowe, the tournament director for the Maine B.A.S.S. Nation and the weighmaster for this event, said he expected to see a 6-pounder brought in Thursday. The crowd laughed. When asked to vote if a 6-pounder would cross the stage on Thursday, only three people raised their hands.

Lowe was right. Lewis Mendall of Rhode Island hoisted a 6-1 beauty near the end of the weigh-in. He’s currently in the lead for Carhartt Big Bass honors. The angler who catches the biggest bass of the tournament will take home $500.

So when Mueller says a 6- or 7-pounder is what he’s looking for on the final day, he might be right.

“The potential is there,” he said. Mueller wanted to catch smallmouth, but he hasn’t been able to find the right ones. “If the wind blows Friday, I can put smallmouth in the equation. It takes wind to get them to position right.

“The fish are on the move in a weird transition. They’re suspended — not on a bank and not schooled. They’re kind of isolated and very spooky.

“I’m just going to fish the conditions, the way I’ve been doing,” continued Mueller. “The fish are repositioning every day. It’s a grind.”

As tournament leader, Mueller is also tops on his state team. If Mueller’s lead in Connecticut holds up, he’ll join his colleagues from other states at the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Ark., Oct. 24-26. Other state leaders at the end of Thursday are Lawrence Hogue, Maine; Randy Phillips, Massachusetts; John Wright, New Hampshire; Randy Lamanche, New York; Larry MacPhail, Ontario; Leo Bevelaqua, Rhode Island; Eric Corbella Salvia, Spain; and Skip Sjobeck, Vermont.

Connecticut fell from first place Thursday to the host state, Maine. Maine now leads the state competition with 116 pounds, 9 ounces. Connecticut is still in the race with 110-13, and New York is in third with 81-4.

As leader on Thursday, Mueller wins the $250 Livingston Lures Leader Award. Point Sebago Resort awards $300 to the angler with the biggest bag each day. For Thursday, that prize went to John Wright of New Hampshire, who brought in 11 pounds, 12 ounces.

Tune in Friday for the final day of competition on The adults will be joined on stage by competitors in the one-day Junior Bassmaster tournament. Launch takes place at 6:15 a.m. ET at Point Sebago Resort in Casco, Maine, and the weigh-in will be in the same place at 2:15 p.m. ET.