PALATKA, Fla. — Paul Mueller’s crucial decision delivered a key fish on Championship Monday that propelled the Connecticut angler to a three-day total of 47 pounds, 6 ounces and what he described as a most unlikely victory at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Florida’s St. Johns River.
After grinding most of the day in Trout Creek, about 25 miles downriver from Palatka, Mueller called an audible and relocated to nearby 6-Mile Creek where he had found a key stretch of pads with 25 feet of water.
Punching this thick vegetation with a craw bait rigged on a 4/0 Strike King Hack Attack hook with a 1-ounce weight yielded a 6-11 bass — the day’s largest — that dramatically changed his outcome.
“That was the horse that brought me here, no doubt about it,” said Mueller, who earned $101,000 for his second career Elite Series victory. “A big bite is the best thing you can have on the final day. I knew I was leading, but I got off to such a bad start, throughout the entire day, I didn’t think I had enough.
“All day long, I never felt like I had a shot. It wasn’t easy today, but when it’s God’s will, everything works out.”
Mueller kept himself in contention throughout the event by remaining consistent. He placed second on Day 1 with 20-8 and took over the lead a day later by adding 16-2.