Canadians Cory Johnston 24th, Gustafson 41st & Chris Johnston 46th
BASS PRESS RELEASE
Paul Mueller said consistency will decide who wins the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake.
If that’s the case, the 37-year-old pro from Naugatuck, Conn., is in the perfect position at the halfway point of the tournament.
Mueller caught a five-bass limit on Saturday that weighed 15 pounds, 3 ounces, the same total he boated Friday on this 11,200-acre reservoir of the Coosa River in northeast Alabama. His 30-6 total leads the event, which began a day late due to heavy rains earlier in the week that swelled Neely Henry’s water level in places and stained the water throughout.
Those conditions have made fishing tricky for most anglers through Day 2, but Mueller has stayed steady. Fifty other anglers weren’t so lucky as the 98-angler field was trimmed to 48 following the Day 2 weigh-in at the Gadsden City Boat Docks.
“To win one of these, you can’t have one bad day,” Mueller said. “If you slip, it’ll keep you from winning. I’ve been in that position more times than winning. You have that bad day, you finish fifth or whatever.”
Mueller weighed three largemouth and a pair of spotted bass on Saturday. He said he didn’t cover nearly as much water as he did a day earlier, but he’s pounding the areas he is fishing.
“I’m doing what I like to do, chunking and winding a crankbait,” he said. “I’d rather do that than eat. I like to do my own thing and not fish next to anyone. It’s important for me to fish my own stuff. And if you can do what you like to do, you’re better off. You don’t play someone else’s ball game.”
Mueller’s heavy on Saturday was a 4-pound largemouth. He added a spotted bass that weighed about 3 1/4 pounds, another quality bite here this week, but he lamented missing two spots he said were heavier than the couple of 2 1/2-pounders that rounded out his Day 2 bag.
“You really need one big bite here to go with four 2 1/2-pounders,” he said. “If you get that, you’ll have the right weight.”
Brock Mosley, a 32-year old Elite from Collinsville, Miss., caught 12-14 Saturday. Coupled with his Day 1 weight of 16-15, he’s in second place with 29-13.
Mosely said he continued the “junk fishing” that vaulted him to the top of the standings Friday.
“I’m just trying to not get into a bad rotation,” Mosley said. “I’m fishing a lot of new water and I don’t know where my good bites are going to come from. I’m just trying to keep my head down and fish as hard as I can.”
Mosley said Neely Henry was draining Saturday, which produced different conditions and made more water available to him.
“I caught a couple on topwater today after not catching anything in practice on that,” he said. “I’m just fishing what’s in front of me and trying to survive each day.”
Mosley said the pleasant weather on Saturday (mid- to high 60s, sunny) attracted many local anglers, which made Neely Henry fish smaller than it would with just 98 pros on the water. He was able to fend off the crowd, though, and knows he’s in a power position with the derby halfway home.
“There’s so much still that can happen,” he said. “My goal today was a 13- or 14-pound bag and one big bite could make it 15 pounds. There’s a chance to catch a 5- to 7-pound fish, too. There are some in here, I just have to make them open their mouths. It’ll be interesting.”
Todd Auten of Lake Wylie, S.C., is in third with 29-6. He caught 14-4 Saturday to go with the 15-2 that had him in sixth place after Day 1.
“I’m just moving around the lake, trying to fish a pattern and key on some things when the weather’s right,” the 55-year-old pro said. “I really need the sunshine to help my bite.”
Sunday’s forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a continued warming trend, with temperatures peaking above 80 degrees. There’s a 60% chance of rain on Monday, though.
That forecast didn’t dampen Auten’s spirit. He’s won a tournament on Neely Henry previously and finished third in another.
“This lake has been good to me,” he said.
The next five anglers are all within 13 ounces of one another, though at least 2 pounds behind Auten and 3 behind Mueller.
Gerald Swindle of Guntersville, Ala., is fourth with 27-6, followed by Bob Downey of Hudson, Wis., with 27-1 and Drew Benton of Blakely, Ga., with 27-0. Alabamians Clent Davis of Montevallo and Wes Logan of Springville are seventh and eighth, with 26-10 and 26-9, respectively.
Cliff Prince of Palatka, Fla., won the daily $1,000 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award for the 5-11 he caught Saturday. That’s the heaviest bass caught through two days of competition.
Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., is in 10th place at Neely Henry with 25-14. He’s still clinging to the lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 527 points, followed by Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., with 484, Mosley with 470 and Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, with 456.
The remaining 48 Elites will take off at 6:30 a.m. CT from the Gadsden City Boat Docks, also known as Coosa Landing, with weigh-in back at the docks at 2:30 p.m. The Top 10 following Sunday’s weigh-in will compete on Championship Monday with $100,000 on the line.
Live coverage of the event can be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms. FS1 will also broadcast the action live with the leaders beginning at 7 a.m.