While pro angler Paul Mueller fell 1 pound, 10 ounces short of winning his third Elite Series title, a nearly 8-pound smallmouth will live forever in his memories of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.
The action started early at the 2020 SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River, where on Day 1 Mueller produced on-screen fireworks when he landed a 7-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth bass in Lake Ontario. It is believed to be the biggest smallmouth ever caught in an Elite Series tournament. He caught it in 21 feet of water in Lake Ontario, using a natural shad-colored Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm on a drop shot.
“That fish right there was a fish of a lifetime,” Mueller said to the audience. “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.”
Mueller’s smallmouth might also be the biggest caught in any B.A.S.S. tournament, but the 46-year-old angler doesn’t care about records. 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 1/2-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, caught on the St. Lawrence River in nearby Cape Vincent in 2016.
On the final day of the tournament, Mueller and Chris Johnston, of Peterborough, Ontario, battled treacherous waves and 20 mph gusts on Lake Ontario as both anglers fought to reach the 100-pound mark. After coming from behind to capture the win, Johnston fell just short of the century mark but took home the coveted blue trophy with a whopping four-day total of 20 smallmouth bass that weighed 97 pounds, 8 ounces. He made history by becoming the first Canadian to win an Elite Series tournament.
For more on the B.A.S.S. Elite Series, go to www.bassmaster.com.