Paul Mueller, in his fourth year as a co-angler on the FLW Tour, fished his way through the ranks to earn a spot in the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Paul was seventeenth in overall points for the season, qualifying him for his third Forrest Wood Cup tournament. Hailing from Connecticut, where he is somewhat known as a drop shot fisherman, Paul has been an avid competitor fishing behind some of the top names in the bass fishing industry. I met up with Paul at the Dobyns Rod booth where he was signing autographs and soaking in his victory.
On the first day, of competition, Paul fished with Cody Meyer. Cody was on a topwater pattern chasing bass feeding on spawning bream. From a co-angler stand point, this kind of shallow water pattern, can make bass very tough to catch fish behind the pro up in front of the boat. Using a Lucky Craft Gunfish 95 in Aurora Blue, Paul was able to put only a single fish in the boat on the morning bite. With Cody running shallow water, and Paul not doing well behind him; he made a change to a drop shot. Using a 7″ Robo Worm and a heavy weight with a two foot leader, Paul was able to catch fish behind his pro. Paul said, “I lost a big fish in day one, it would have been a game changer, but she got me wrapped up in the pole timber, and I lost her”. I question Paul, if after this quality fish, maybe Cody Meyer considered changing patterns and slowing down to drop shot also. He quickly replied, “Not at all, Cody’s pattern was too strong, and he was catching fish.” Paul was able to bring 8 pounds 12 ounces to the scale on day one, keeping him within the cut line.
Day two, Paul fished with Brett Hite. Paul openly admits that his strength is deep-water fishing, and after yesterday, he planned to fish a drop shot as much as possible. He set up a Dobyns Champion Extreme DX 742 SF with power pro line and a Gamakatzu hook. I pushed Paul for a little bit of information as to how he was working the drop shot, “Brush was important; however, the fish were not way up in it, they were near it. I believe the bass were simply relating to the brush piles, watching for bream or shad to feed on. This worked well for me in the back of the boat; the pro would be right on the brush and I was catching bass away from it.” Paul went on to say, “to be honest, using a heavy weight seemed to trigger a reaction strike for me. Several times, when the bait hit the bottom a bass would have it.” Paul brought 10 pounds 10 ounces to the scale setting him up to win the Cup.
On the last day, Paul drew out with Mark Rose. Talk about some fantastic anglers to fish with. While Paul felt good with his chances at the title, a lot of things went through his head. First was he hadn’t seen Mark Rose in the previous days, so he knew up front the water they would be fishing was going to be different from what he was used too. Second, another strong contender in the co-angler race, Shuffield had drawn out with Scott Martin. If you followed the tournament, you know that Scott Martin’s Co-Angler, on day two, caught the biggest limit of the day at 18 pounds 4 ounces. This is a huge limit of fish for a co-angler on any lake. So with all that running through his head the morning of blast off, Paul hit the lake prepared to put his drop shot to work.
Mark Rose was fishing flatter banks with dirtier water, and the deepest Paul could work was 10 to 15 feet. He said that the previous two days he would be sitting over 15 to 25 feet. Though, it was shallower, Paul was able to put two fish in the boat with the drop shot that morning. Paul told me that, with the shallower water, he thought a swimbait might have a chance at catching bass. Paul continued, “the wind shifted and was blowing right across a point we were working thoroughly. I put on a Reins Fat Rockvide Shad, using my Dobyns Champion 734 CSH and 15 pound Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, I was able to cast across this point and slow roll it back to the boat. I put two fish in the boat pretty quick. About an hour later I caught my fifth fish on the same bait.” This gave Paul a 9 pound 1 ounce limit. I asked him if he felt pretty good at this point; he replied, “not at all, I figured I needed a kicker fish to win it.” As it turns out, it was enough for the win.
While I had Paul’s attention, I thought I’d probe into what it takes to be a successful co-angler; what you need to do behind the pro’s to win. According to Paul, the biggest thing is learning to adapt. Each pro is going to be doing something a little different, and you have to adapt your style of fishing to theirs. Paul also said, “You have to learn to use the next best bait. Throwing the same thing as the pro’s is going to be tough, they don’t miss much. I’ve found it productive to use a different bait.” He cited a couple examples, “if they are throwing a crank, I’ll drag a big worm. If they are throwing a top water, I’ll try a swimbait. If drop shot is their choice, I’ll try a different size or color.”
I continued along this line of questions, trying to find out what kind of tackle and how much to bring. Paul said, “I bring no more than 6 rods, but you really have to choose rods that can be used for multiple baits. With the correct rods, you can have the possibility of 12 different presentations.” He followed that up with, “I carry one tackle bag. It’s big and doesn’t fit in any boat compartments; however, it has everything I need in it.” Paul talked about having a system within his tackle bag, all the hooks and weights in one box, drop shot worms in another, crank baits, spinnerbaits, topwater; everything has its own space with a clear label, for quick access.
Paul recommended talking to your pro to find out if he is fishing deep or shallow, as this will help you prepare the night before. Paul claimed he didn’t pry too much into exactly what the pro was using as he likes to decide for himself what he’ll be throwing. However, knowing something about the structure or cover the pro is planning to fish helps tremendously. Paul also said that it’s very important to carry a set of cull tags. The tags are not so much for culling fish, however, in case your boat has trouble and you have to catch a ride in. This will allow you to keep your bass accounted for.
Paul Mueller is an angler to keep an eye on. He’s been fine tuning his abilities, he is sharp, and he can make decisions that put fish in the boat. Paul hasn’t decided yet which circuit he will fish next year saying, “I want to be on the front deck of the boat”. However, he didn’t rule out one more year as a co-angler on the FLW Tour. A very excited Paul claimed, “I’m looking at the Everstarts, maybe some local stuff, but I’m just not sure. I need to let this soak in and then see what the schedules and my budget look like.”