Bottom Catches Keeps Mueller On Top At Clayton
BY DAVID A BROWN
CLAYTON, N.Y. — After sacking up 27 pounds, 1 ounce during Thursday’s opening round, Connecticut pro Paul Mueller added 25-1 Friday and maintained the lead in the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River with a two-day total of 52-2.
Committing his day to the massive waters of Lake Ontario, Mueller started on rock transitions in about 40 feet, but he seemed to struggle in the early going.
“Some of the places I had, they really suspended and those fish got tougher to catch,” Mueller said. “I realized I had to get away from that and once I found fish on the bottom, those fish were easier to catch.
“The fact that the shallower fish didn’t suspend is kind of intriguing, but I also think the deeper fish were feeding on something else other than gobies.”
Mueller got things moving in the right direction around 11:30 a.m. when he boated a 4 1/2-pounder, the first of four big fish he’d catch in about an hour. Moving into shallower areas and fishing rock structure in 20 to 26 feet proved to be the key decision.
He caught all of his fish on a drop shot with a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm in the natural shad and goby colors. Noting that his fish seemed much spookier in the day’s clear, calm conditions, Mueller said he had to transition from vertical drops to a cast-and-drag presentation.
“The fish definitely got a little more finicky, and they definitely got a little more boat shy,” Mueller said. “I think boat shadow, livewell noise and the pinging transducer all contributed to that. The big thing for me today was keeping away from the fish.
“I lost a big fish today because he didn’t eat the bait that well. I marked him under the boat and dropped down to him. If I stayed off of them, they were a lot easier to catch.”
Chris Johnston of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, is in second place with 51-12. After starting his morning in the St. Lawrence River, Johnston plucked three of his better fish off the rocky point he fished Thursday. When that bite slowed, he again moved to the small rockpiles and breaks in Lake Ontario. Drop shotting produced his bites in both scenarios.
Johnston’s day-maker came during a late-morning move. En route to his next spot, he made a quick detour to a rockpile in 6 feet of water. He was looking for a big fish he’d spotted in practice and caught the 6-5 giant on his third cast with a 1/8-ounce black hair jig.
“The rockpile is 300 yards long, so I can’t throw the drop shot because it’s too slow,” Johnston said. “I can cover water faster with the hair jig, that’s the main thing. They’ll eat that drop shot if I put it in front of them, but I can cover more water with the hair jig.”
Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, is in third place with 47-13. Returning to the same general area in Lake Ontario, Wendlandt started strong with a couple of good fish early but faced a midmorning dry spell before making an adjustment that allowed him to fill out a solid limit.
“I actually went to some new areas that I didn’t fish the first day and caught some there,” Wendlandt said. “I just kind of winged it because I had trouble with my trolling motor and I was struggling earlier. I was trying to fish some ways that were a little easier.”
Mueller is still in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with the mammoth 7-13 smallmouth he caught Thursday. The fish is believed to be the biggest smallmouth ever caught in Elite Series competition.
The tournament will resume Saturday with the Top 40 remaining anglers taking off at 6:45 a.m. ET from the Clayton Antique Boat Museum. The weigh-in will be back at the museum at 3 p.m., with only the Top 10 anglers advancing to Championship Sunday with a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize.
Live coverage of the event will be available starting at 8 a.m. on Bassmaster LIVE at Bassmaster.com with simulcasts on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Check local listings for ESPN2 times.
The tournament is being hosted by Jefferson County in cooperation with the Village of Clayton and the 1000 Islands Clayton Chamber of Commerce.
Palaniuk Makes Big Move
BY STEVE WRIGHT
As usual in a tournament dominated by smallmouth bass, the Day 2 cut line for the top 40 anglers who advanced to fish Day 3 came down to a single ounce. Clent Davis was the last man in, with a 40th-place total of 33-0. Stetson Blaylock was the first man out, with a 41st-place total of 32-15.
Those making big moves from outside the top 40 on Day 1 to inside the cut on Day 2 included the following: Ray Hanselman Jr., who went from 60th to 39th; Skylar Hamilton, who jumped from 60th to 33rd; Carl Jocumsen, who zoomed from 66th to 27th; Frank Talley, who went from 65th to 32nd; and Bill Lowen, who moved from 54th to 36th; and Jeff Gustafson improved 35 places in the standings, going from 47th to 12th with his 23-2 bag.
Brandon Palaniuk and Chad Pipkens were tied for 40th place with 17-8 after Day 1. Both had big rallies Friday. Palaniuk weighed 21-15 to jump to 13th place; Pipkens sacked 21-7 to move into 16th place.