What connects Naugatuck, Conn., to the Ouachita River? Largemouth bass and a young man named Paul Mueller.
The Connecticut angler caught 14-9 pounds of bass to win the 2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on the Ouachita River this past weekend. He had a final three-day weight on the Ouachita of 32 pounds, 15 ounces to secure a spot in the Bassmasters Classic.
Mueller bested the rest of the field by a significant margin. In second place was Coby Carden of Alabama, who finished more than 7 pounds back with 25
pounds, 9 ounces (Sorry Coby, but glad Bama came in second at something).
Behind Carden was Jeff Lugar of Virginia, who had 25-2. Interestingly, all of the Top 3 went to the Classic last year together as rookies, and all three of them are returning with back-to-back berths. Louisiana had only one angler in the top twenty, David Cavell of Prairieville in 17th with 20 pounds even.
Mueller’s victory came courtesy of just two lures: a 4-inch soft plastic Reins craw tube in black blue fleck and a Zoom WEC E1 square bill crankbait in chartreuse shad fished in Horseshoe Creek. It took him an hour to work through Moon Lake and then a little canal back to his fish. A water drop on Day 2 hurt many competitors who couldn’t get back to their areas because the low water made them unnavigable by a bass boat. For Mueller, it made it a little harder to get there, but it didn’t keep him out.
“Every day, I threw the crankbait in the morning before the sun came up,” he said. “The fish were off the trees in the roots. Then, when the sun came up, I’d go to areas that create shade, fishing deeper cypress trees, around 3 to 6 feet.”
Fishermen from 40 states and as far away as Spain, Japan and Portugal fished in the world-wide tournament. Nearly 1,000 pounds largemouths were caught in the event. A total of 220 fish weighing 319 pounds, 13 ounces were caught on day 199 fish weighing 310-02 on Day 2 and 203 bass weighing 297-06 on Day 3. All fish but a few that died were released back into the waters of the Ouachita.
SPECIAL NOTE: ULM bass angler Brett Pruett, who qualified for the Bassmaster Classic earlier this summer, received a heroes welcome when he was presented with a new truck and bass boat complete with ULM Warhawk logos. He will be able to use these for a year and in the Classic as part of his winning the college championship. Pruett was accompanied on his ride in to the weigh-in by the ULM cheerleaders at the presentation.